Only one level of amateur hockey in the United States still allows fighting, but USA Hockey is set to vote on a proposal next month that would make even the highest level of juniors free of fisticuffs.
Under the proposal — aimed at the elite Junior A level, which includes the USHL and NAHL — all players who fight would be immediately ejected, and any player deemed an instigator would be subject to an automatic two-game suspension, according to The New York Times.
Any goalie who crosses center ice to engage in a fight will also be classified as an instigator, and removing one’s helmet in a scrap will result in an automatic two-game ban. Any player caught removing an opponent’s helmet would be suspended for multiple games.
The USHL and NAHL largely follow the NHL’s model of assessing a five-minute penalty for fight participants, with the added wrinkle being that players are ejected for fighting twice in one game or during the final five minutes of the third period or overtime.
Automatic ejections for fighting are already the norm at every other level of amateur American hockey, including the NCAA, and the push to make these rules universal has grown as head injuries become an ever-increasing concern.
“We need to take a firm stand to preserve our sport, prevent catastrophic injury and avoid financial repercussions,” Dr. Michael J. Stuart, the chief medical officer for USA Hockey, told the Times. “USA Hockey needs to adopt the Junior A hockey rule change proposal at the winter meeting in January. I look forward to a healthy debate with anyone who feels that fighting has a role in a game played by amateur student-athletes.”
Any ruling passed by USA Hockey would apply only to amateur leagues and have no bearing on the NHL, AHL or other minor professional leagues, such as the ECHL. Hockey Canada has also made an effort to curb fighting at its lower levels, but it is still commonplace in major junior leagues.