There was a time when pro hockey teams employed players for the sole purpose of being the resident goon — or, if you prefer, enforcer.
But now those type of players are slowly becoming extinct. And the American Hockey League has been making rules changes the last couple of seasons to limit fighting.
Two years ago, the league created a rule that stated if you got into two fights in a game, you get a game misconduct. This past July, the league approved a rule where players would get a game misconduct for starting a fight prior to or just after a faceoff. This is considered “staging” a fight.
The league also created a rule where any player who incurs his 10th fighting major will be suspended one game. For each subsequent fighting major up to 13, the player shall also be suspended automatically for one game.
During the regular season, any player who incurs his 14th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for two games. For each subsequent fighting major, the player shall also be suspended automatically for two games.
Also, in any instance where the opposing player was assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major shall not count towards the player’s total for this rule.
Albany Devils coach Rick Kowalsky likes the rules changes, just as long as it doesn’t take fighting completely out of hockey.
“For years, the pro leagues have tried to get away from the staged fighting,” Kowalsky said after practice Wednesday at Knickerbacker Arena as the Devils begin their first three-game weekend of the season starting tonight at 7 with a meeting against the Binghamton Senators at Times Union Center. The Devils host Utica at 5 p.m. Saturday and then travel to Providence for a
3 p.m. game Sunday.
“I think they want to get away from the guy that’s there just to fight and has 20 majors a year,” Kowalsky said. “That’s the reason they put that rule in place. Do I agree with that? I think so, but I also believe there’s still room for [fighting] in the game. If guys are running around and not respecting each other, you need someone there to kind of police that.”
The two-fight rule came into play in last the Devils’ 5-2 win over the St. John’s IceCaps last Saturday. Albany defenseman Andrew MacWilliam had two fights and was ejected.
The Devils are looking into getting MacWilliam’s second fighting major taken off of his fight total because they believe it was instigated by the IceCaps’ Bobby Farnham. Late in the second period, Farnham took exception to a hard, clean check MacWilliam laid on a
St. John’s player and went after him. Referee Cameron Voss didn’t issue an instigator penalty on Farnham.
“He came up, and I had mentioned to him that was going to be my second fight, and I thought he needed to jump me in a way,” MacWilliam said. “It happens quick, so you don’t have too much time to think about it”
MacWilliam isn’t normally a fighter. But he had little choice after Farnham challenged him.
“Whenever there’s a big hit like that, a lot of times
nowadays, you have to answer the bell, so to speak,” MacWilliam said. “They’ve got that rule in place with the instigator that’s supposed to negate that two-fight rule when you’re ejected. I was hoping, with the distance traveled, I was hoping the ref would call it, but he didn’t deem it an instigator.”
“I don’t think MacWilliam was looking to fight in either one,” Kowalsky said. “The guy sought him out. The instigator rule actually says distance traveled. The Farnham one certainly [was the case]. We watched it on video. He went out, went around the net and just because MacWilliam’s a willing combatant, if that goes on his record, we lose him for that game, I get that. But if that counts towards his total and we lose him for longer periods of time, that will be tough.”
Kowalsky said everyone came out of last weekend healthy. With the three-game weekend coming up, he’s hoping to get some playing time.
“That’s the plan,” Kowalsky said. “You just take it day by day. Obviously, we had a good weekend last weekend. I’ll talk with [general manager] Tom [Fitzgerald], and we’ll look at it. But we like to, if we can, try to get these guys some games and evaluate them with some in-season experience.” “
Left wing Brian Gibbons is expected to make his Devils debut this weekend. He missed last weekend’s games to be with his fiancé, who gave birth to their son Ty Gibbons last Friday. Gibbons, who played with Hartford last year, signed with the Devils Oct. 4.