Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Impact of the NHL's New Proposed Fighting Rules

The NHL General Managers meeting recent wrapped up and word out of the three-day meeting is the GMs are proposing three changes to the NHL's rule book for next season. Let's take a look in order of probability of the rules actually passing through the Competition Committee and the Board of Governors.

1) Add a 10-minute misconduct to "staged" fights that happen off a faceoff.

Probability - Very likely.

What will happen as a result - Fights off of a faceoff account for 22% of all fights. While the thought is that all of these fights are staged, that couldn't be further from the truth. There's a difference between staged for a reason and staged for no reason. One serves a purpose and one doesn't.

The Georges Laraque/Raitis Ivanans "You wanna go... good luck" audio recorded fight was actually the catalyst to this rule. The yuppie media jumped all over this fight for being nonsensical and unnecesarry. Believie it or not, they were right. The fight has no impact on the game. Even a lot of hockey fight fans will agree with that these days. The days of the two-minute goon are all but done. There's nothing that can be done to change that. Beyond that, spontaneous, emotion-filled fights are more exciting to watch.

The problem with this rule is fights off the draw do serve a purpose sometimes. Guys fight to change the momentum of the game. They fight as payback to a dirty play that occured earlier in the game. Or they fight because they simply don't like the other player. There's nothing wrong with this; and it's in the best interests of the NHL to let them fight so players don't resort to other far worse actions to send a message.

So what will happen. Let Riley Cote answer that for you...

"In certain situations, it might look like a staged fight, but it really isn't'' said Cote. It's more working around the rules they've put into place. I just think they (the NHL) are overreacting on the whole thing."

That's right, guys will still fight... they'll just set it up to skate away for a few seconds and then meet back up. Players aren't dumb. Some of these rules are though.

Impact - The two or three two-minute goons left in the game won't be playing any more.

2) Call more instigator penalties for fights that happen as a result of clean hits.

Probability - Likely; but not in the form of a rule.

This is one we have been hearing a lot about recently. You usually hear about from a play-by-play commentator when one of their players knocks an opposing player on his ass and a teammate jumps in to send a message that even hard, clean runs aren't acceptable.

In reality, this rule won't be an actual rule. It will be the league telling the referees to focus more on calling instigator penalties when clean hits are followed immediately by a fight.

Newsflash... they already make these calls!

If anything, the league is sending a message that the "rats" of the NHL are now protected. They can now run around and take big runs at star players and the league will protect them by ensuring an instigator rule is called when they are made to fight for taking that run. Good call NHL... protect the rats... don't protect your stars.

Impact - None. Teammates will still protect teammates. CLEAN HITS CAN BE BRUTAL. The end result for protecting a teammate is putting your team behind a man for two minutes. Teammates have to decide between that and having their team plowed in to the ice night in and night out. End result... players take the two minutes and send a message that even clean, hard hits (that hurt) won't be tolerated.

3) Have the referees jump in when a helmet pops off in a fight.

Probability - Unlikely.

This isn't happening. The damage isn't even close. Hands/knuckles -vs- head injuries. Hands/knuckles wins out every time. There is a good reason that players remove their helmets before fights on occasion (especially when wearing a visor)... punching a helmet hurts; it busts up knuckles; it breaks fingers; and it can break hands and wrists. Players take their helmets off before a fight out of respect for their opponent. Chew on that one for a while and then think if this new rule is really what the players want to protect their safety...

The NHL is looking into new helmet technology. Ted Leonsis, the Washington Capitals owner, gave me this reply when I asked him last month.

So the end result of these proposed rules isn't much. And that is good for hockey. Even Gary Bettman doesn't want fighting out of hockey. The fans love it. The players recognize it as an important component of their game. What else matters?

In all actuality, I only see the ten-minute misconduct rule as actually making it into the NHL's rule book. And that will be worked around by players that truly want to fight.

And with the influx of light and middleweights in the league and the increase in hockey fights this year, the impact on fighting totals will negligible in 2009/10.

1 comment:

moe said...

FIGHTS;It is all very simple!!! First ban the grabbing of Jersy(2 minute penalty) Loose your helmet, two minute penalty. Now you will have two men face to face and some skill will result. No more grabbing, dancing &wrestling like grade 10 girls. If one falls give him the option of getting back up or suggesting enough.