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KHL changes rules over Vityaz goons, bans Yablonski for season

Dmitry Chesnokov
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The KHL's Vityaz Chekhov is now a renowned club all over the hockey world. For all the wrong reasons.

We have brought you many posts about brawls started by the team. Last week a video of a street fight involving three of Vityaz's North American born tough guys and a number of wedding guests in Russia. One of the players involved in the altercation later said that the man on the video "wasn't him and only looked like him." Sure. Right.

The craziness in the Vityaz system is not limited to the first team. Recently Vityaz's head coach and former NHLer Andrei Nazarov got into a fight with fans in Minsk, trying to hit some of them with a hockey stick. Vityaz's junior team also learned from its big comrades the art of brawling.

There have been calls for the KHL to ban the goon squad. And now the league is finally reacting after the latest round of anarchy on ice courtesy of Vityaz. Jeremy Yablonski sucker punched Traktor's Alexander Ryazantsev not once but twice, to make sure Ryazantsev was down.

The incident led to a brawl. It is worth noting that the incident took place just 44 seconds before the end of the third period in a game Vityaz was losing 5-1.

Before the incident, Yablonski had already been disqualified for 10 games of the 27 played in the KHL season. This time the league suspended him until the end of the season.

Another Vityaz tough guy, Kip Brennan, was suspended for 15 games for his actions in the same game.

But the most interesting impact that came out of the latest portion of disqualifications is the emergence of what we are going to call the Yablonski Rule.

KHL president Alexander Medvedev told Sovetsky Sport that the league wants to limit the number of tough guys any given team can have on its roster in any given day to just one.

"If, in place of Yablonski, Vityaz is going to welcome "Yablonski-2" this season, then the League will issue an order that a game roster can only have one player with the reputation of being a tough guy." [There was no definition of what the "reputation of being a tough guy" actually means]

But the impact is actually going to be much broader. The actual Yablonski Rule that is now being finalized and will be implemented soon will impact all U.S. and Canadian born players [note, only U.S. and Canadian], regardless of whether they are tough guys or just career minor leaguers.

Medvedev told Sovetsky Sport:

"We are drafting a resolution under which players from Canada and USA will be allowed to play in the KHL only if they satisfy the League's criteria (excluding those who come over after being drafted). There will be certain entry criterion implemented, which, in essence, will have only one consideration — the number of games in the NHL. The exact number is being discussed right now, but the range considered is 80 to 120 games. This number of games should be enough to talk about [player's] qualification. Europeans will not be affected by this."

In other words, a North American born player will have to have played at least 80-120 games in the NHL to be able to sign a contract in the KHL.

This rule, according to Medvedev, will eliminate a situation where four tough guys play for one club, like Vityaz; at the same time the threshold will still allow players like Chris Simon, the original Vityaz tough guy, to play in the league.

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