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OHL Bodycheck Ban Could Signal Fight Ban Coming To NHL

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

During the 2019 playoffs, Ryan Reaves talked about why his game was suitable for the postseason. One thing he didn’t mention was fighting.

I play physical but I know how to stay within the limits of the game and not take penalties and hurt the team. Otherwise, I think I’d be out of the league by now. It’s tough to stay in the lineup, especially in the playoffs if you’re taking a bunch of penalties. Especially, when you’re not a top goal scorer. -Ryan Reaves, 04/19/19

In three seasons with the Golden Knights, Reaves’ fight total has cut in half since his arrival. Overall, fighting in the NHL has dropped significantly. This isn’t new. Player safety and roster management are the biggest reasons behind the decrease. However, it now seems that cutting back on fights may be just the start.

Reports out of Canada are that the OHL is considering banning bodychecks when they return to play. With the continuation of the pandemic, health officials in Ontario determined checking could lead to massive COVID-19 spreading.

It’s highly unlikely the NHL heads down that path any time soon, but they could easily use the pandemic as a way to completely eliminate fighting from the game if they so choose.

While Reaves and the rest of the league drop their gloves less and less, the league continues to reexamine its existence in the sport. With the pandemic looming, and the start of the season nowhere in sight, fighting in hockey may have finally met its match.

2000-01: 0.56 Fights Per Game
2005-06: 0.38 Fights Per Game
2010-11: 0.52 Fights Per Game
2015-16: 0.28 Fights Per Game
2019-20: 0.23 Fights Per Game

Ryan Reaves Fights Per Season
2010-11: 8 NHL, 12 AHL
2011-12: 13
2012-13: 7
2013-14: 10
2014-15: 8
2015-16: 5
2016-17: 6
2017-18: 6
2018-19: 3
2019-20: 3

It’s clear the Golden Knights continue to extend Reaves for other elements to his game. According to Vegas President George McPhee, fighting isn’t necessary in today’s game, but he values a player that skates with a threatening presence.

I think we all enjoy where the game is right now. I don’t care if I ever see another fight again but I like having the threat of a fight in the game to keep people honest… and can sometimes keep the temperature down when you need to keep it down because we’re carrying sticks and it’s a physical game. -George McPhee to Our Line Starts Podcast

The next conversation is how to punish players if they do get into a brawl. It may not look like a fight but sometimes one can break out in other sports. Normally, the players involved are ejected and suspended. That could be a direction the NHL will take. Pandemic or not, fighting was being phased out of the game, but now it’s closer than ever before.

If the NHL believes fighting can lead to infecting other players with coronavirus they’ll cut the chord on dropping the mitts without hesitation. Of course, their main concern is player safety, but with a tight schedule ahead no one can afford cancellations and postponements. With that in mind, the league will find the best measures of protection.

Which means it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if we’ve seen Reaves’ last fight.


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  1. Fighting is a part of hockey, and should remain, as should bodychecking. If it’s removed, it becomes figure skating with sticks, and I won’t watch that.

  2. The Noodle King

    No checking, or fighting, but ok to get the puck in deep and get on that puck battle in the corner…..?? How does that even make any sense? OHL or NHL or otherwise. Totally ridiculous. No way have we seen the last of gloves being dropped either.

  3. Daryl

    Leave it to Bettman to ruin the NHL even more than he already has. The NHL had gone downhill ever since he took over. Guess I’ll go watch paired figure skating

  4. This is craziness why not just carry a purse and get it over with. No checking in corners no nothing – figure skaters with a stick – just lovely!!!!!!!

  5. DC

    Fighting can lead to covid transmission because of the hugging and refs having to break up hugging. At the same time fighting may be preventing injuries in hockey. It is better for two guys to drop the gloves and settle old scores than it is for them to try and get even by light up an opponent with a dangerous hit.

    • Daryl

      If the NHL is using covid as a reason to limit fighting then they are dumber than I thought…. or maybe they think we are dumber than they thought. Players are tied up along the boards more than they are fighting or anything else. If they are saying fighting can cause the transition of covid, from players who have already tested negative, then they need to blow the whistle the second two players come together along the boards.

  6. Stupid PC bastards. These guys are some of the best conditioned athletes in the world, Covid simply isn’t a threat to any of them. A friggin runny nose and you want to change the game ? I know guys in their 60s that got Covid, even 73, and they had no idea. Our team better not have their nose’s up Sissysucks ass, that lard ass lefty is destroying everything in sight. This is a man’s game, not a figure skating convention or a hugging convention, it’s high end, million dollar athletes trying to win Championships, not some feminized skate dancing exhibition. I could never pay good money and see our team get pushed around, get intimidated. Most of us schmucks have to tolerate getting abused by a boss or a big mouth customer, I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay good money to watch grown men, millionaire’s, skate around, holding hands hugging one another !! Count my ass out on that !!

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