February 29, 2012
No future for fights: HunterSays on-ice fisticuffs are on way out
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
LONDON, ONT. - The end of fighting in hockey is on the horizon -- even London Knights coach and GM Mark Hunter thinks so.
And when hard-core hockey people are not only making it their focus to get it out of the game but are also predicting that sooner rather later fighting will be eliminated, there's no longer much doubt.
On the heels of comments made by the Canadian Hockey League commissioner and Bob Nicholson, the head of Hockey Canada, Hunter added his thoughts: he believes fighting will soon be gone.
Also the co-owner of the Knights, Hunter has been involved in the game as a player, executive, owner, coach and parent.
From his perspective as a member of the Ontario Hockey League fraternity and man who knows the game, change is coming.
"I don't think (we as teams) will be polled to find out what we think. If a change is going to be made, it will be made," Hunter said.
"If you're asking me if I think fighting will be taken out of the game, I think it will.
"I think the rule will be something like, you fight, you are thrown out of the game and suspended for another game."
From the point of view of a hockey coach, he knows the drawbacks of fighting.
"People get hurt," Hunter said. "They get in fights and get concussions and get hit in the head and that's something we can't have."
From a personal point of view, he isn't sure where he sits.
"I don't know what the right answer is," he said. "I know that at times I feel one way and at times I feel the other. All I want is what's best for the game and the kids."
The hope that fighting in hockey goes the way of every other extinct prehistoric animal, lives in the hearts of many who believe the game is good enough without having two of the lesser talented players pound the pee out of each other.
"The official stance from Hockey Canada is that we want to get rid of fighting as quickly as we can," Hockey Canada chief executive Bob Nicholson told The New York Times. "Our ultimate goal is to remove fighting."
CHL commissioner David Branch was quoted in the same newspaper saying "the appetite is there" to eliminate fighting, and that "the time is certainly right to move forward."
From a junior hockey perspective, it's the right thing to do. Getting rid of fighting at the junior hockey level is closer than it's ever been.
When it comes to getting rid of it at the professional level, well that's a different matter. Professional hockey will continue to allow fighting because it needs everything it can in the game in an effort to keep hockey afloat in certain areas where the game still lags behind poker and professional bowling as a sporting attraction.
No, there's no hope that the National Hockey League will do the rational thing and get rid of fighting.
Even just the mention of the possibility that a major hockey decision maker like Hockey Canada was working toward a ban of fighting has caused an alluvion of the usual tired and archaic reasons in defending the ridiculousness.
Fighting is a part of the game. It's a way of protecting the better players. It's entertaining. It's the way the game has always been played.
There was a time when bench-clearing brawls didn't bring any more than the usual penalties; when it was fine to target the head if it was done legally; when running the goalie was a good way to change the flow of the game; when hacking, jabbing, hooking, holding was all good.
Now that was a manly game when the sign of how tough you were was proportionally equated to how many teeth you had left in your mouth.
When it comes to making a statement about the safety of the game of hockey, it has always been the junior leagues, and in large part the OHL, that has taken a leadership role.
For all the warts the OHL and junior hockey have, they were the first to legislate against checking from behind. They were the first to legislate against any kind of head shots. They were the first to make gang fighting obsolete.
Junior hockey will be the first to do the right thing and take fighting out of the game.
It may not be tomorrow or the next day.
It may happen as soon as this summer.
But it will happen. When it's gone people will be surprised how little they, or the game, will miss it.