NHL: Is the OHL Rule the First Step Toward Removing Fighting from the Game?

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2012

The OHL has taken a step toward limiting the impact of fighting in hockey.
The OHL has taken a step toward limiting the impact of fighting in hockey.Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

There's something that gets the blood boiling when two NHL players square off with each other and start throwing punches.

Many hockey fans get as excited and turned on by an explosive fight as they do by a game-winning goal.

However, it's hard to defend fighting on the ice as a reasonable tactic. The NHL is concerned with the long-term health of its players, and the damage done by head shots is one of the key factors it has been studying.

When players fight on the ice and throw hard punches at their opponent's head, they are putting their long-term health at risk.

Critics have long derided professional hockey for its acceptance of fighting as an accepted tactic.

This year, the Ontario Hockey League is taking a small step to limit fighting.

The OHL is monitoring the number of fights its players participate in this season (source: nationalpost.com). It has set a limit of 10 fights per player. If any player has more than 10 fights, he will be subject to suspension. On the 11th fight, the player will be suspended two games. For each fight past that, the player would receive an additional two-game suspension.

If a player has a 16th fight, he would be suspended another two games and his team would be fined $1,000. If the player is determined to be the instigator in any fight once he has crossed the 10-fight threshold, an additional four-game suspension would be assessed.

The OHL has taken an important step in potentially eliminating fighting from the game.

It's important because it's the first step taken by a North American professional hockey league to limit fighting.

OHL commissioner David Branch is the moving force behind this rule, and while he said there was much debate about it before it was implemented, it has full acceptance from the league's owners, general managers and coaches.

"There’s always good discussion and good debate, but at the end of the day, there was unanimity," Branch said in a conference call when the rule was announced (source: ESPN.com). "And I say that strongly."

Branch discussed the idea with NHL senior vice president Colin Campbell when the idea was in the planning stage. Campbell has said the NHL has discussed similar ideas over the years.

"This is not a bad step for a league to take, especially a league that has the disparity in age, 21-year-olds playing 16-year-olds,"  Campbell told ESPN.com.

The NHL could go forward with a similar rule in a year or two, depending on how the OHL rules works out.

It could be the first of many steps that may eventually lead to the elimination of fighting from the game.