The Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) has overwhelming endorsed anti-fighting measures that would see a game misconduct be the default penalty for a fight in Junior A hockey in Canada, as well as strict rules in place that would ban staged fights, multiple fights during the same stoppage in play, and penalize repeat offenders.
Five of the ten CJHL member leagues, based in Ontario and Québec, all play under the "one-fight rule" that is the international standard. The other five, based in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the maritimes, operate under a hybrid standard. The first fight results in the traditional five-minute fighting major, while the second gives off a game-misconduct.
Kirk Lamb, the president of the CJHL, becomes yet another junior hockey executive to publicly suggest that the nature of the culture of the game is changing, in a brief quote to CTV News, he suggested that "this was done as part of our normal review of regular rules and regulations, but also recognition of the changing culture of the game, the changing appetite of some of this type of behaviours". Canadian Junior A hockey, unlike the Canadian Hockey League which has three member major junior leagues, is not classified as professional hockey by the NCAA. That means that aspiring college hockey players can stop by in the CJHL without losing eligibility. The NCAA upholds the international standard of an immediate game misconduct for a fight.
Another NCAA pipeline, the United States Hockey League, does not explicitly ban fighting. Earlier in October, Dylan Chanter with the Dubuque Fighting Saints struck his head on the ice after his helmet was eliminated during a fight. He suffered a seizure and was sent to hospital. In the opening game of the National Hockey League season, former Princeton University Tiger and current Montreal Canadien George Parros was pulled to the ice face first in a tussle with Toronto Maple Leaf Colton Orr. He was taken off on a stretcher, leaving the hockey world with a none-too-pretty first image of the hockey season.
When talking to Buzzing the Net, Lamb did not offer a timeline for when the rules would be adopted by the member organizations and would need to be approved by the provincial governing bodies as well as Hockey Canada, but it was the Board of Directors of the ten Junior A leagues that overwhelmingly voted to support the measure.
Online fighting resource HockeyFights.com does not keep a repository of CJHL fighting statistics, but Lamb suggested that fighting majors in the leagues that already ban fighting is about half of the other leagues. At the end of the 2013 season, there were just over 0.5 fights per game in the BCHL, AJHL, SJHL, MJHL and MHL, while there were just 0.22 in the OJHL, a nugget tweeted out by the organization on Thursday shortly after the Board's decision was announced.
Those five leagues, where fighting is still technically allowed, work under what is called the Junior A supplement, a 4-year pilot project that threatens fines and suspensions for players and teens discouraging multiple fights in a game, multiple fights during the same stoppage, and against the accumulation of game misconduct penalties.
Eventually, fighting will be a thing of the past, with the standard in North American hockey similar to the one found in the IIHF rulebook. It's just a question of "when" and not "if" at this point. The CJHL took a step yesterday to bring the Canadian junior system that much closer to the future. Even leagues that continue to allow fighting, such as the OHL, have begun to crack down on repeat offenders. Commissioner David Branch said at the start of the season that the "10-fight rule" had a positive effect on the league and the rule could be changed in the future to provide to further de-incentivize fighting.
Hockey shouldn't appeal to people that want to watch teenagers fight, particularly with the rash of unfortunate incidents that have happened in fights. Hopefully, there will be very little resistance in having junior-aged players compete under the international standard for fights. Drop the gloves, and you're out.