Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Each of the WHL’s 22 teams has its general manager and its head coach in Calgary for a seminar that is to be held today.
This is part of a seven-point plan the WHL has come up with that is aimed at reducing blows to the heads of its players, which should reduce the number of concussions.
According to the WHL plan that was announced after the annual meeting in June, all general managers and head coaches are to take part in this seminar which will review the plan and go over rule changes.
The seven-point plan, according to a WHL news release:
1. The adoption of new playing rules;
2. More severe suspensions for repeat offenders;
3. Production of an educational video on risks of concussions to educate the players to be more responsible for themselves on the ice;
4. A seminar for all WHL head coaches and general managers;
5. New soft cap elbow and shoulder pads;
6. Expanded research data; and,
7. A  review of all WHL facility safety standards.
The news release continues:
“The WHL rule changes include the adoption of a checking to the head penalty for lateral and blind-side hits to an unsuspecting opponent in open ice where the head is targeted or is the principle point of contact.
“The WHL also tightened the standard on late hits as well as charging and interference penalties to address players building up significant speed and hitting the opponent along the boards with excessive force.
“The WHL also adopted a new embellishment rule and introduced automatic suspensions for players who receive multiple penalties for checking to the head, checking from behind, embellishment and kneeing.”
Understand that all of this is a giant step, or seven steps, in the right direction and the WHL is to be applauded.
But here’s hoping the general managers and head coaches, under the direction of commissioner Ron Robison and Richard Doerksen, the vice-president of hockey operations, at least touch on the subject of fighting.
Because, whether you like it or not (and some of you obviously don’t), fighting is going the way of the dodo bird. It may not happen in the next year or two, but it will disappear within five years.
It has to.
Because how can you go to all this effort and expense to come up with a seven-point plan aimed entirely at reducing blows to the head and yet you still allow two players to stand there and punch each other silly.
You have to understand that this isn’t about taking fighting out of hockey; it’s about getting shots to the head out of the game. It’s about trying to prevent irreparable brain damage to teenage hockey players. Ultimately, fighting will be a casualty of that.
And it is going to happen. It’s a question of when and not if.
Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun has taken note of what has been happening at NHL rookie-team tournaments and offers up some thoughts right here.
How silly has fighting become in these rookie tournaments?
F Shane McColgan of the Kelowna Rockets, who is playing for the New York Rangers at the Traverse City, Mich., tournament, got into a scrap on Sunday. McColgan, whom the Rockets list at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, has had three fights over the last two WHL seasons.
D Colten Teubert, who was a tough cookie with the Regina Pats, is with the Edmonton Oilers at the tournament in Penticton. But his tournament ended during the first game when he had his nose broken during a fight. Teubert doesn’t need to prove his toughness to the Oilers; he needs to prove he can play that game at the NHL level.
Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun writes about fisticuffs and the NHL today, and knows there is no easy answer to this situation. That column is right here.
And because you want more, right here is Neate Sager of Yahoo! Sports with a piece headlined: September fisticuffs whet the appetite for the regular season — just not in the way you might think.

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