Kolupanowich: Three rules to eliminate staged fights

Forcing two players from each team to go to the box for a fight could help eliminate staged fights and one-dimensional skaters. (clydeorama/Flickr)

By: Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor


Like last time, it looks as though these Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations may take a long time, that much is clear. What is unclear is if anything else will come out of this besides a new CBA. Going in to the 2005 lockout, there was talk about changing the rules. When the NHL resumed, it was a different game thanks to the elimination of two-line passing, the goaltender trapezoid, the shootout and other various rule changes.

They came out of necessity as the NHL had become boring, so much so the 10-year period before the lockout is known as the Dead Puck era. The goal was to open the game up for the skilled players and what we see today is much quicker and more exciting game.

They were able to fix part of the game once, but there is still more to be done. Player safety has become the main point of interest over the past few years as the number of concussions is on the rise and we are finding out just how devastating they can be. And one area concussions come from the most is fighting. It’s no coincidence the three players the hockey world tragically lost last summer, Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak and Rick Rypien, were all enforcers. They all had numerous issues to deal with, not even including the concussion symptoms like headaches, nausea and memory loss. Enforcers often have severe depression and substance abuse, which is not worth playing that role in the NHL for at all.

I do like fighting, it’s one of my favorite parts of the game. I would not like to see it eliminated, but I wouldn’t mind if was reduced. The fights I like are those split-second, spontaneous fights between any player from each team, provided they are of the same skill set of course. Even between the star players who refuse to give an inch the spontaneous fight is by far more exciting than the staged fight. I’ll take Jarome Iginla vs Vincent Lecavalier, Henrik Zetterberg vs Evgeni Malkin and Kyle Turris vs Danny Briere over Jody Shelley vs Cam Janssen any day.

So here are a couple of rule changes that wouldn’t eliminate fighting, but make coaches think twice about plugging their goon into the lineup.

Any fight as a direct result of a clean hit will be assessed an instigator penalty.

Besides staged fights, I also hate having to see a player have to fight after delivering a perfectly clean bodycheck. If you want to send a message to the other player, hit one of their guys right back. I love a game featuring numerous big (and clean of course) hits, even more than a game with lots of fighting and goals.

All fights have a misconduct attached.

Not a game misconduct, just another 10 minutes which means the coach will have to put someone else in the box, shortening the bench by two players for five minutes. Now the easy solution is to pick the worst player on the team to serve the fighting major, so it would have to be someone who was on the ice at the time.

There is a chance this leads to teams carrying more than one goon so one can fight and one can serve if they don’t carry two already. That’s where this rule can get extreme. What if the opposing coach gets to pick the player to serve the penalty? Not just from the players who were one the ice, but from the entire bench?

Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo and Minnesota’s Zenon Konopka both finished in the top three in PIM last season and are two players who don’t bring much to the game other than their fists. Do you think there is any chance their coaches would put them out to fight if it meant losing Claude Giroux and Zach Parise from their respective teams for five minutes. Not a chance, it’s a horrible tradeoff. The role of the goon only works if the player isn’t good at any other area of the game because then you don’t mind losing them. But if a fight did cost a team a better player, they would

Suspend players who have more PIM than TOI in a game.

The credit for this one goes to the Down Goes Avery blog who tweeted this back in March and it’s a very simple and potentially effective idea. If the player isn’t good enough to have an impact on the game in any other area, get rid of them.

You can add a little extra and fine the coach as well when this happens. A coach would only have three options when it comes to playing their enforcer: take a fine, not allow the player to play his role and, perhaps the worst option, play the goon at least 5:01 a game. Since neither of those scenarios is particularly good for the coach, the best option would be to just not dress a skater who can’t do anything other than fight.

Of course reducing the role goons play presents the question of what to do with all the dirty players out there. If putting a goon out there to take care of the problem ends up hurting the team even more, the league will be just as dangerous. The quick answer is tougher suspensions and fines, though the whole argument is best saved for another time. Every once in awhile, it looks like the league is close to making progress, they become inconsistent again. But suspensions do work, just look at Matt Cooke. If Raffi Torres cleans up as well, then league officials will know they’re on to something.


Coincidental Minors Archives


  1. I’d like to see fighting completely gone from the game, and have posted a few articles on my blog about the negative impact on the game – http://itsnotpartofthegame.blogspot.ca/. I realize that you can’t eliminate it totally because there will always be a fight when emotions run high, just like in baseball or football. But I think the simple answer is a game misconduct for any fight. Drop the gloves and you are out of the game. Most teams would abandon the one-dimensional player once this rule was adopted. No reason to have a player on your roster that will end up getting tossed on a regular basis. And if players feel the need to fight, if it is really important, then they will do so with the knowledge that they will be tossed.

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