Fighting and the future of the LNAH

Fraser McLaren after a nasty scrap.
Fraser McLaren after a nasty scrap.

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.

The LNAH.

Sean McMorrow throws a big right hand.
Sean McMorrow throws a big right hand. (Photo: Sandra Charette http://www.sandracharette.com)

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 Leafs took Nic Corbeil in the 3rd round of the 2001 draft.
The Leafs took Nic Corbeil in the 3rd round of the 2001 draft.

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.

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The decades old debate: Hockey and Fighting

Well since everyone has jumped on the bandwagon, I figured I might as well hop aboard and give my two cents.
Bob_Probert_-_Darren_Langdon
Hockey and fighting.

This debate has been going on for decades. While I could get into a whole spiel on the cons of fighting and why in this day and age it should possibly be taken out, I would not agree with what I what I had wrote. Fighting belongs in hockey.

It’s not just about beating somebody’s face in. It’s much more than that. It’s about taking punches to the face to ignite your team to rally from a deficit. It’s about sparking the home town crowd to build an erupting atmosphere in the arena. There’s a lot more to it and has to stay. It’s there for a reason.

Chin meet ice. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Chin meet ice. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Yes, what happened to George Parros on Tuesday night during the Canadiens home opener was frightening and of course nobody likes to see someone get hurt but that was not the result of a fight. It was not a punch that got him concussed; it was his chin hitting the ice on an awkward fall. That could have happened at any point in the game to any player regardless of a fight. The guy is not stupid, he went to Princeton for christ sakes, he knows what he was doing.

However with that being said, fighting has changed. Gone are the days of the tough men like Bob Probert, Stu “The Grim Reaper” Grimson, and Jon Kordic, Wade Belak (shoutout Coventry fans),among others.  The way hockey is being played now is completely different. It’s a mesh of both North American and European styles. More rules are being implemented whether it helps the game flourish or not.

1011973_10151571105053732_1488936880_nThis whole helmet debacle thing is a joke. I realize they are trying to protect the players and do what’s right but it’s down right silly. Hockey is a dangerous game; it’s meant to be. It’s the fast strides by the players; the verbal and physical altercations that keep fans coming back for more.

Fighting will never be banned. You may see limits on how many fights per year but it will never be taken out of the game entirely and rightfully so.

We wish the best for George Parros and hope he gets back in the lineup soon. I’m just disappointed I won’t be seeing him fight in person Saturday night.

Hard Headed: The NHL and the helmet debacle

By Ed Kimberley
Coventry, England

Most of my writing on March Hockey has covered the EIHL. However, I thought I’d make a quick remark about the new NHL rule surrounding the removing of your helmet before or during a fight. Under the new rules removing your helmet now comes with a coincidental 2 minute penalty on top of the standard 5 minute major for the fight itself. Although this doesn’t seem like much a penalty, its presence seems merely a formality as we have seen in a latest round of preseason games there is always a way around it:

Note that Barch and Gallant are both communicating pre-fight “hey no leave it on just undo it, and ill take it off.” To me it all sounds so very chivalrous and a fantastically typical response between two respected tough guys before they go.

Why bother then with the rule might you ask?

Well it’s a bit of a paradoxical situation. The NHL is trying to avoid being sued by players families as a result of head injuries sustained in fights, very similar to the situation the NFL is facing at the moment. However by having players leave their helmets on during a fight, it also causes a different injury problem: hand injuries. Now this may not seem too bad and I would say I would rather have a broken hand or finger than a concussion but it’s still an injury that will cause players to miss games.

mirasty-yablonski-590x445If we look back to when helmets were made mandatory in the NHL, players were trying to get the helmet off the other combatant. Sure this causes more damage when you hit them, but it also prevents broken fingers, knuckles, wrists and hands through striking a helmet. Speaking from my limited experience, punching a helmet hurts; I have broken a few fingers and split knuckles during a fight because of this. Now fortunately at the level I played I didn’t really have to worry about missing practise or missing a game but in an NHL where the enforcer role is changing, and these guys are literally fighting for their ice time. Not only does adding an extra 2 minute eat into the limited time they have already but I question how effective it will be?

The OHL fighting rule that requires the helmets stay on and mandatory visors doesn’t seem to have deterred hockey’s future throwing the fists (although this is something Ashley will know more about). (March’s note: OHL only allows 10 fights a year per player.)

The EIHL has not adopted this rule, although there is legislation regarding jersey tie downs. IF you don’t have your jersey tied down before a fight you can get thrown out of the game for illegal equipment. This is to protect guys who get lost when their jersey is pulled over their head leaving them pretty vulnerable. Now in theory again this is a great idea, however it is flawed. Firstly I haven’t seen a lot of enforcing of this rule. Secondly a lot of guys I have spoken to have had their tie down break during the fight, (its essentially a Velcro strap) making it difficult to judge if it was tied down in the first place. Thirdly I know how restricting they can feel and although a regular fighter might sacrifice this for extra movement fights, well, just happen and being caught unawares can lead to a fairly irritating ejection.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to see fighting stay in hockey but first and foremost players do need to be protected. Derek Boogaards death came as an indirect result of blows to the head he had sustained in a fight, something we don’t want to see happen again. However there needs to be another way around this problem.

Fighting In The Elite Ice Hockey League Part One

By Ed Kimberley
Coventry, England

index2I was having a nice chat with Ashley about fighting in hockey the other day and I thought it would be good to explore the role of enforcers and tough guys in the EIHL. I love fighting in hockey and although it is something not everyone condones and with recent legislation in the NHL about protecting players from concussions and other injuries related to fights it’s a bit of a hot topic.

Fighting in the UK is something that is widely anticipated and there is a lot of discussion when tough-guys/enforcers are signed. Some of what is said is positive. For example Kevin Harvey who signed for the Coventry Blaze earlier in the summer is coming off the back of a season where he posted a pro-career points high with 31pts in 53 games for the Elmira Jackals in the ECHL while racking up 191pims and 10 fighting majors including this slugfest vs Mathieu Gagnon:

Some of the talk is negative. Tim Spencer who recently signed for the Sheffield Steelers, has only amassed 35 points in his pro career. His signing is aimed at taking away some of the pugilistic load off star defenseman, and returnee Drew Fata. The Steelers fell short of silverware last year that ultimately cost their coach Ryan Finnerty his job. Finnerty built a team that epitomises a notion that is popular in UK hockey as a roster with “team toughness ” and boasted fighters like Fata, Chris Frank, Simon Ferguson, Shawn Limpright and Tylor Michel.

For a few seasons now teams have tried to err away from having an out and out fighter and focus on team toughness however this seems to be a redundant exercise as even with team toughness clubs have to sign someone to carry the load. Looking briefly at the champions rosters most have a guy signed to carry the weight: Continue reading “Fighting In The Elite Ice Hockey League Part One”