Remember this unintentionally hilarious fight between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Calgary Flames from last November? As we said then: "To those of you who believe staged hockey fights are a joke, here's your punchline."
Enjoy it while you can. Because the NHL's general managers are recommending that fights right after the faceoff and all other "fights by appointment" will result in 10-minute misconduct. From David Shoalts of the Globe & Mail:
At the end of the second day of their annual meetings on Tuesday, the GMs' recommended that players who fight by appointment will receive a 10-minute misconduct penalty in addition to a five-minute major penalty for fighting. The biggest targets for this measure are players who meet at a faceoff and agree to fight. While NHL referees will be granted wide discretion to decide what is a staged fight, almost all fights at faceoffs will result in the additional misconduct penalties.
The recommendation will be passed along to the league's competition committee for its approval and then it will go to the board of governors for official approval. It is expected the rule will be in place for next season.
Even from the perspective of a fighting fan, these fights are difficult to defend in a post-Don Sanderson Tragedy world.
They're usually just a sideshow between heavyweights. That doesn't make them indefensible, especially if you believe fighting is a part of the NHL for both tactical and guilty pleasure reasons; but with so much heat coming down on the NHL to tweak its fighting bylaws, its an understandable casualty. The fighters will just adjust their schedules.
That said: Once again, we're asking referees to do more than they should have to do; in this case, to judge the intent and the psychology behind a fight. The last thing the NHL needs is a bunch of amateur Freuds skating around, attempting to read lips or analyze body language.
• The GMs decided not to recommend the NHLPA's suggested rules change on hits to the head. Colin Campbell told the Globe & Mail that the League's powerbrokers would rather have "supplemental discipline" regulate egregious head shots with suspensions, rather than minor penalties for what are now clean hits. Congrats, sirs. Common sense wins.
• Helmet rules for fights were not recommended ... yet. The GMs want to study the issue further.
• Finally, the GMs called for stricter enforcement of the instigator penalty. While we generally abhor that penalty, their suggested applications aren't all that bad: Calling it more aggressively on players who wear visors and start fights (Don Cherry just felt a sugar rush), which would have them receive an extra two minutes on top of the two minutes for instigating and the five for fighting. According to the AP: "The NHL does have a two-minute minor penalty on the books for any player wearing a visor who instigates a fight, but that penalty has not been enforced."
The GMs also want to see the instigator called more when there's a fight after a clean check. Great ... but why isn't it already being called whenever this happens?