Ban fighting in minor hockey: poll

THANE BURNETT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:36 PM ET

Scrap fighting in minor hockey!

That's the opinion of the majority of Canadians, according to a revealing Sun Media poll, conducted by Leger Marketing.

The results show most people across the country have lost tolerance for lower-level leagues spilling blood on the ice. In fact, 59% of those interviewed for Leger's on-line survey agreed with the arguments that:

"Fighting in minor and amateur hockey is unnecessary and dangerous and should be banned. Those involved should be thrown out of that game and face further suspensions."

While the Sun Media/Leger Marketing poll results on fighting in minor hockey are telling, so too are the reactions by Canadians to scrapping in the premier league, the NHL.

Currently, players in most minor and amateur leagues in Canada are tossed out of a game for letting their fists do the talking.

A further 27% of Canadians polled thought fighting is a serious matter, and that being taken out of a game is punishment enough.

While 7% didn't have an opinion, around the same number of Canadians figured hockey fight injuries are rare and being tossed for a game is too harsh a penalty.

Across the country, 68% of people in Quebec, followed by 62% in the Maritimes, most favored stricter punishments. Ontario followed with 59%, Alberta at 55%, the Prairies with 53% and B.C. was only 44%.

The Sun Media poll was taken after Ontario defenceman Don Sanderson died when his head hit the ice during a fight in a AAA senior league game on Dec. 12

Leger pollster, Christian Bourque, says the incident likely turned on a light-switch in many people's minds, noting: "I think in the aftermath of a tragic death that was highly publicized, it becomes not a matter of sport, but one of public safety. Before, more people would have sat on the fence."

He likened the debate to an onion, that just had an important layer added to it.

It's likely impossible to turn back the clock, he said.

The pollster did find men were more likely to worry that taking fighting out of the game would hurt the sport.

Bourque says there is still a conservative backbone of die-hard hockey fans who don't want to give up the rough and bloody show-downs, even in the minor levels. But he cautions: "There is no turning back on this issue."

Richard Ropchan, executive director of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, agrees.

"I personally think there should be no fighting at the minor level," he tells Sun Media.

"I hope it's removed in (a) short period of time."

Around the rinks, he says most parents are more concerned with the injuries which take place after bad checks, but even isolated fighting should be looked at seriously. However, Ropchan said no organization can afford to rush into adopting new rules, without careful consultation and thought.

He says any final decision will fall in the lap of Hockey Canada, the governing body for amateur hockey in Canada.

Both Hockey Canada CEO Bob Nicholson and Canadian Hockey League president David Branch have said in recent interviews the time may have come to do away with fighting.

Leger Marketing conducted the poll online, surveying 1505 Canadians. The margin of error for a sample of this size is plus or minus 2.5%, 19 out of 20 times.


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