I went to see the fight and a hockey game broke out.
We’ve all heard that one at some point, right? And while it is meant to be funny it does point to an aspect of hockey that is a fairly divisive subject. Some folks enjoy a good hockey fight, while others are repulsed at this spectacle on ice. Of course, for the vast majority these opinions apply to the professional ranks of hockey possibly extending down to the Junior levels. The fact is, at these levels there is a place for fighting in the game and eradicating it from the game would be a mistake. All players need to understand there are consequences for running a star player or intentionally delivering a cheap shot on another player and that this consequence will be delivered not by the officials, but by an opposing player. But again, this is at a different level – not at the youth hockey level.
At the youth hockey level, fighting is not and should not be tolerated. There is no room for this at the youth hockey level and the consequences for engaging in this are justifiably stiff. But it happens – each and every year it happens and like it or not it will continue to happen. With all apologies to girls hockey teams – it is no wonder this happens when there are teenage boys, hormones raging, skating around trying to knock each other’s heads off with many talking smack to each other. It’s a recipe for a fight and it takes the utmost discipline to stay out of it and that discipline applies to not only the players, but the coaches and parents as well.
A recent experience I’ve had: Last season after a player grabbed an opposing player in a headlock, threw him to the ice head first (which knocked him unconscious) and proceeded to push his facemask up and punch him in the face (while he was unconscious) he was congratulated in the lobby of the arena by his teammates, by his parents and by his teammate’s parents. Not only that but both players – the one doing the punching and the one knocked unconscious (when he came to) were given double minors for roughing (but officiating is another topic). This complete lack of discipline displayed by the player, coaches, teammates and parents is reprehensible in youth hockey.
So what constitutes a fight in youth hockey? The definition seems to be widely interpreted depending upon the officials, coaches, players and parents point of view. I believe fighting is generally when you have two (or more) people attempting to hit and/or hitting someone else – whether they have their gloves on, their masks on etc. doesn’t matter. But what about those situations where the other person is not a willing participant in a fight? What happens if the other player turns away but is repeatedly hit or does not attempt to hit the other person? Is that a fight?
I’ve personally witnessed many instances where punches are repeatedly thrown by one player while the other does not swing back. I’ve seen the non-participant thrown out of the game for fighting and I’ve seen that player stay in the game – maybe a minor is assessed – while the other player is tossed. Seems to me an instigating penalty of some sort (or something similar) should be adopted into youth hockey with a stiffer penalty associated with an instigation and fight as opposed to just fighting.
The penalties – missing the next game – the double jeopardy rule in league play are stiff penalties, but those players that are instigating fights should be treated more harshly than those that are coaxed into the confrontation.
I don’t think we will ever get rid of fighting completely in youth hockey, but I do think we can institute rules that will curb the behavior and need to continue to encourage non tolerance from coaches and parents.
See you at the rink.