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QMJHL: Abolition of brawling a great success

Earlier this year, the QMJHL decided to “officially” ban fighting from its games. Since the start of the season, when a fight breaks out, both players are automatically ejected and the instigator receives an automatic one-game suspension.

A match suspension is also handed out to any player involved in a second brawl during the same season.

Fighting is not completely banned, but it is punished much more severely than it was a few years ago.

The aim of the new rules is to prevent physical and psychological violence, as well as the injuries that can result from fist-fights.

How does it work?
We’re almost two months into the QMJHL regular season, and I haven’t heard many people say that fights are missing from the show… and from the development of young players. Quite the contrary, in fact!

183 games have been played since the start of the QMJHL campaign, and only six fights have occurred. Only Drew Elliott (Voltigeurs) has thrown down the gloves on more than one occasion… and lost both of his fights.

It has to be said that fights were already on the way out (in the Q) before this new rule. We had already gone from 0.78 fights per match a decade ago to 0.25 in 2019-20…

Then, a 10-minute misconduct penalty was added to any player throwing the gloves, and an automatic one-match suspension was imposed on a player who was in his third fight during the same season in September 2020. The result: 0.07 fights per game.

And last summer’s new, even more dissuasive rules have brought that ratio down to around 0.03 since the start of the current season.

A number of expertswhose mockery has made the rounds on the Web over the past year – feared that the abolition of fighting would trigger some kind of epidemic of vicious or dirty hits.

(Credit: Océanic de Rimouski)

But the reality is quite different. As of November 10 – and I haven’t seen many dirty hits in the last three or four days – vicious hits are down in the QMJHL… and crowds are up by nearly 5% (despite Quebec’s economic woes and inflation).

“At a quarter of the way through the season, the circuit has recorded fewer dirty hits than last year, and its attendances are up despite the fact that we denote a drastic drop in on-ice fights.”Kevin Dubé, Journal de Montréal

He has given himself 19 suspensions (31 games) or fines since the start of the QMJHL season, compared with 22 (44 games) at the same time last year.

So far, Mario Cecchini, the QMJHL’s new commissioner, has won his bet, both in terms of player safety and at his teams’ ticket offices.

Society really seems to have evolved, and hockey in Quebec seems to have well and truly arrived in the 21st century. It remains to be seen whether the rest of Canada (OHL and WHL) will follow suit… and whether the reputation of Quebec field hockey players – already tarnished during NHL amateur selections and international junior competitions (CMJ) – will take another hit. I’d like to think not.

Seeing youngsters – some of them minors – fight without much protection on the ice seems to have had its day.

All that remains nowis to further reduce the number of blows to the head, which doesn’t seem so easy to do. That’s the real problem!

And convincing the pros (adults) to come to the same conclusion: fighting on the ice is no longer part of our era.

I know that professional hockey players are vaccinated adults (a bad analogy to make since the pandemic) and supposedly “responsible”, but every time they have the right to speak, they refuse to condemn fighting…

Just as they refuse to have additional protection imposed on them: they refused to wear helmets and visors before, hence the need to amend new rules with grandfather clauses, and very few of them wear socks, neck guards and wrist guards in the NHL.

Except that sometimes, people have to be forced to protect themselves. Not everyone is 100% responsible. It’s up to insurance companies, the Players’ Association and management to take action ...

Over the years, many athletes have sued their league or association for unsafe practices, but they are the first to refuse to protect themselves properly. #Paradox

Ah yes… no one’s going to trot out the argument that abolishing fighting would increase the number of dirty hits in the NHL: we have proof with the QMJHL – as well as the NCAA and multiple European junior leagues – that it’s not true. #FakeNews

In closing, Brandon Duhaime and Luke Kunin are among the players who threw down the gloves most often in 2023-24 in the Bettman circuit… and they didn’t play in a circuit where fighting was allowed before signing pro.

The WHL and OHL need to follow the QMJHL’s lead, and fast! Then maybe we’ll tackle professional hockey. But I see NO reason why underage kids should continue to beat the crap out of each other in Ontario or Western Canada.


– We always have really interesting discussions when JC, Patricia and Pierre have me over for lunch.

CPL is a really interesting product. Too bad we don’t have any teams in this league in Quebec…

– I love it! Let’s get him to sign his next contract in the next few hours!

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