Will OHL, WHL follow QMJHL’s move to ban fighting?

OHL commissioner David Branch. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Earlier this week, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League announced its intention to ban fighting starting next season.

The president of the QMJHL’s board, Richard Letourneau, said during a press conference on Thursday that the move was endorsed by its members during an assembly in February and that terms of the ban will be determined in June. New commissioner Mario Cecchini also said he plans to meet with Quebec sports minister Isabelle Charest for further discussion.

As reported by Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek during Saturday’s 32 Thoughts segment on Hockey Night in Canada, the QMJHL has faced significant political pressure in recent years to eliminate fighting from the junior league. And after the Quebec government kept many franchises afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s an expectation that a fighting ban is part of that bargain.

The QMJHL has made efforts before to diminish fighting, including bringing in stiffer penalties ahead of the 2020-21 season. While the specifics of this next move will be ironed out in the months to come, the more pressing question is now centred around the Canadian Hockey League’s other two leagues. Will the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League follow suit?

WHL commissioner Ron Robison told Marek the WHL has “no plans” to change its fighting rules, saying the league has “taken many measures to reduce fighting in the WHL and do not envision any changes for next season.”

As for the OHL, commissioner David Branch said he cannot contemplate Quebec’s new rule without understanding the details involved, also pointing out that how the QMJHL implements the ban will “give us an opportunity to see the effect on the game in general.”

As for the CHL’s overall stance, Marek said CHL president Dan MacKenzie informed him he “expects to hear what the QMJHL’s plan is in the next couple weeks.”

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