Believe it. In their annual meeting, NHL general managers proposed rules changes that would result in fewer staged fights (right off a face off, for example), stiffer penalties for instigating with fists after a clean hit and would curb fighting overall.
Included on the list of proposed changes is an additional 10-minute misconduct penalty for fighting immediately after a face off and added emphasis on whistling the instigator penalty after a clean check.
The proposed changes still have to go to the Competition Committee and the Board of Governors before they would be implemented, but there seems to be a growing consensus that fighting isn’t really good for the NHL anymore.
The question is simple for those that grew up watching “Slap Shot:”Why?
A lot of less-than-casual fans would argue that fighting is one of the reasons they watch hockey. Most of these people don’t understand icing or a 1-2-2 forecheck (and in fairness I’m probably the only one of this blog that does and that didn’t happen until October, but anyway).
But what hockey people want to do is grow the game and make it appealing to everybody for its speed, skill and excitement. That includes selling it to people who don’t believe their kids should play a sport that tacitly condones fist fights.
At this point, some believe the retaliation and protection of players has gone too far. Read on:
“It’s always been there for stars and it’s always been there for goalies,” said Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. “If you run the goalie, you are going to have to fight someone…but recently it’s gone to: you hit Joe Schwartz and you have to fight someone and we never had to worry about protecting Joe Schwartz before. I don’t get that. I like the recommendation so start calling the instigators with greater frequency and we will have less of this foolishness.”
Sure, there’s still room for physical play, hard hitting and agressive forechecking. There always will be — hockey is by its nature a contact sport. But there’s going to be less room for straight thuggery.
I think de-thugging the game will make it a better sport, so long as it doesn’t become weaksauce like those flopping soccer players. By the grace of God we hope it never will be that bad.