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Daily Article for 2022-06-08

Fight Measures on the NHL Agenda by Hakan Lane

The general managers of all clubs in the National Hockey League were away from the rinks for a few days last week. Their normal lounges in the arenas have been exchanged for suites and conference rooms in a hotel in Naples, Florida. One of the dominating topics will be a discussion on what to do in order to reduce the amount of fights in the games.

The issue was evoked by a tragic incident last year. A minor league player died after a staged fight. The NHL has conducted a study on the nature of fights in time to be presented at the GM conference.

The antidote against all those on ice boxing performances is the well known remedy of stiffer punishments. Reports say that referees will be instructed to strike down on "staged" fights, i.e. fights where the combattants agree beforehand to a challenge. They will also penalise instigation more strictly when it is clear who stirred up the fight. In other words, no revolutionary steps to deal with an ancient phenomenon in North American ice hockey. It will most likely end up in some small steps in the same direction that the NHL has been moving for a while.

A much more fresh approach was taken against checks to the head. The GMs seemed to find unity in their wish to reduce the number of dangerous hits potentially causing concussions and possible blackouts to an unexpecting puckholder. Hitting the carrier of the puck is legal within certain limits. The restriction of this such that rushes into the head leads to a penalty is a sound initiative. The nature of the game with checks should not be used to allow serious injuries.

I think that being too restrictive on hockey fighting carries a risk of a dirtier game. Instead of squaring it out one on one with both players ready for it, you'd see a lot more checks from behind et. c. as part of the "retaliation game". Those come when the recipient of the hit is not prepared to be checked. They can cause some very serious injuries like the legendary Samuelsson shot on Cam Neely in 1991. That check to Neely's knees lead to serious damage and ultimately made his career much shorter than what it could have been. These kind of things rarely happen in fistfights if they can be controlled. It would be devastating for the technical game if star players were fair game for hits like that.

What then should be done? I think that hockey could be well served by looking at what boxing has done to make their sport more safe. Keep the fights but break them if they get too ugly. Let linesmen stop anything where one of them gets the clear upper hand or there is blood involved. Let the instigator have that extra penalty.

Fights are a long standing tradition of the NHL. Most fans like it, and it is a part of the protection of talented players from injuries. It can not be taken out of the game without some unwanted consequences. The GMs made a wise move to monitor it and increase some penalties, but I doubt that the effects will be of major importance. There will be quite a few fights next season as well.


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Past Articles

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Finally! A Possible Solution to the NBA Age Related Draft Mess by Mark D. Hauser
Who's the Greatest of All Time in a Particular Sport? by Mark D. Hauser
Fight Measures on the NHL Agenda by Hakan Lane
Why are There so Many Dumb Sports Opinions out There? by Mark D. Hauser

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