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Plan Could Curb Fighting In Junior Hockey

February 28, 2012, 5:57 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Plan Could Curb Fighting In Junior Hockey

Hockey fights could become history at Sioux Falls Stampede games.

One of hockey's top organizations is considering a proposal that would slap stiff penalties on players who fight in junior hockey leagues across the country.

USA Hockey says the move would curb concussions and improve player safety.

Video of a line brawl during a Sioux Falls Stampede game involving every player on the ice earlier this month spread all over the internet.

Officials with USA Hockey want to make those fights more rare, but the proposal is being met with resistance.

"It was unanimous that every team in the league felt that we don't need to stop it," CEO of the Sioux Falls Stampede Gary Weckwerth said.

Weckwerth says teams in the United States Hockey League, the league the Stampede play in, took an informal poll this week and don't think fighting needs to go away.

USA Hockey wants to toughen up the penalties for fighting by suspending players one game for their first fight, two games for the second fight of the season and so on.

But Weckwerth and Stampede Head Coach Kevin Hartzell say fighting isn't the main cause of concussions in their league and in some instances, fighting actually prevents concussion.

Hartzell says fighting is a way for players to police themselves against dirty hits on the ice.

"We're fighting the wrong thing. The fights are not the problem," Hartzell said.

Without fighting, Hartzell says there will be more dangerous hits.

"When Freddie on the other team, each time you play him, acts like an idiot, know how you get at him? You rip him through the wall. That's dangerous. That's what scares me," Hartzell said.

"The hits that you see on the ice and the hits to the head cause more concussions than a fight does. We've had less than one percent of our concussions in the league last year were the result of a fight," Weckwerth said.

Dr. Verle Valentine with Sanford Sports Medicine agrees.

"Certainly most of the concussions that occur in hockey occur during normal game play, however, there are certainly some concussions that occur during fighting," Valentine said.

Valentine believes hockey organizations should also look at tougher penalties for hard hits during games to cut down on concussions.

"I think another step that would be helpful is to give stiffer penalties to any checking toward the head or any hitting toward the head of players," Valentine said.

But if it were up to the Stampede, fighting would still remain a fixture on the ice.

"Kids don't get hurt in fights. I don't even understand the fuss. I don't even get it. We're talking about one percent of concussions happen in a fight. So, what's the problem? It's political correctness that's the problem," Hartzell said.

The USA Hockey Board of Directors plans to discuss and vote on tougher penalties for fighting in junior hockey in June.

If approved, the penalties will take affect next season.

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