(Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)
The league is cracking down on staged fights and handing out automatic suspensions once a player picks up 10 fighting majors.
The American Hockey League is taking greater steps to reduce fighting next season.
The league’s board of governors wrapped up its annual meetings in South Carolina this week and changes to penalties for fighting highlighted a number of rule changes for the 2016-17 season.
Players who enter a fight prior to, at, or immediately following the drop of the puck for a faceoff will be assessed an automatic game misconduct in addition to other penalties assessed for the fight.
In the regular season, any player who racks up 10 fighting majors will be automatically suspended for one game. For each additional fighting major up to 13, the player will also receive an automatic one-game suspension.
Any player who receives a 14th fighting major during the regular season will be automatically suspended for two games. For each subsequent fighting major, the player will also receive an automatic two-game suspension.
If an opposing player is assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major shall not count towards the player’s total for this rule.
According to Hockeyfights.com, 22 players had 10 or more fighting majors in the AHL last season – not accounting for the instigator exception.
Players from around the league voiced their support for the rule change on Thursday.
“The 10 fight limit and no fighting off the face-off rule is great,” tweeted Rich Clune, who recently re-signed with the Toronto Marlies. “Fighting isn't done, just guys who suck are.”
Stu Bickel, a member of the San Diego Gulls last season, wasn’t quite sold on the instigator portion of the rule change.
“Ten fight rule fine by me,” he tweeted. “But is a player who needs to stand up for a teammate really less dangerous if he can't drop the gloves?”
Goaltender Mike McKenna is keeping an open mind about the changes.
“All for staged fights being eliminated, but 10 fight rule concerning with potential for gamesmanship,” tweeted McKenna. “Open minded though...see how it goes.”
In addition to the changes to fighting, the offending team on an icing violation will not be allowed to use their timeout.
The ice cleaning procedures used during promotional timeouts will also be used prior to overtime during the regular season, replacing the dry scrape.
Teams will wear light jerseys at home until the Christmas break, and dark jerseys at home after the Christmas break.
The Tucson Roadrunners, the Arizona Coyotes affiliate, will join the Pacific Division and a reduced 68-game schedule similar to their division rivals.