Taming the Lunacy
There are those who believe all fighting in hockey is wonderful.
There are those who believe it's all idiotic.
Then there are those that believe some fighting in hockey is necessary and meaningful while just some of the fights are idiotic.
The NHL knew it couldn't please the first crowd or the second, so it's going for the third.
Today, the league's general managers approved recommendations aimed at curbing so-called "staged" fights and those scraps that occur as a result of teammates coming to the supposed rescue of other teammates.
No longer will two players be permitted to line up for a faceoff and then drop their gloves immediately after the puck is dropped without receiving extra penalties. Starting next season, the league will assess automatic 10-minute misconducts to players in those situations, while referees will be given lattitude to decide how involved two players have to be in the play before they can drop their gloves.
In 500 fights this season up to the first week of February, 108 fights occurred right after a faceoff, a occurance that has increased 30 per cent in the past eight years.
Similarly, another 118 fights occurred because one teammate was coming to the aid of another after an illegal or legal hit, an increase of 27 per cent over the past eight years. On 85 per cent of those occasions, the original hit was clean.
To curb those types of fights, the GMs decided to ask officiating staffs to more aggressively hand out instigator penalties.
So while the NHL won't ban fighting, it also understood it had to respond in some way to the public furor over fighting caused by the death of senior hockey defenceman Don Sanderson in January.
So more than 45 per cent of the fights that had occurred this season by the first week of February are of a type that will receive extra penalties next season. The GMs proposals, of course, have to be rubber stamped by both the league's competition committee and the NHL board of governors.
In essence, Gary Bettman's administration decided to take a stand against the type of fights few support, although it stopped short of booting players from the game who engage in staged fights or respond to a clean hit on a teammate by starting a fight.
"What we're saying is that if you're going to fight, it's got to be a real fight," said league vice-president Colin Campbell.
The league didn't come up with new regulations on the removal of helmets during fights, nor did it decide to respond to the request of the players union for new regulations on head shots.
So not everyone will be happy with what the GMs have decided today.
Then again, with hockey in Canada making everyone happy is impossible.