Is the NHL Instigator Rule Really Necessary?

Adam GreuelSenior Analyst IJuly 23, 2008

Back in 1992, the NHL introduced a new rule that made non-fighting, cheap-shot artists rejoice with glee. This rule was the instigator penalty, and it stated that any player caught starting a fight would automatically end up with two extra minutes in the box. Also, after a certain amount of instigator penalties, the player would be suspended.

Without further ado, my question is: How has this rule helped the NHL since being introduced?

If anything, I think it has caused more problems then it has solved. Yes, fights are down, but barely, and I'd be surprised if you can name anybody who has had a recent injury due to a fight, except, maybe, Todd Fedoruk.

Not only do fights hardly ever end in injuries, but the instigator rule has been the cause of many. For example, when Steve Moore used his elbow and took it right into Canucks captain Markus Naslund's face, the Canucks players were rightfully furious and it was to be expected that they would seek revenge.

Now, instead of being able to just drop the gloves and beat Moore into the ground, the Canucks players had to make sure the fight was mutual! Being the passive fighter he is, Moore would only fight pesky lightweight Matt Cooke, and when players such as Todd Bertuzzi or Ed Jovanoski went up to him, he backed down immediately.

With Moore's unwillingness to fight, Bertuzzi decided to take matters into his own hands and wound up going too far and ending Moore's career with one quick blow to the back of the neck. Many people believe that, with no instigator rule, Moore's career would have been saved, and the worst he would have gotten out of it was a broken nose.

Now, I am definitely not condoning what Bertuzzi did. It sickened me to watch him pile-drive Moores face right into the ice. What I am saying is that, without the instigator rule, a career would have been saved.

Another good example is one involving the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes. Mike Modano was taken out from behind by then-Phoenix Coyote Jeremy Roenick. Derian Hatcher, then the Dallas Stars captain, attempted to fight Roenick, but he would have none of that. Knowing that he must do something as a captain, Hatcher proceeded to elbow Roenick in the jaw at full speed, breaking it, and taking Roenick out for a month.

Now, these are just two examples of why the instigator rule should be abolished, and I assure you there are plenty more. Without an instigator rule, there would be no more Steve Moores, Jordin Tootoos, Sean Averys, Riley Cotes and Ryan Hollwegs running around with no consequences.

There would be more accountability in the way a player plays, and the game would be much better. Many players (Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk, Shawn Horcoff, to name a few) are huge supporters of getting rid of the rule altogether. You can't find many players who want to keep it, that's for sure.

Trust me—without the instigator rule, the NHL would be a much better place.