I've talked to several players over the past couple of weeks who have questions about the IHL's plan to change some of the rules, especially the instigator rule. That comes from players who fight and players who don't.
Each one I talked to has reservations about how this is going to work and wonder if they might be better off playing somewhere else. They'd like to hear more from the league on the specifics of what they mean by calling things looser in the offensive zone. I think they'd like to see a little more detail to what exactly the owners are talking about and want. It's fine to talk about these rules changes in the abstract, but what will they actually mean within the framework of a game? That's only fair because so far it's all been talked about only in generalities.
As one said to me, if they have a chance to go to another league that doesn't promote the fighting as much, and the pay is about equal, why should they take the risk and put up with more fighting by coming to the IHL? This player is not a wuss or a chicken or a wimp. He fights ocassionally, but not every night. He fights when he sees legitimate reasons for it.
Players also look at this as, my body is my tool, it's how I make my livelihood, so why should I risk it if I do not have to?
I think this comes back to a point I've made many times over the years: I'm not sure junior hockey is producing many of those types of players any more. I'm not sure players are being taught as much hitting and physical play at the lower levels. If they were, every team would have more of them -- because they are always looking for them in part to appease the fans -- and they don't. As one player told me, ``If the guys don't want to fight, it won't matter what they do with the rules, and not that many guys do any more. And the ones who do sure won't want to do it every night.''
Even the Komets oldtimers I talked to last week mostly chuckled at the intent of the new rules because they don't believe today's players will go with it. Hockey, they said, has changed and so have the players. Sure, there are plenty of goons, but how many of them can actually play, and do you want to just promote the spectacle of fights? Do you want to see a guy skate one shift a period just to fight? How do you promote the fisticuffs without damaging the overall product of the play?
No one wants to play in what might be perceived as a goon league, and I think the players would like a little assurance from the owners that is not what's going to happen and what the owners will do to make sure it does not happen.
Those are all legitimate questions the players are wondering about. After all, the instigator rule was not put in place to protect the fighters, but to protect those players who do not fight from getting obliterated by those that do. It had a legitimate purpose.
We'll just have to wait and see what the answers are. It's going to be fascinating to see how this works, or maybe if it works.
Everybody have a great and safe Fourth.