QMJHL expected to ban fighting
The beginning of the end of fighting in hockey?
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is expected to ban fighting for next season.
According to a report from Le Journal de Quebec, the organization responsible for major junior hockey for the easternmost part of the country is planning on introducing a new rule that will put a stop to all legal fighting in its league when they have their league-wide meeting in June.
"The QMJHL is planning to have a rule in place that will ban fighting, making it black and white that it is no longer a part of our game," a spokesperson said on behalf of the league. "The punishments have not been decided as of yet. We will be looking to have a rule in place in June when the next general annual assembly of the members of the board of governors takes place."
As recently as 2020, the QMJHL has made an effort to introduce more strict punishment for fighting in its league by adding a 10-minute misconduct in addition to the five-minute major as in-game penalties. The exact outcome if a fight does happen in a game during the 2023-24 season still has to be decided.
The movement to ban fighting in the QMJHL has been steadily pushed by former NHL enforcer and current Liberal Party member of Quebec’s national assembly, Enrico Ciccone. In 2020, Ciccone introduced a private member’s bill that would ban fighting in amateur sports in the province, except for those involved in combat sports.
"As you know, things have changed through the years and society has changed, and we have numbers, we have scientific reports also that [show] us the damage it can do on your brain," Ciccone told CBC Radio in Oct. 2020.
"We just want to try to work ahead to make sure that these kids don't go through what I went through, what a lot of my teammates went through. … It's not about letting your gloves down. That happened 20 years ago, it was a part of the game. Not anymore," he said.
Quebec has already banned fighting in most of their hockey leagues, but not the QMJHL, so this potential adjustment to the rules from the league would be a monumental step.
For the other leagues in the Canadian Hockey League — the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League – they have introduced more fierce punishments for fighting as well, but no talk of a strict ban has begun.
The OHL has a three-fight rule that began in 2016. After three fights, a player is suspended two games for each subsequent fight, almost acting like each player has three strikes to use up for the season before being suspended.
The WHL, on the other hand, does not have any potential suspensions or fight limit, but instead require players to keep their helmets on if a fight takes place.
We have seen fighting become less and less integral in the sport over the years, as the NHL becomes more skill-based and teams prefer to dress players that can score goals on their fourth lines, instead of enforcers that excel in the physical aspects of the game.
This has been done naturally, as a way to win more hockey games, but is this the first step into seeing a strict ban of fighting across the sport? Will we soon think of fighting in hockey as a barbaric act of the past?