It's got a duel purpose

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

Hockey is a game of honour, or so the players like to say.

If so, there are few things more honourable in my eyes than two slugs removing their lids and rolling up their sleeves before a bout.

No sense in breaking any fingers or knuckles on your rival's Reebok is the logic.

Plus, it adds to the buildup of bouts that often end far too soon.

All that said, when someone lands on his head and dies following such aforementioned ceremony, it's understandable to see steps taken to avoid opening players up to such risk.

But let's not mistake a little chinstrap tightening for what some are suggesting will lead to the eventual demise of the coveted scrap.

Much like the rinkside netting we quickly grew accustomed to following the death of a young spectator, the Ontario Hockey League's decision to ban lid-lifting is simply a logical reaction to Don Sanderson's recent death in a senior-league tussle.

However, it's not going to stop fighting in the game.

It's not even going to slow it down.

It's just a nice way to appear proactive and protect the league against future lawsuits should something similar occur in their loop.

Will counterparts in Quebec and the Western Hockey League follow suit? Absolutely they will.

Will the NHL and it's players' association?

Not anytime soon.

But even if it does, it won't stop the bloodshed that helps make hockey the entertainment product so beloved in our country and a few places down south.

It will just eliminate some of the WWE-style antics that occasionally precede or punctuate a punch-up.

Oh, and yes, it will further protect players who have long needed legislation to protect themselves (see the visor debate for more on how naive players are when it comes to the benefits of wearing shields.)

And so, fighting will continue to "keep players honest," "keep the sticks down" and "make players accountable for their actions," as the cliches go.

And it will sell a heck of a lot of tickets.

The NHL and the economy that will try to support it over the next little while are both far too fragile to start making major changes to a game that has long benefited from being the only pro sport in which fighting is not only permitted, but readily encouraged.

What the OHL did by ordering players not to take off their helmets before a fight is relevant in probably 10% of all battles.

The additional two-minute penalty for ripping off a combatant's headgear during a skirmish will cause plenty of debate as it will prompt some pugilists to do what they can to ensure their Bauer salad-toppers are easier to eject.

In that vein, the rule change could spark the opposite sort of response than desired.

Yes, a recent Sun/Leger poll suggests just over half of Canadians see hockey fights as unnecessary, dangerous and think they should be banned.Predictable given Sanderson's recent death.

The NHL is in the entertainment business and fights are damn entertaining, which means they'll stay.

They also serve a purpose with regards to keeping order in the game, as strange as that may sound, and they're done in a controlled environment.

For those who think the OHL's common-sense legislation will put the NHL on a slippery slope towards banning fighting, guess again.

Even in the OHL, the new rule will affect only a few dozen players who've essentially now had their knuckles rapped -- something they better get used to as they'll now spend more time punching the side of helmets.


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