WASHINGTON — If you believe in the domino theory, you probably raised your eyebrows a few weeks ago at the news that the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League would ban fighting starting next season.
The specifics of how the ban will work and what penalties will be imposed against players who violate the new rule are unclear, and Canada’s other two major junior leagues, the Ontario and Western Hockey Leagues, have not announced similar actions. . But some facts:
• Since 2016, the AHL has implemented an automatic one-game suspension for any player who takes 10 or more fighting majors in a season.
• Since 2016, the OHL has subjected players to two-game suspensions for each fight after the third in a season.
• Banning of the QMJHL reportedly comes as part of a political bargain With the government of Quebec, which effectively kicked out the franchise during the COVID-19 pandemic with hopes that the league would crack down on the fight.
• According to hockeyfights.comThe number of fights per NHL game dropped from a post-lockout high of .60 in 2008-09 to just .19 in 2018-19.
In short, it is a clear and clear direction at all levels of the game. We’re no closer to banning fighting in the NHL, but slowly but surely, that element of the game is diminishing and being phased out.
And for Ross Johnson, it’s an alarming reality.
“I don’t agree at all with what the Q’s doing,” said Johnson, who pitched 25 times during his QMJHL career with the Moncton Wildcats, Victoriaville Tigers and Charlottetown Islanders. “I think the way they’ve gone about it, they’ve limited the game to guys who can only play one skill position. For the boys, whether it’s penalty killing, playing tough, their To be with peers, they’re taking away that ability.
“To me, the best camaraderie is created when someone gets into a fight and they’re willing to go to war for their partner. To me, I really don’t know what the logic is. That’s what’s most great about hockey.” Good point, it regulates itself and will continue to regulate itself. I really don’t get the logic from the question. Again, I strongly disagree with what they are trying to do.
The Islanders have fought 17 times this season, with Johnson and Matt Martin doing the most.
Johnson, who has only skated in 16 games, has fought three times, and on more than one occasion, has been placed in the lineup specifically because of a potential bout.
“I think it’s still, at this point, essential: it’s a physical sport,” Martin told Sports+. “If there’s absolutely no impact on your guys to make dirty hits or cheap shots or anything, I think you’ll see more and more people making those types of throws. [dirty] Hit. I think in some ways, it’s governed by the fact that there are people who don’t want to fight, they’re not going to throw hits because they don’t want to end up in that situation.
Even though the number of fights has gone down, that element of players serving their own justice is still very much a factor in the NHL. And that’s not the only element that players feel they’ll lose without a fight.
“Edge, presence, it’s what hockey loses,” Johnson said. “You talk to anyone who watches sports past and present, when you see a fight in the stands or see a player stand up for his teammates, everyone is on their feet. Everyone is excited. So it’s great for not only the fans, but the players themselves running after a guy who’s standing up for his teammate and wants to go to war with him.
It’s true that this is a biased sample of players to talk about fighting. But in some ways, that’s the point. The league is no longer full of guys whose sole job is to be an enforcer, but that’s part of what Martin and Johnston do for the Islanders.
“Part of the reason I’ve had it as long as I have is because I’m a physical player and I’m willing to stick up for my teammates,” Martin said.
As for any potential long-term health effects, the risks players feel are already built into the game, fighting or not.
“Hit and impact is just as bad, if not worse, than a fight,” Martin said. “There are a lot of fights out there where nothing happens. You’re in control of a lot of situations, I think, when you’re in a fight. Punches coming at you. Sometimes when you’re on the ice, two guys bump into each other, and you don’t know it. I think it’s very bad for your head, not being ready or aware or prepared for it.
It’s hard to see Martin or Johnson being affected by any eventual changes at the NHL level, which figure to be at least a decade away. But it’s equally difficult for players to choose to remove combat from the game at any point.
“If there’s no consequence to your actions and your only consequence is a two-minute penalty, then you’re doing the same thing, of course more things are going to happen,” Johnson said. “So the whole idea of presence is to make people think twice about taking liberties on their players. You take away that presence and you take away all those abilities, the game just turns into a little bit of chaos.”
down on the Farm
The Bridgeport Islanders are just barely out of a playoff position, currently edging out Hartford by one point for last place in the Atlantic Division. Getting prospects such as William Dufour, Arnaud Durando and Ruslan Iskhakov into playoff games would be a positive move for the Islanders, even if the option of having the Black Aces be available for at least one round of an NHL club’s playoff run.
Dufour, who had 20 goals and 22 assists this season with Bridgeport, is the best prospect in the organization now that Etu Ratie has been traded and Simon Holmstrom has established himself as part of an NHL roster. Dufour, 21, made his NHL debut in December against the Bruins, but that night more or less proved he still needs to develop further before he can contribute at this level. Playoff hockey in the AHL would be a good experience for him as well.
An interesting test case will be 22-year-old defenseman Samuel Bolduc, who has arguably done enough to stick around on playoff rosters if the Isles deem experience to be more valuable than an AHL playoff run.
If Sebastian Aho is back in time for the post-season, though, it’s hard to see Bolduc taking his place in the lineup, at least based on what we’ve seen so far.