One of the issues that I have been following closely is fighting in junior hockey. The Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) and USA Hockey have taken significant steps to curtail and make fighting less frequent in their games.
Recently, the CJHL decided to adopt the One-Fight Rule. In the future, fighting in the Five CJHL leagues will become less frequent as a result of this rule.
The CJHL supports the automatic game misconduct penalty for fighting beginning with the 2014-2015 season. The automatic game misconduct penalty, commonly known as the ‘one-fight rule’, results in a 5-minute major as well as the immediate ejection of the player from the game.
USA Hockey recently approved a new rule that calls for a 10-minute misconduct when a player is assessed a five-minute major for fighting.
Moving forward in 2014-15, if a player gets into a fight, he’s going to sit for 15 minutes instead of the usual five minutes. Players may think twice about fighting, if they have to sit in the penalty box for 15 minutes every time they get into a fight. This rule should cut down the number of fights over the course of a 60-game season.
Chris Peters, United States of Hockey – Starting in 2014-15, any fighting major in Tier I or Tier II junior hockey will be accompanied by a 10-minute misconduct — that is over and above the major, meaning a player would sit for a total of 15 minutes. There are expected to be a few more details to this that were not immediately released by USA Hockey, but this rule alone is an important first step toward curtailing fighting and I believe one day they will take it a step further with automatic game misconducts, but this is a good middle ground for now.
The new rule doesn’t go as far as some in USA Hockey wanted. Last winter, USA Hockey’s board of directors was considering a ban on fighting in all levels of amateur hockey in the United States. This could be the first step towards banning fighting in US junior hockey.
Fighting prohibited in college hockey
In division I college hockey, fighting is forbidden and harshly penalized. Rarely do you see two players get into a fight. If a player gets in a fight, they’re given a five-minute major and a game disqualification. This means that the penalized player is out for the rest of that game and the next game.
Subsequent fighting majors are punished even more severely. For a second fighting major, a player is given a game disqualification and is out for the rest of the current game as well as two additional games. This rule makes fights in college hockey almost nonexistent.
If junior hockey leagues in Canada and the United States are serious about eliminating fighting in junior hockey, adopting the college hockey fighting rules would help remove fighting from their games.
The game of hockey is evolving
In my opinion, the game of hockey is evolving and moving away from fighting. The NHL is evolving as well. Players that get into two fights and play 3-4 shifts a game are becoming a thing of the past. In the salary cap era, there’s no room for one dimensional players in the National Hockey League.
While junior hockey is looking to curtail fighting, I believe that the NHL will have no choice but to follow suit and make fighting less frequent. One factor driving this, the NHL is currently being sued in two concussion–related lawsuits, and is under a lot of pressure to change it’s stance on fighting. Junior hockey leagues are already changing their stance on fighting, and these new rule changes appear to be the first step in eliminating fighting.
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.