Will hockey endure fighting ban?

Good battle by a very shorthanded Smoke Eater team Wednesday.

Good battle by a very shorthanded Smoke Eater team Wednesday.

One really, really unlucky bounce away from beating a powerful, and full strength Merritt Centennials squad in regulation before losing in overtime.

Very few there to watch, even at $4 a pop, but those who were there were kept interested and entertained throughout. Two more home games this weekend, then just one more hosting job, again against Merritt, for the Smokies this season.

Merritt and Prince George, this weekend’s opponents, are thick in a battle for second place in the interior division and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Trail plays both teams twice, so there will be intrigue and intensity to the games regardless of the Smokies’ long lost hopes of post-season play.

Meanwhile, the KIJHL playoffs are proving to be a grind for almost everybody involved. There has been only one sweep in the first round and, as of Wednesday, there had been seven games that went into overtime and a total of 17 decided by a single goal.

It still appears that Beaver Valley and Castlegar, the top two teams in the entire KIJHL, will meet in the Neil Murdoch division finals, although nothing was guaranteed either team as I wrote this.

It should be a no-brainer to say that series, if it happens, will feature SRO crowds throughout.  That means get your tickets yesterday.

The New York Times, of all sources, revealed Monday that there is a very good chance U.S. Hockey, and Hockey Canada/the Canadian Hockey League, too, will move sooner rather than later to ban fighting at all amateur levels of play, including major junior.

That’s a big sea change for the game, and would prevent up-and-comers from experiencing a big part of the pro game on their way there. Of course, maybe the NHL will go that way, too, which would change the game most of us grew up with into something different.

The basic idea being discussed by interested parties is: one fight, automatic suspension; two fights, much longer suspension, across all leagues, age levels, in the regime and carrying on into a new season; and, three fights and you are done for the (a) year, maybe plus.

The arguments on behalf of fighting in hockey: that it keeps dirty players “honest,” promotes, “respect,” and is craved by the paying public, are all being trumped by the worry about concussions, even though relatively few of those are seen to be caused by fighting. The pro instigator rule, promulgated chiefly to protect European players who don’t experience fighting in their development years unless they come to North America for junior play, is seen by some as a positive thing, by many more as preventing players from, “regulating,” bad behaviour like goalie-running and high-sticking and general thuggery.

Taking fighting out of the game will certainly change the way it is played, bringing the rules in line with women’s and NCAA play, and soccer. Whether die-hard fans will be as willing to shell out money to support men playing that way at the top level is the question.

There is a reason, after all, that the NFL, with its almost unadulterated violence, is the world’s most lucrative sports enterprise.

If there is to be such a change, it will come quickly, as soon as next year. So, we may see, relatively soon, what a kinder, gentler hockey looks like, and whether we like it or not.