Vees notice impact of fight rule

Logan Johnston is used to getting his hands dirty.

Logan Johnston is used to getting his hands dirty.

He did 13 times last year punching out opponents who got out of line.

It’s a total that doesn’t really surprise the third-year Penticton Vees forward, who has eight goals and 19 points in 30 games, including a goal and helper in Penticton’s 7-5 win against Coquitlam on Saturday.

“I knew I was up there,” said Johnston, who’s Movember mustache has filled in well.

However, with the implementation of the Junior A Supplement in which Hockey Canada has five member leagues in the Canadian Junior Hockey League partner in to curb blows to the head, dangerous hits, checking from behind, accumulated majors, game misconducts as well as instigating and fighting, it has impacted Johnston’s game of protecting his mates.

“I think it makes it harder to police on the ice because guys can take cheap shots that way and you really can’t do anything,” said Johnston. “I don’t particularly like the rule myself. I understand they want to cap fighting and staged fights. It changes it a lot because now guys can do whatever they want.”

Paul Carson, vice president of hockey development for Hockey Canada, said some can argue that fighting is a modifying behaviour and that it is a game management piece in the hands of the players.

“That’s a fair argument,” said Carson, who played hockey. “If officials aren’t calling the game the way that it needs to be called, if coaches aren’t coaching the game the way it needs to be coached, does that mean we just hand the discipline over to the players and let them take care of it? Or do we put processes in place that better educate people in modifying those behaviours.”

When asked, Carson said the supplement wasn’t put in place because Hockey Canada has a concern with fighting. That isn’t the case. While coming up with guidelines to standardize minimum suspensions across Canada, a suggestion was made to eliminate the two-fight rule.

“The discussion at the Hockey Canada annual general meeting really revolved around, is fighting the issue or is there a broader concern about bullying and violent behaviour on ice,” he said. “Everything from goalie interference, to checking from behind, boarding and checks to the head, which in fairness is that bigger issue that all of the game at the elite level is concerned with.”

Carson said the junior A leagues came back to Hockey Canada stating they would like to research the impact of an educational package on all of these issues. Not just fighting. Hockey Canada gave its full support.

Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson said the league had to go with it and doesn’t blame them. It was a give and take situation with Hockey Canada. Harbinson doesn’t think the BCHL has a problem with bullying and violence and doesn’t like the rule. With having to monitor how many fights a player gets in before suspensions kick in, players are able to use their sticks more. It’s something he has seen in college hockey.

There is one aspect of the pilot project he approves of.

“It takes out the staged fights,” said Harbinson, who would like to see that stay out of games.

The Vees coach said that with the speed of the game and the intensity that arises, it’s hard to control certain situations. While he doesn’t want his team to get fined or players suspended, he won’t stop his players from playing how they have and dropping their mitts to protect a teammate.

Johnston admitted to picking his spots early in the season until he lost it a couple of times. One of those occasions was during a 10-1 win over Prince George, which was fight filled. In that situation, he was defending Garrett Milan, who was hit from behind. Newcomer Paul Bezzo fought twice. In his first with Lyndon Martell, the Vees defenceman hit him four or five times as though he was working on a sparring bag.

“It kind of takes away a little of the intensity,” said Johnston.

“This is a league developing guys to go play NCAA hockey, which everyone knows it’s not really a part of that game at all,” said Johnson. “I think it’s a really important part of the game and it should be there. I think it helps police the game. Better than the officials could ever do.”

Logan Johnston has curbed his fighting habits slightly due to a project on bullying and violence.

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