TORONTO - The Ontario Hockey League has instituted a game misconduct and an automatic one-game suspension for players who remove their helmets or undo their chinstraps before or during fights.
The OHL previously fined a team $100 when a player took off his helmet to fight.
But when 21-year-old defenceman Don Sanderson of the Whitby Dunlops died Jan. 2 after striking his head on the ice during an on-ice fight, OHL commissioner David Branch said his league had to look at stiffer sanctions.
The Dunlops are not part of the OHL, but play in a senior men's AAA league.
``I would suggest to you the fine isn't working. It's not enough of a deterrent,'' Branch said then. ``The issue of removal of helmets for the purpose of fighting is something we must address in a much stronger fashion.''
Also under the new rules, if a player removes his helmet and releases his chinstrap to fight and the opposing player doesn't, the former gets an additional two-minute minor penalty in addition to the game misconduct and game suspension.
If the player removes his opponent's helmet or releases the chinstrap before or during a fight, a game misconduct and a one-game suspension is the penalty.
Linesmen are now ordered to intervene immediately should helmets become dislodged during a fight, the OHL said Wednesday in a statement.
The new rules take effect Thursday in the OHL.
The penalty for removing helmets to fight in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is a 10-minute misconduct.
The Western Hockey League doesn't currently penalize players for taking off their helmets prior to fighting but is reviewing that policy, said WHL communications director Cory Flett.
Sanderson struck the back of his head on the ice when his helmet fell off during a fight Dec. 12. The York University student went into a coma, underwent brain surgery and was moved to life support until his death.