The NHL has introduced a slew of new rules for the upcoming 2013-2014 season, and as always, new rules for the game require some readjustment from players and fans.
One tweak to the rule book is causing some fans to raise their concerns after seeing it in real time.
The NHL has established that if a player removes his helmet before engaging in a fight with an opponent, they will receive an additional minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on top of the standard five for fighting. Here's what Rule 46.6 states:
Helmets - No player may remove his helmet prior to engaging in a fight. If he should do so, he shall be assessed a two minute minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Helmets that come off in the course of and resulting from the altercation will not result in a penalty to either player.
|photo via SI.com|
"What if a guy’s helmet is taken off during a fight? Are they going to stop the fight? I know he’s not allowed to take off his own helmet. I’m not looking forward to punching [a visor] when I’m throwing at somebody’s face. If I’m in the middle of a fight with a guy with a visor on, I’m getting his helmet off."
Thornton almost always removes his helmet before engaging his opponent, as an invitation for a clean and 'strictly business' fight to follow. No one enjoys punching the hard-as-rock plastic helmets, so it makes sense to remove the hardhats, settle the 10 second bout and move on.
But the NHL felt the need to alter the way fights are conducted on the ice.
Examples of how ridiculous this new rule is have already presented themselves in the first weeks of its existence, the first instance taking place last Thursday when Brent Gallant of the Islanders and Krys Barch of the Devils found a loophole to the rule: remove the other's helmet for them.
How ridiculous do those first six seconds look? Both players dropped their gloves, skate towards each other ready to settle the score...and they both hesitate, awkwardly removing each others helmets before pounding away.
And then we have last night and the epic throw-down between Milan Lucic and Capitals enforcer Joel Rechlicz. The fight was an all-timer, even if its the preseason. Rechlicz's helmet finally popped off after 30 seconds in, but pay attention to Lucic flexing his hand as he skates back to the bench. The number of broken knuckles/hands will skyrocket in the league this year as a result of players not being able to ditch their helmets automatically before a fight.
The whole point of fighting in the game is for it be organic and without hesitancy. Players should not have to think about what they're doing beyond agreeing to the fight in the first place.
The NHL is trying to get ahead of the curve on head injuries and concussions, but they've handcuffed their players and put a bull's-eye on their back from disgruntled fans who will see extra PIMs after each fight if the players forget the new rule in the heat of the moment.