The American Hockey League made the first step into the potential into getting rid of fighting in hockey yesterday, as new rules put in place restrict the amount of fights a player can participate in before being ejected.
Once a player gets his second fighting major – or third major overall – he will now be ejected from the game. A huge decision indeed that could very well find its way to the NHL depending how its top minor league affiliate responds to it.
The AHL level is home to where some players hold on to one last hope of making the NHL, and one of the more proven methods to get noticed – is to be handy with your fist. Not Slap Shot the movie-handy but certainly a willingness to stand up for your teammates can get you a look on a NHL team’s fourth line.
While there will certainly still be a good amount of fights, likely gone are the days of the ‘staged’ fight, where two players plan a fight before the puck drops.
Also on the way out could be the role of the old time ‘enforcer’, a player whose sole purpose is to engage in fights,
Oh wait, hasn’t the game already begun to do that without intervention?
Talk to anybody who watches hockey on a consistent basis and they will tell you that the days of the old time ‘goonies’ patrolling the fourth line and only collecting a minute here and there is pretty much over.
They have been forced to evolve their game to keep up with the times; the game has demanded it of them – those who haven’t been able to have been forced out.
I understand where league officials are coming from – the potential side effects of fighting exposed its ugly self in the form of losing three great hockey people in a span of one summer and nobody wants to see that happen again.
But fighting is fighting, all it takes is one shot and the damage is done – allowing a player to fight one less time in one game isn’t going to solve the problem. With something as big as this, with the ramifications perfectly evident hockey must go all-in – or all-out.
When you try to settle for a middle ground in something like this you will never like the results. If they want to take some of the fighting out of the game – they have to take all of it out, not just try to reduce it. Reducing it and there is still damage that can be done.
Or, we can accept the dangers of fighting – just like anyone who has willingly dropped the gloves in the name of their own team did the moment before they squared off with an opponent – and allow that aspect of the game to remain intact.
The people running hockey have to make up their mind, either take fighting out of the game entirely or leave it alone. Governing it won’t work – if you think a player won’t accept getting thrown out of the game to stick up for a teammate, you sorely miss understand hockey players.