CJHL Leagues Launch Pilot Project
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The SJHL and its fellow Western Canadian junior A hockey leagues are going out on a limb.
The leagues (the SJHL, MJHL, AJHL and BCHL) and their respective branches (the Saskatchewan Hockey Association, Hockey Manitoba, Hockey Alberta and B.C. Hockey) have banded together to create the so-called Western Canada Junior A Supplement.
The document was developed to convince Hockey Canada that a rule it passed at its semi-annual general meeting -- a rule ordering the ejection of a player from a game after he gets in one fight -- didn't fit with the leagues' beliefs.
As a result, the leagues have agreed to operate a pilot project for Hockey Canada that will examine bullying and violence in junior A hockey -- all in the hopes of showing the national governing body that tossing a player after one fight won't eliminate violence in the game but rather increase aggressive behaviour.
"Basically, they're saying to us, 'Put your money where your mouth is and prove that your theory works,' " SJHL president Laury Ryan said Tuesday.
"We know it works because we've seen it work for the last 10 years (since going away from the one-fight rule and allowing a player to fight twice before he was ejected). Our games have been managed better, not just by the officials but by the players.
"(The two-fight rule) creates accountability for players on the ice. A player knows he can't go around sticking guys in the back of the knees or chirping everybody on the ice. Eventually, somebody's going to take him on and hold him accountable. If the referee doesn't get him, somebody is going to take him on and say, 'You can't do that.' "
In November, Playing Rule 6.7 -- calling for a player to be ejected after one fight -- was passed at Hockey Canada's semi-annual general meeting.
"We very well could have been back to the one-fight rule, three-hour games and using fighting as a tactic to get rid of the other team's best player," Ryan said. "It would have changed the nature of our game."
The four junior A leagues in Western Canada immediately formulated the plan for the supplement and, after much lobbying, they were able to present the idea at the Hockey Canada AGM in May.
Told they could either push for an exception or conduct the pilot project, the leagues adopted the latter approach.
The nine-page supplement addresses all manner of on-ice violence, from headshots to checks from behind. The pilot project will collect data over the next two seasons and compare it to a junior A control group in which players are ejected after one fight.
The Western Canadian leagues hope to prove their model is more effective.
"We sure hope so," Ryan said. "We've staked our reputations on it."
By Ian Hamilton, Saskatchewan News Network