With the demise of the goon era already a thing of the past and with current leagues cutting down majorly on fighting, one is left to wonder where do these guys turn. They’re clearly not ready to retire yet and can still useful as an agitator. However, if the 4th liner next to you has better skills with the puck then you can kiss your cushy NHL or AHL job goodbye.
Guys are getting demoted at a steady rate. Paul “BizNasty” Bissonnette wasn’t a part of the Coyotes discussion this year. The Leafs sent Fraser McLaren and Colton Orr packing. After making his way to the NHL the hard way, Rich Clune thought he finally found a steady job with the Nashville Predators. He played one game this year and then headed down to play with Milwaukee. Kevin Westgarth has a Stanley Cup to his name and not one NHL or AHL wanted him. He ended up across the pond with the Belfast Giants.
The culture of the National Hockey League is changing dramatically and anyone can see that. Every team wants to have four sharp, fast, skilled lines now instead of the latter lines filling up with grinders, enforcers, and pests. They need to do more than just fight.
There are a lot of these players around the world that are starting to find themselves out of jobs. Hell, there are a few guys in Major Junior who might not have a job playing pro hockey after their junior career is done. I don’t think fighting will be banned out right but there’s going to come a point where suspensions are going to get heftier and ridiculous in order to deter the player from fighting or players are going to start getting banned from leagues. So where do these guys go is the million dollar question.
There’s only one place.
If you are not familiar with the LNAH through my writing yet, I’ll bring you up to speed. With seven teams in Quebec and one in Ontario at the moment, the LNAH is a league where basically anything goes. The “show” is what draws fans from around the world to it. Fighting is king. Staged or not, fighting is promoted in this league. It’s also the league that has those big brawls you may have seen on SportsCentre time and time again.
What people don’t expect when they actually watch a game is that the hockey is decent. The league is filled with former first round draft picks (Cornwall’s Sasha Pokulok went 14th overall to Washington in 2005, two picks later the Atlanta Thrashers picked up long time LNAHer Alex Bourret.), former AHL and ECHLers. It’s a big mix.
The LNAH has one thing going for them and that is they will never outlaw fighting. When the time comes that it’s no longer welcome in the NHL, the LNAH will welcome all of the out of work enforcers with open arms. Not even just the enforcers. Guys who play dirty and have one or two scraps a year will come over too.
If the LNAH can market it right, it’s going to become a gold mine. Fans will have nowhere to go but the LNAH if they want to see a fight. It will become popular as hell and teams will pop up all other the place. I could see teams in the Maritimes and North Eastern U.S. jumping into the fold.
Now here’s one thing that I think the current brass of the LNAH won’t like.
To make this sustainable the brawls and sideshow antics have to go or at least get toned down a bit. The LNAH is looked down upon because of this in every other league. I’ve heard from more than one player that they think the league should be banned in its format. Another called it a joke. There are also TONS of fans that feel this way believe it or not.
The other thing that needs to be changed is the “must have played junior in Quebec (and for Cornwall, Ontario)”. The enforcers of the league are on the verge of retirement. You’re going to need somebody to replace them be it straight from Major Junior or buddy in Kazakhstan that likes to throw down. These players are what makes the league. It would be a shame to not let others in eventually. If the league wants to last, this rule needs to go with or without the fighting.
There’s a few other minor rules and things that the LNAH needs to change but they’d be able to do that on the fly year by year.
Take a step back and think about it for a minute. Picture the next 5-10 years.
No more fights in the NHL on TV to look forward to on Saturday nights. Can’t see a beauty tilt between players on the verge of making it live in the AHL. Forget about trying to look for one on a Major Junior level. But we can go down to the arena in our mid-size communities and catch 4 or 5 a game. How about that.
You can’t deny that every single hockey fan on the planet likes a good hockey scrap. Especially live. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing your team get pumped up with momentum after one.
Remember these words.
LNAH. Gold mine.