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Tougher penalties, but no outright fighting ban in Quebec junior league

MONTREAL - There will be tougher sanctions on brawling, but no outright ban on fighting in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season.

A committee examining hockey violence following a melee during the playoffs in the spring did not include an automatic ejection for fighting among the 31 recommendations in a report submitted to the league's board of governors on Saturday in Victoriaville, Que.

Instead, it calls for stiffer penalties for brawling and other acts of "gratuitous violence,"' for files to be kept on repeat offenders, better support for players, coaches and officials and an anti-violence campaign.

The governors are to decide whether to adopt the recommendations at a meeting in Montreal on Sept. 8, a day before the regular season begins.

"There was a consensus not to punish through ejection players who voluntarily get into a fight," said Jacques Letellier, co-president of the committee along with former national women's team coach Daniele Sauvageau. "There were those for and against it.

"We opted to strengthen the penalties without adopting an automatic ejection."

League commissioner Gilles Courteau did not rule out a ban on fighting when the committee was announced in May on the urging of Quebec sports minister Michelle Courchesne, following a savage attack by Quebec Remparts goaltender Jonathan Roy on Chicoutimi Sagueneens goalie Bobby Nadeau.

Video of Roy beating on Nadeau, who did not fight back, were shown repeatedly on television newscasts, raising debate about violence in junior and minor hockey.

Quebec justice officials did not wait for the league to police itself, but brought a charge of one count of assault against Roy, 19. He is set to appear in court Sept. 16 and may be fined up to $2,000 with six months in prison.

Courteau did not comment on the recommendations, other than to say the committee did exactly what it was asked.

"The league's hockey operations committee will now take the time it needs to analyze the recommendations," Courteau said. "I assure you the league will make the appropriate decisions."

The recommendations include:

- A plan to communicate clearly the rules and sanctions for brawling and other acts of violence to all players, coaches and teams, as well as an anti-violence awareness campaign.

-Hiring resource people or counsellors that players, coaches and officials can turn too confidentially on questions of violence, harassment, intimidation or other issues.

- A charter of values and a code of ethics for the league.

-That two referees be used in all games, that a supervisor of officials attend all games and better training be provided for officials.

-Penalties for abusive talk on the ice, particularly during stoppages in play, and a ban on anyone other than a team captain or coach from talking to officials.

-Files to be kept on players' and coaches' histories of major penalties, misconducts and ejections, plus automatic one-game suspensions for players after four misconducts or match penalties.

-Automatic fines for coaches whose players commit acts of gratuitous violence.

-Stiffer suspensions or other sanctions for acts of violence. They include automatic one-game suspensions for major and gross misconduct penalties for everything from high-sticking and boarding to spitting at an opponent, and a five-game suspension and $1,000 fine to the player and a two-game suspension for his coach for leaving the bench to fight.

Courteau said Courchesne would be informed of the board of governors decisions as soon as they are voted upon.

He said the goal in forming the committee was to assure players and their parents that the league was taking measures to control violence in hockey. He said some of the measures were planned even before the Roy-Nadeau incident.

It remains to be seen if what the league adopts will be enough for Courchesne.

This week, she voiced approval for a report by Hockey Quebec outlining much stiffer penalties for violence in minor hockey.

In that report, players who fight, instigate, or jump into an on-ice brawl as a third combatant will be suspended for two games on a first offence. A second offence puts the player out for four games and means a trip before a disciplinary committee.

A third offence brings an indefinite suspension.

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