One of, if not the most, polarizing topics in hockey today is fighting. There have been some very serious, and sometimes career ending (Nick Kypreos) injuries, as a result of fighting in hockey. We have lost some great people in hockey such as Bob Probert, Wade Belak and Derek Boogaard just to name a few. The death of these men has been attributed mainly to their careers as a ‘fighter’ in the National Hockey League (NHL). However, I am of the opinion that fighting still does, and always will, have a place in hockey. There was a recent poll of NHL players about whether or not they wanted fighting in hockey and a shocking result of 98.5% of players who took the survey wanted fighting to remain in hockey. Now with that being said, there are many ways in which the NHL could better regulate fighting. The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) has become a bit of a pioneer in regards to better regulating fighting in hockey.
In the OHL, a player may only be involved in 10 fights in a season before they receive a suspension. Each fight after 10 will result in a suspension. This instantly reduces, if not eliminates the number of players that have 20+ fighting majors in a season. The fight total is then reset once the playoffs start; also, if an opposing player instigates or is the aggressor, then the fight is not included in the 10 fight maximum. For example, if a player is approaching his 10 fight maximum and an opposing player instigates a fight with the player just to get that player at or over the maximum fights allowed, then the fight would not count towards that player’s 10 fight maximum. By implementing this rule, fighting in the OHL went down 32.1% after 119 games into the 2012-13 season, compared to the same number from the previous season. This sort of rule also eliminates the use/need of the one-dimensional “goon”. Once they reach their 10 game maximum they will be automatically suspended for each fight provided they are not the aggressor.
There was also an ugly incident a few weeks ago involving Ray Emery of the Philadelphia Flyers and Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals. The NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman stated that there would be no supplemental discipline to Emery because “There was no rule that was violated to elevate things to the level of a suspension.” Now if this was the OHL, pursuant to rule 46.18, Ray Emery, was the clear aggressor in the altercation and would have received a game misconduct for his actions and Braden Holtby would have been allowed to stay in the game. This may have been enough deterrence for Emery to stop him from using Holtby as his personal punching bag. This rule is much better suited to the situation then the automatic 10 game suspension that was proposed in the media. A goalie is an active player on the ice and therefore should not be treated the same as somebody who comes off the bench to join an altercation on the ice.
Fighting in hockey does not have to be an all or nothing thing. There are certainly happy mediums available, and I think the Ontario Hockey League is certainly well on its way to finding it and maybe the NHL should follow suit