The topic of fights in hockey has been long debated, but now one professional league has decided to put an end to it.
New Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) Commissioner Mario Cecchini announced a ban on fighting, starting next season.
The QMJHL is one of the three junior leagues in Canada.
It remains to be seen what the other two leagues, the Western Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League, will do in reaction to the QMJHL's decision.
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“We obviously have to improve on these situations and even eliminate them in some cases,” Cecchini said of fighting and hazing.
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He also expressed his belief the rule change is pivotal to changing the league's culture.
“How do you make a culture change? With a lot of determination, with a lot of conviction and with a lot of precision and clarity in how you expect everyone to behave,” Cecchini said. “For me, that’s going to be paramount.”
Cecchini replaced Gilles Courteau, who announced his resignation earlier this month amid intense scrutiny among the province’s politicians over hazing and initiations.
The 65-year-old Courteau announced his departure after 37 years leading the junior hockey league and just a year away from his planned 2024 retirement.
The QMJHL governors recently voted on a new rule that would penalize players involved in a fight. The players would be subject to a game misconduct. Officials did note that if one player is defending himself against an obvious aggressor, he could avoid punishment.
The president of the QMJHL executive committee, Richard Létourneau, later confirmed the league was going ahead with a fighting ban.
“Yes, fights are prohibited,” Létourneau said. “Now, the details have to be finalized. We have an expanded hockey committee made up of general managers, coaches and owners, to come up with a way to apply this rule and have it accepted by the minister and have it ratified at our June members’ assembly.”
In September 2020, the QMJHL changed its rule on fighting. Violators faced a 10-minute misconduct instead of the usual five minutes for a fighting penalty. If a player was involved in three fights in a single season, he would be subject to a one-game suspension.
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The rule change was in response to the Quebec Minister for Education's threat to withhold financial aid from the league's Quebec-based teams.