Banning fights in Ice Hockey?

Here’s a subject that we’re sure many of you were not expecting to crop up, banning fighting in Ice Hockey games.

Before you freak out, there’s no information suggesting that a ban on fighting is coming to the NHL, but it does suggest a possible future where ‘chuckin’ knucks’ becomes a taboo at the Major League level.

It’s certainly part of the Ice Hockey tradition but it looks like it’s about to disappear from the junior level next season. Let’s out find out more, shall we?

A Farewell to Brawls?

2J6M5NY Officials separate Toronto Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds (24) and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Corey Perry (10) as they fight during third period, round one, NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey action in Toronto, Monday, May 2, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) is anticipated to ratify a new rule this summer which will effectively ban fighting in Ice Hockey.

If it’s ratified, the ban will effectively come into force for the new season, 2023 – 2024.

Per a report from the Hockey News published on Wednesday this week, the QMJHL want to put a stop to fighting and instituting punishments for those who do.

A spokesperson said, ‘The QMJHL is planning to have a rule in place that will ban fighting, making it black and white that it is no longer a part of our game.

‘The punishments have not been decided as of yet. We will be looking to have a rule in place in June when the next general annual assembly of the members of the board of governors takes place.’


2HRNM65 Quebec junior Education Minister and minister responsible for the status of women Isabelle Charest responds to reporters questions on team sport reopening during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, June 4, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

So, the Hockey News reports that there had been an agreement between the Quebec Sports Minister and the League back in 2020.

Minister Isabelle Charest had given the League $12M in relief in return for them taking action to stop fighting.

What’s significant is that the League had already introduced a 10-minute misconduct penalty on top of a 5-minute penalty for players engaging in on-ice pugilism.

Why now?

2M0WJ05 Quebec Liberal MNA Enrico Ciccone presents a legislation that would ban fightiong in sports for children under 18-years-old, during question period, Thursday, December 8, 2022 at the legislature in Quebec City. Ciccone, a former professional player, has been against fighting for kids since he left the NHL. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

The recent push is coming from a former NHL enforcer turned member of the Quebec Assembly no less. Enrico Ciccone is well known for his antics on the ice but has now taken a more retrospective view on all that slugging.

The fights take a toll on players and that’s encouraged him to push this bill in the Quebec Assembly, to effectively ban fighting on the ice.

Youtube is full of videos of Ciccone’s fights while playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens, among others, but now he feels times have changed and this part of the professional ice hockey experience needs to end.

Protecting future hockey players

2HRTX52 Dallas Stars’ Jamie Benn (14) and Ottawa Senators’ Josh Brown (3) fight during first period NHL hockey action in Ottawa, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

‘Well, you know what? If they call me … hypocritical, well that’s all right,’ Ciccone said in a 2020 interview with Carol Off on As It Happens.

‘As you know, things have changed through the years and society has changed, and we have numbers, we have scientific reports also that [show] us the damage it can do on your brain,’ he added.

The former enforcer said that the physical (from multiple concussions) and emotional pain of his past career, have motivated him to protect young hockey players in the province.

‘We just want to try to work ahead to make sure that these kids don’t go through what I went through, what a lot of my teammates went through.’

‘In my era, you know, it was a part of the game, it was a part of the game plan also — intimidation. But as we go through the years, you know … there’s less and less fighting.’ Ciccone would add.

The Bill

Ciccone had said that the bill was aimed at updating the rules for the QMJHL but it would not impact player’s ability to be drafted into the likes of the NHL as their stick skills are more valued than their fists.

All 121 members of the Quebec Assembly supported the bill.

Why do Hockey Players fight?

2M8F58W Pittsburgh, United States. 13th Jan, 2023. Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jason Zucker (16) and Winnipeg Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon (5) fight at center ice during the third period of the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 win at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Friday, January 13, 2023. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

There are two main motivations for it; intimidation and retaliation. Players will take up an unofficial role as ‘enforcers’ who take it upon themselves to deter and check sneaky or overly physical players.

There are also players who have a bone to pick or an axe to grind with players on the opposing team and they see the opportunity for clobbering time.

There are also those times when enforcers want to build momentum in the game. They start a fight to cripple their opponent’s morale and get their team riled up. Of course, if they lose the fight, that can backfire too.

Intimidation has been a big part of the traditional hockey game and often saw players turning the tables on established enforcers and you’d see now enforcers forge their reputation.

Of course, fights have to be strategic and if it’s too close to crunch time in a game, the assailant’s team may well disagree with giving their opponents a penalty.

What about the NHL?

2HRT33W Montreal Canadiens’ Shea Weber and Vegas Golden Knights’ Tomas Nosek (92) fight during second period game 4 NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey semifinal action in Montreal, Sunday, June 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Again, it’s unclear if Major Leagues like the NHL will soon see regulations or rules like this introduced.

For now, the NHL still takes fights seriously.

At the time of writing, the St Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington, has been suspended for two games after getting into a scrap with the Minnesota Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

It’ll probably be a long time before we see scraps banned in the NHL.

What we can say is that from what the pundits and sports journalists writing on the subject have said, fights are declining and the priority is on playing, not pugilism.

Posted on: 17 Mar 2023