David Branch has been a long-time supporter of making the game safer for the kids who play in his league. He has banned contact with the head in any form, he has his players wearing neck guards, and he's always looking for ways to reduce injuries of any sort. In short, he's providing the kids who make it to his league with a safe environment in order to maximize their potential for a chance at skating in the NHL.
Without further adieu, here are your OHL Fight Club rules:
- Any player who surpasses 10 major penalties for fighting will automatically receive a two-game suspension from the league for any fighting major after the player's tenth fight up to, and including, his 15th fight. Any additional penalties or suspensions awarded in the fracas will be added to the two games received.
- Any fight after the 15th fisticuffs session will result in the same suspension above, but the team he plays for will also incur a $1000 fine.
- If a player is found to be the instigator of a fight and he’s had 11 or more bouts, he’ll be subject to an automatic four-game ban. Players involved in fights instigated by the other combatant will not have that fight count on their record.
That being said, I like this idea that Mr. Branch is putting forth. It won't kill fighting in hockey, but it should eliminate the staged fighting, especially in the later games of the season. More importantly, the OHL is a developmental league, and fighting is not a skill that most coaches can teach. Therefore, let the kids who want to fight to allow it to happen organically, and teach them the finer points of hockey so that they have a shot at cracking a big league roster.
As for Bilcke, he's all for Mr. Branch's new rules. "I’m actually excited about it. It’s a challenge for me to show people who have been calling me words like goon, that I’m a hockey player first," he told Dave Waddell of Postmedia News. "It’ll protect players and bring more skill to the league."
If the league's most frequent pugilist is 100% behind the commissioner, can anyone really say that this is a bad move? Perhaps they need to add one more important Fight Club rule to the three above:
"If this is your first night in the OHL, you no longer have to fight."
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!