One weekend of action is far too small a sample to determine whether the Ontario Hockey League's new fight threshold rule will have the desired effect.
It's more likely to have an effect, as Western Hockey League defenceman Jaynen Rissling put it, "later in the season or in a playoff race. The guys might need a spark and you can provide that with a fight." It is, however, clearly in the players' minds since the change is still fresh, so might be notable that there has been a chance compared to the first weekend in each of the past seasons.
Through the first 20 games on the OHL schedule, fighting is down 50 per cent compared to the same point last season. Half of the games had no instance where referees assessed a major penalty for fighting. Just to make sure last season was an anomaly, let's throw in the numbers from the start of the '10-11 season, too.
2012-13: 14 fights, 10 fight-free games2011-12: 28 fights, 4 fight-free games
2010-11: 37 fights, 6 fight-free games
(As so often happens with small samples, the 2010-11 numbers got skewed by one extreme example. An Oshawa-Peterborough game had 11 fights).
The feeling here is that the OHL's measure isn't about eradicating fighting entirely, but limiting it to a particular time and place, such as when it's a honest outgrowth of emotion and/or when it's to protect a teammate. This could take it back to the spirit that was intended long ago when it was decided it was permissible.
You might read that in the comments Guelph Storm coach Scott Walker made after his team got blown out by London last weekend — "where was that intensity when it really mattered?" Or into what Kamloops Blazers assistant coach Ed Patterson said about removing the designated fighter or enforcer or whatever euphemism is employed — "It should be team toughness that counts, not one guy doing it for the whole team." London general manager Mark Hunter claimed last weekend, "I don't think anyone wants to see a player get to 30 fights in one season in junior hockey." Honestly, if hockey's solons back in 19-whenever had known tha would be the case, don't you think they would have passed a rule?
The real test of the rule might come once rival teams see each other for the second or third time. The early indication, though, is that fight-free games should be more of a common sight, but the age-old ritual won't exactly disappear.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Ontario Hockey League