BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
Hartford, CT – The recent new AHL Rule 46 announced in July at the conclusion of the AHL Board Governors meeting regarding fighting reads as follows:
Rule 46 (“Fighting”)/Rule 23 (“Game Misconducts”)
- Players who enter into a fight prior to, at, or immediately following the drop of the puck for a faceoff will be assessed an automatic game misconduct in addition to other penalties assessed.
- During the regular season, any player who incurs his 10th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for one (1) game. For each subsequent fighting major up to 13, the player shall also be suspended automatically for one (1) game.
- During the regular season, any player who incurs his 14th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for two (2) games. For each subsequent fighting major, the player shall also be suspended automatically for two (2) games.
- In any instance where the opposing player was assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major shall not count towards the player’s total for this rule.
I rise in defense of the heavyweight.
This another assault on the character of the heavyweights and the continued micromanaging and over regulation of hockey in general. The rules addition is both unnecessary and unwarranted intrusion into the sport adding another layer of bureaucracy that allows officials who are often game-fully challenged as it is- to yet again get to play a further role in the game than is needed.
Did anyone hear an outcry to change and add this amendment to the fighting rules last year? Coaches? Players? The fans? No, just another bureaucratic fiat issued and the AHL is told just to put it in.
Primarily, it is the fear of a concussion lawsuit such as the judgement the NFL had of over $3.5 Billion that scares the bejesus out of the NHL. So the NHL now practices its version of defensive medicine because of a still yet unproven theory that connects CTE disease to fighting or concussions in general. Far more understanding and real science needs to find out what causes CTE. I believe there are far more complex medical and biological issues at play in that development.
Just my humble opinion.
Fighters are an important part of the game. They have served a very useful role in protecting smaller players and keeping fellow players in check from cheap shot artists who are indeed causing the reckless endangerment of players. Over the past several years, the PC police keep making it harder.
Again, this will allow those types of player’s free reign to do as they will because of the heavyweights, the player’s protectors if you will, will be circumspect about when, if and how to drop the mitts. You can’t depend on disciplinary sanctions, which were all negotiated in CBA contracts at the NHL and AHL level, to truly have a deterrent effect. It’s has been lawyered down and diluted to the point of having little to no effect.
The Raffi Torres suspension, for example, is the only significant exception to attempt to seek to have a corrective action taken on a players conduct.
Elbows directed at the head, to hits from behind, and stick activity, especially behind the play like spearing, high sticking, and butt-ending, are real issues in the game to correct – not fighting.
The majority of suspensions and injuries came from one of the aforementioned categories. At the same time, concussion-related injuries are down, and that’s good. We still have too many infractions of the above categories going on in the game. The real injury issue are those head shots that are unwarranted and reckless. Having a real deterrent on the ice offering immediate justice doled out by your peers should be in the game not excised from the game.
There was no call for this rule. This rule is a dictate from somewhere in the NHL offices which now more or less control the AHL. Almost any semblance of what the game once was has left the building. From the fighting to the overtime gimmicks to many other aspects of how the play of the game is now unrecognizable from its past to its present.
Can you imagine the recently passed, “Mr. Hockey,” Gordie Howe, playing under some of these rules? Not a chance.
Hockey fighters, by and large, are great people. They’re strong community assets, particularly to charities. They are beloved by their teammates who respect their contribution to the team game. They are an enormous presence in the locker room for every team.
Fighting is a PART of hockey, not the whole game.
Remember the old, tired argument that people won’t watch hockey because of fighting? With fighting down significantly in the last five to ten years, where are the national ratings for the NHL on NBCSN?
Television ratings in the States are uneven at best. Why? Because the NHL is a market driven, ad revenue based league and a gate receipts generated league. They have no US national TV deal. However, there is a national TV deal in Canada. However, with the value of the falling Canadian dollar now an issue, it has made the deal less lucrative than the original figure. The demographics are shifting where hockey is played and is popular in the United States as the sport is no longer weather specific.
We have seen as recently as last year, players like Brian McGrattan (San Diego), Paul Bissonnette (Ontario), our old pal Stu Bickel (also in San Diego and who led the AHL last year with 210 PM), and recently retired players Matt Carkner, as well as, one-time Pack and NY Ranger, Colton Orr, and Nick Tarnasky of the Wolf Pack last year, all exiled to the AHL. They were sent packing as if they didn’t matter anymore. Shame on the NHL and shame on NHLPLA and PHPA for participating in this job-killing maneuver by the Lords of the Boards. The union is there to represent the players and maintain their job security not participate in their elimination or evisceration.
McGrattan, as other heavyweights have the last few years, signed in Europe with the Nottingham Panthers (England-EIHL). Tarnasky signed in San Diego, taking his slot. Bissonnette and Bickel re-signed for AHL deals with their respective teams they played with last year.
The fact is players want to fight in the game. In a survey done several years ago, 98% responded yes – Case closed, right?
No, as we found out this summer in college hockey when the coaches voted overwhelmingly to keep the OT rules as they are in the NCAA. I think that decision came with some guidance from the NHL which has sought to institute the same carnival concepts from pro hockey OT into the collegiate game. The majority vote was ignored and shown no respect. Thankfully, in that case, the coaches have prevailed—for now.
Fans stand up and cheer at a fight. Nobody is booing it. That’s a fact that many namby-pamby writers in particular and now some hockey executives many who have little understanding of the game, though some do, and benefitted in the fighting era and its history are suddenly recoiled by it. They seek to institute their social engineering theories to curb violence.
Truthful fact, violence is part of the human condition. How we maintain it, is a key to the maintenance of balance. A hockey fight is an expression of violence, but do you want to see real violence? Visit Chicago on a weekend or Hartford, Orlando, Syria, Dallas, Paris, Nice or Brussels. That, my friends, is real violence. A hockey fight or line brawl is not even in the neighborhood.
What happens when countries disarm in the name of peace? They will usually find their way into an inevitable war.
Hockey fighters have been important part of the fabric of our great game. From the good guys, and even the bad guys, they have been a part of our great sport. They have produced some great stories and incredible moments along with the exciting goal scoring and terrific defensive plays the game provides.
Paul Stewart, current head of officiating in the ECACHL college conference over the years regaled to many us writers of some of the characters he fought and played with in his days in the NAHL, WHA, AHL and eventually the NHL, all before becoming an NHL referee where he did 1,000 games.
From the inspiration for the Slap Shot character, Oggie Oglethorpe, he told of how he and teammate Bill Goldthorpe suckered him at the team Christmas party in Binghamton (NAHL) to see who would be the team heavyweight. His first pro fight was in Hartford with Jack “Killer” Carlson then of the New England Whalers (WHA) and Stewart with the Cincinnati Stingers. The referee, Bill Friday, told them, “Boys, that’s the best fight I’ve seen in 20 years.” Stewart also scored his first pro goal in Hartford against Louis Levassaeur.
Stewart’s NHL debut with the Quebec Nordiques was in his hometown at the Boston Garden. He battled Terry O’ Reilly that night. Stewart told him during the warm-ups, “You’re not the only Irishmen in the building O’Reilly. He fought Stan Jonathan and Al Secord in one night. Stewart’s verbal battle with all-time Bruins great goalie Gerry Cheevers is simply laugh-out-loud funny. “Cheesey! I know where your horses are. I’ll burn the barn down!”
One of my all-time favorites, Frank “Seldom” Beaton, played with the New Haven Nighthawks for two-and-a-half seasons in the late 1970’s. When he was in the WHA playing for Birmingham in a game in Cincinnati (where he had played the year before) had cops seeking him out on an assault arrest charge. He’d apparently punched out a gas attendant who spilled gas on his Corvette. He was carried out under their noses in the player’s stick bags to the team bus to avoid them.
You’re laughing. I know you are. And you should because these are funny stories. It’s a part of life and the game that has many of these vignettes.
The attempt to sanitize our sport by the PC police must stop now. Fans and I know there are a lot of you who agree with me. Let’s hear your voices before the faceless bureaucrats destroy a part of the hockey spirit. They have done enough damage already in other areas.
I gladly stand to defend the heavyweights and scrappers of our game they deserve to be respected and appreciated not legislated, marginalized and ostracized from our great game.
(Publisher’s note: This editorial represents the sole opinion of our esteemed colleague, but does not express the opinion for all of the Howlings staff).