The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has increased the penalty for fighting this year, but the coach of the Charlottetown Islanders says it won't change the emotion fans see on the ice.
All players involved in a fight will now receive a 10-minute misconduct penalty and a five-minute major. Previously, players were assessed only the five-minute major penalty.
Jim Hulton, who also serves as the team's general manager, says the new rule won't change the nature of the game.
"The emotional fight is fine and it's still there. We encourage our players to play with emotion because that's what separates our sport from some other sports," he said.
"You can never take emotion out of sports and if emotion sometimes bubbles over then so be it, and I think that will always be a part of our game."
Hockey's really changed and people are putting their health and safety first — Craig Foster, Charlottetown Islanders
The Islanders, along with the Shawinigan Cataractes, led all QMJHL teams in fighting majors last season with 28, according to hockeyfights.com. Liam Peyton had the most fights on the team last year, with seven.
The amended rules will see players automatically handed a one-game suspension after their third fight, plus another game suspension for each additional skirmish.
Islanders president of operations Craig Foster said the number of fights has decreased as the game has evolved over the years.
"Thirty years ago there were guys that were fighting 30 or 40 times a season," he said.
"Hockey's really changed and people are putting their health and safety first and this is just another step in the right direction."
Hulton said there has become more of an emphasis on speed and skill.
"I think the new generation of players have been slowly pushing fighting out of the game anyways in the last five to 10 years in particular so this is an inevitable step that every level has been talking about for quite some time," he said.
"So the fact that we had the courage to make the first step I think shows that the Quebec league is ahead of the curve."
But he expects players will still drop the gloves on occasion.
"We're not saying no to fighting, we're just saying if you're going to fight it's going to cost you 15 minutes as opposed to five so it's not going to change the nature of the game," he said.
"We're not going to take the emotion out of the game. What we're trying to do is take away the stupidity and the silliness that sometimes surrounds some of the fighting."
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