In an effort to curb fighting and head injuries, the OHL has announced rule changes for the 2016-17 season that include harsher penalties for fighting.
The league has reduced the threshold for automatic disciplinary action from 10 fights per player per season to three fights. Any player who exceeds that threshold will automatically be assessed a two-game suspension for each subsequent fight. Like the AHL’s new fighting rule (which wasn’t adopted by the ECHL), any player who is instigated upon will not have that fight count toward their total fight count.
“As the number one development league in the world for the NHL and CIS, the OHL continually challenges ourselves to improve the on-ice environment and evolve the game for the benefit of the most important people in our game, our players,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch in the announcement.
The 10-fight threshold was adopted prior to the 2012-13 season. Since that season, the league reports, the number of fights has decreased by 49.5 percent, with no player passing the 10-fight threshold in the last two seasons.
In the 2015-16 season, 82 OHL players had at least three fights and 56 of them had at least four.
“It’s crazy to say it this way, but I’ve not been afraid to express that view and opinion [that there needs to be less fighting],” Branch said during this past season. “I believe that. In addition to working in the game, I love the game. I think we have the best game in the world based on its speed and its skill and the physicality. But fighting, to me, detracts from our game. We don’t need it. And attitudes are changing, which I feel is really a positive.”
The league has also instituted a blindside hit rule, where any player deemed to hit another player from the blindside will be assessed a penalty. The severity of the penalty will be at the discretion of on-ice officials. The penalty can be a minor, major, game misconduct or match penalty. Their announcement notes that that “infraction would also be subject to review and possible supplementary discipline by the league.”
The OHL has also adopted the NHL’s hybrid icing rule.
The other two CHL leagues — the WHL and QMJHL — have not announced whether they will also adopt these new rules.