Fighting the Culture

The Ongoing Debate on CIS Hockey Fights

  • Photo Alice Du Lac

Last Tuesday night was supposed to be one of excitement for Montreal hockey fans.

It was NHL opening night, Montreal Canadiens versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, the game marking the return of the city’s beloved league and team for a full 82-game season.

Toronto won 4-3, but one accident in the third period overshadowed the game’s result.

That’s when winger George Parros, a 6-foot-5 tough guy acquired primarily to protect the smaller Habs players, did what he was signed to do, dropping the gloves with Leafs winger Colton Orr three minutes into the period.

But within seconds of the fight Orr slipped and brought Parros down with him, resulting in a chin-first hit into the ice and a concussion for Parros, who would end up being taken off the rink on a stretcher.

And just like that, the question of whether fighting should still be allowed in NHL hockey was back on everyone’s mind.

However, when it comes to Collegiate University Sport hockey, fighting is a huge no-no in both the men’s and women’s leagues. Dropping the gloves with an opponent awards you an automatic game misconduct, meaning you wouldn’t be allowed to play for the rest of the game.

The league then observes the incident and gives the aggressor of said fight an automatic one-game suspension. If both players initiate the fight equally, both are banned from the following game.

If one of the players is involved in another fight in the same season they are sent to a disciplinary board committee, which can place a number of sanctions on the player, like a two to five game suspension.

In a 28-game schedule that’s valuable time missed on the roster, which makes the incidents few and far between.

“I don’t see the need for it in CIS,” said Kevin Figsby, the Concordia Stingers’ men’s hockey coach.

“I’ve probably seen five fights in my 14 years here and even that might be a stretch.”

A good number of the players on the Stingers men’s roster come from junior leagues like the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League—which allows fighting— and are looking to continue their education at Concordia.

Keeping in mind that the athletes are students as well, suspensions aren’t the only reasons players rarely fight.

“I think in CIS it’s a little bit different [than at the professional level] because we’re all students going to school,” said Stingers fifth-year forward and captain George Lovatsis.

“Head injuries and head trauma, it’s more risky for us because we’re all looking for jobs after this. I think the way [the CIS] has it now is great.”

Figsby feels similarly.

“These are intelligent young men playing at this level,” he said. “They know that if they’re coming from the junior levels that they come here and they can’t fight, and they are good at respecting that.”

According to Figsby the numbers show that 87 per cent of hockey players in the CIS come straight from Canada’s junior hockey league—the Canadian Hockey League—or were former NHL draft picks that didn’t pan out.

Figsby is convinced that although fighting is acceptable in the NHL, it doesn’t belong in the CIS. He also believes that fighting serves as entertainment for the auxiliary product—alcohol, usually.

“I saw a senior’s league which once went by the motto, ‘Puck drop at 7, gloves drop at 7:05’” Figsby said. “When you’re advertising that, it’s to a certain fan, or a certain market. That’s not the market for CIS hockey. We’re a lot more intelligent than that.”

Fighting was allowed for a long stretch in the CIS, and up until 1983 a two-fight rule existed, where players would only be tossed after the second fight.

Asked if he wished to see fighting allowed in the CIS, Lovatsis seemed a bit torn.

“Fighting is a part of hockey and that won’t go away,” said Lovatsis. “You need fighting because if there isn’t [any], then guys would run around with there elbows high and attack skill players knowing that there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

On the other hand, Lovatsis said, “I also understand how and why they come down harder on us in our league.”

For Jaymee Shell, third-year winger for Concordia’s women’s hockey team, there’s no doubt fighting should be disallowed in the CIS.

“It’s tough for me to comment on fighting since there’s none in the women’s game,” said Shell. “But as a student in exercise science with a research interest in concussions, to me it’s too great a risk considering the latest findings on the dangers of concussions.”

If given the chance, Shell said she would take fighting out of hockey entirely. “I don’t think the benefits outweigh the risks,” she said.

With the way things are now, however, one thing’s for sure: don’t expect any bench-clearing brawls at your local CIS arena in the near future.

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