OHL sees a decrease in fighting after first week

Ever since OHL’s commissioner David Branch implemented a new fighting rule this season, scraps between players have significantly gone down compared to last season.

Almost 50 per cent of major altercations have been reduced in the first 20 games since opening night last Thursday.

To this point there have been only 15 fighting majors given out, 13 less than the same amount of games last year.

“The league is trying to get rid of guys who just want to fight,” Marty Williamson who is the head coach of the Niagra Icedogs said.

A few days before the OHL’s regular season started, Branch adopted rules to punish players who engage in more than 10 fights in order to protect their safety.

If a player is involved in more than 10 fights, he will automatically get a two-game suspension for every fighting major he receives up to the 15th game.

At No. 16 his team will be fined $1,000 and he will be banned two games per fight after that.

“I think the 10-fight rule might take out the players who just fight and can’t play the game,” Icedog’s forward Joel Wigle said. “But for myself, I think I can play the game and fight.”

The 18-year-old had the most fights on his team last season with eight and said he wanted to aim for 15 before he heard about the changes.

“Fighting is definitely part of the game and something you have to do to stick up to your teammates.”

Also, if a player is assessed an instigator penalty and had had more than 11 fights, he is subject to an automatic four-game suspension. However, the player who is instigated upon does not have the fight counted towards his record.

And Williamson agrees with this rule.

“If I make a clean hit out there and some guy races across the ice because he doesn’t like my hit and jumps me or fights me, that’s not me looking for a fight,” Williamson explained. “So I think that was a great twist to the rule that they [OHL] put in.”

There were 10 free fight games after the first week of this season.

If the rule existed in the previous season, 25 players would have faced suspensions. Williamson said this rule only applies to approximately 10 per cent of the players in the league.

The coach is not a supporter of staged fights and thinks it has no place in the game. He is comfortable with what Branch has done and believes that the commissioner is “only trying to protect the kids.”

With the specific rules implemented, both Wigle and his coach don’t believe that fighting should be taken out completely and are satisfied with what has been settled with.

From a player’s standpoint, fighting is about protecting their own players.

“I think fighting is definitely part of the game and something you have to do to stick up to your teammates,” Wigle said.

But Williamson said other instances may occur if there is a no fighting rule.

“I think it’s an emotional game and I just don’t think you want to have guys swinging sticks and doing other things,” he said. “So if there is an odd fight here and there, I’m not against that.”

Windsor Spitfires forward Ty Bilcke led the league with 37 bouts last year.

The fight record will reset once the playoffs start.