Fighting in the junior leagues is somewhat of a hot topic this season. This is partially because retired players are now looking back on their succession of concussions and linking it to health concerns later in life. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is what caused so many issues in the NFL and the NHL in recent years. This type of brain degeneration has been linked to concussions and of course once one concussion occurs, it’s easier to get another one especially if a player returns to the sport too soon. Unfortunately there is no set test to see if someone has recovered from a concussion or even a test to see just how severe the concussion is. The NHL has done its best to eliminate fighting in the games as much as possible to protect players, yet not all junior leagues have yet to follow suit.
Some junior teams have an average of 30 fights where NHL teams average 18. These numbers are daunting, especially when it’s taken into account that the younger the player, the more susceptible they are to getting a concussion. Junior athletes brains aren’t fully developed yet and so if anything the fighting rules should be more strict in the juniors than they are in the pros. The USHL luckily is one of the leagues with the fewest fights. There’s only a fight about every seven games. This is a vast improvement over what it used to be and this is due to the level of commitment the USHL places on safety.
In the USHL there is a 10-minute game misconduct for any fight. This helps deter players from putting themselves in a position where they start a fight because of the major penalty that will follow. It’s important to teach players from a young age about the dangers of getting a concussion as well as teaching them the dangers of being an overly aggressive player. Hockey has always had goons and the goons will most likely continue to exist. The game just creates them. However, we still need to try and protect our junior players.
Compared to the Canadian junior leagues, the USHL is leaps and bounds ahead with their fighting rules. It’s important to keep in mind with these leagues that it isn’t just 16 year olds fighting 16 year olds; it’s 16 year olds fighting 20 year olds. A few years in hockey can make a big difference in a player’s size and strength. Having fighting in hockey isn’t worth jeopardizing these player’s careers before they even get a chance to play in the pros. Luckily, the USHL is doing something about it.
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