Linesmen move in to break up a fight between the Edmonton Oil Kings Colton Kehler and Red Deer Rebels forward Brandon Cutler on Wednesday night. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate staff)

Fighting in junior hockey is past the expiration date

The debate about fighting in hockey is tiring, cyclical and repetitive.

As many debates in the modern era, both sides choose to try and be the one to have their voice heard the loudest, instead of listening to the arguments on either side.

After watching another WHL game where several frivolous fights broke out, there’s no point in staying quiet anymore.

It’s clear to see that a large majority of fans come to games expecting to see fisticuffs of the older days, where the fight didn’t end until someone was bloody or fell from exhaustion.

However, as the game trends towards a safer, fast-paced, skilled and yet still entertaining version of those days, most fights today neither last very long or provide much of anything.

In junior hockey, they typically end in 10 seconds or less and usually stop as a result of one player falling down or wrestling his opponent to the ground.

The linesmen are doing an ever improving and critical job of protecting the players from themselves by jumping in quickly when one fighter is tossed to the ground, which wasn’t always the case.

Making the game safer is a slow and agonizing process, but a necessary one.

Another point of contention is the long-standing belief of some that fights change the momentum of games. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve seen it happen on occasion before, which is why I think a complete eradication of fighting in hockey will probably never happen.

Players know it, coaches know it, fans and referees all know, and they have seen it happen at one point in their lives as well.

The heat of the moment reaction of two teenagers getting tangled up in a fast-paced environment in front of 4,000-plus fans is hard to stop completely.

The biggest change will come when players start to become more cognizant of the fact that fighting just isn’t what it used to be, and the dangers far outweigh the cost of participation.

The problem with that?

Being a teenager, like WHL players are, is exactly the time when kids toe the line of precarious situations and wrestle with the potential consequences.

Only these kids are doing it on a bigger stage than all of their peers.

The players all know the concussion protocol and know the dangers of fighting. They get educated every season on it, yet it’s still happening.

With the changing knowledge of what successive blows to the head can do to an individual health long term, it’s clear hockey has taken it’s best shot at trying to curb fighting without outright banning it.

Suspensions are probably the next step, with a one-game ban for every fight being the next change to help further prevent the practice.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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