Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fighting and Brawling in the QMJHL

Tonight begins the QMJHL season and, although we at CHL News have stayed out of the controversy until now, the issue of fighting/brawling in the Q has arisen again after yesterday's news conference of the league's officers.

Everyone knows about the incident last Spring, where Jon Roy attacked Bobby Nadeau. A court review of that attack is expected later this month. The question is what should the league do about future incidents.

A committee was formed in March to investigate the issue and report to the league its recommendations for ways in which to "take the appropriate measure to eradicate all forms of violence during [the league's] games." Fourteeen members participated, including some of the highest ranking sport officials in the province, and in August a report was issued. Basically, after all the analysis, the bottom line is stated on page 3, "tolerance of violence has no place in Junior Hockey and has never had any." Duh!

The committee goes on to say that "[n]ew rules of conduct and ethics ... as well as disciplinary measures must be spelled out and rigorously applied every time robustness inherent to this sport and deliberate violence can be confused." Okay, when reading this I started to worry what was coming next, and in the next line, there it was. "Examples of such situations are blows to the head, checks from behind, hits with the stick as well as any verbal exchanges during stoppages of play."

For the record, Roy has not been thrown out of the Q under the previously "enforced" rules. Nor would he immediately be under the new recommendations (which the QMJHL says it adopted for this season), where Roy would be given a 10-game suspension. That I believe is a mistake, in that there really should be no place for crossing the ice to attack a goalie that has no interest in fighting in the game. There are some violations that should get you kicked out of the league, and that is one of them. What happens with the authorities is a separate issue. There are some things even a teenager knows is beyond the bounds of what will be accepted even once.

However, mouthing off during stoppages and some checks from behind should not be included in the list of "offenses" that will not be tolerated. Let's be honest and say that, at this level, the goal of hockey is almost entirely to provide the player with the opportunity to play the professional game. Yes, as the league boasts, for some the education provided is important, but ask the players, and almost all will say that education is secondary to getting to play on the stage that provides them the greatest opportunity to fulfill their dream--to play professional hockey. If it wasn't, they would have taken another route to play the game. Let's be more honest and say that is the goal of the teams too. The teams make lots of money off the players on the ice. But NHL development fees for draft picks are not insubstantial. Further, NHL teams develop informal relationships with major junior teams that can be worth lots of money to the junior team if an undrafted player is signed to an NHL contract.

I am getting to my point right now. If, in actuality, the point of major junior hockey for the players and the teams is to prepare a player for professional hockey, and one of the selling points for the CHL is that play closely mirrors what the player will face in the pro ranks, then mouthing off and some checks from behind are part of the game. Additionally, I would submit that instead of increasing violence, mouthing off could avoid it. Yes, sometimes, it can cause a fight, which appears to be okay with the Q, in that it has not banned fighting. Sometimes, mouthing off can just let off steam for some real or perceived on-ice injustice and keep things from escalating.

If players are no longer allowed to mouth off, how can they engage in fisticuffs. How are they supposed to agree on this, because if there is no goading, no "do you want to go," how do you know the other player wants to fight? And if you don't know that, suddenly one player is pummeling another, which can result in a 10-game suspension.

I feel that the Q has taken the wrong approach. After saying fighting is a part of the game, which it is, and I am all for preparing the players to face that in professional hockey and to demonstrate their skills at it, the league then takes out the intro to every fight I have ever seen. As everyone knows, there is a Code to fighting in professional hockey. That's what should taught in the CHL. Break the Code and you should be gone form the league. It's easy, and if players know that if they break the Code, and commit cowardly acts against others, that they are out of the game, this stuff will almost never happen.

Additionally, the league should have one more responsibility, and for this, I have to be circumspect because of Canadian law. So don't ask me who the player is and expect me to answer, as minors are protected in this country. If the league has notice that a player is a problem, and still invites or encourages a player to join that league, then one has to wonder if that league is serious about eliminating violence. For all the counseling that can be given, certain humans are more prone to violence than others, and for the safety of the whole, don't you want to weed these people out ahead of time? Obviously not, when a CHL team recently allowed a young man that lost his head in another venue and attacked someone who died as the result of the attack play hockey in one of its leagues. If you really want to avoid violence in junior hockey, wouldn't you weed out a kid you know has impulse issues out ahead of time, and not invite him in?

That's why, although I applaud the thought of eliminating violence, I scoff at the what is being implemented. If you are serious, make as sure as you can that the players on the ice are of the psychological makeup that they don't have the propensity for violence. If you find out that they do have that propensity, have the guts to get rid of them before they serious injure or kill someone. But don't take mouthing off and every hit from behind away from the game (in fact, some such hits are so minor they don't even get called).

Now, get serious and do the right thing, before one of these eager decent young men gets killed.

Monday, September 08, 2008

News on CHLers at NHL training camps

Enough of the heavy duty statistical analysis--at least for a couple of days. If you read Friday's entry below, you will see how well the OHL teams did in the 2006 OHL Priority Draft. Early next week, I will do a quick analysis of who is impressing in CHL pre-season games, but for today, I will just be setting forth info on which CHL players have been signed since last week in the ECHL (there were two signed by the Elmira Jackals), who was signed by the NHL teams that just drafted them (Bogosian and Pietrangelo, did anyone not expect this?) and give a list of CHLers that have been announced to be in attendance at NHL training camps (and therefore will at least be temporarily unavailable to their CHL teams). Plus, on Friday afternoon, Ottawa finally announced the roster of their rookies that will be attending the Kitchener rookie tournament, starting on September 13th.

First, Mike Gauthier (WHL Kamloops) and Kevin Desfosses (QMJHL Quebec) were signed by Elmira. Desfosses had previously attended the Ottawa Sens development camp, and will be going to the Kitchener rookie tournament with the Ottawa team, but is expected to play for Elmira to start the season. Frankly, this was a good move for him, as Desfosses should be a good netminder at this level. Given time, he might become more. Its great that the Sens organization sees that, because although Desfosses did not impress in last year's QMJHL playoffs, he does have some potential and will get a real chance to develop with the Jackals. Gauthier is a tough guy, pure and simple. Glad he will get a chance to entertain in the ECHL, but don't expect more than that.

As for the Ottawa rookies going to Kitchener later this week, CHLers include Kevin Desfosses, Ben Wright, Jim O'Brien, Zack Smith, Kaspars Daugevins, and Brett Morrison (who was drafted by Anaheim last year).

As an update on an earlier post on pre-season tournaments, the Boston Bruins rookies will be playing the Islanders at the Rinks practice facility in Shelton, Connecticut on September 18th. I have added it to last week's post, but in case, you tend not to scroll back, I wanted to give those of you in the area that would like to attend a heads up that it is happening (BTW, this arena is almost as cold as the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, so if you go, dress appropriately).

Some of the main training camp rosters were announced for NHL teams late last week, and without repeating myself as to who is being taken to the pre-season tournaments, I wanted to include the new information as to CHL players in camps.

Boston Bruins --The Bruins had no tryouts in their development camp in July. Attending rookie training camp will be the following CHL players:
Jamie Arniel, OHL Sarnia (4th round 2008)
Andrew Bodnarchuk, QMJHL Halifax (5th round 2006)
Yuri Cheremietev, QMJHL Halifax (Tryout)
Scott Fletcher, OHL Niagara (Free Agent)
Zach Hamill, WHL Everett (1st round 2007)
Jordan Knackstedt, WHL Moose Jaw (7th round 2007)
Brad Marchand, QMJHL Halifax (3rd round 2006)
Matt Marquardt, QMJHL Baie-Comeau (Free Agent)
Levi Nelson, WHL Swift Current (6th round 2006)
Denis Reul, QMJHL Lewiston (5th round 2007)
Maxime Sauve, QMJHL Val-d'Or (2nd round 2008)

Carolina Hurricanes--in addition to the three CHL tryouts that I posted last week, the team also will have the following CHL players in attendance:
Mike Murphy, OHL Belleville (6th round 2008)
Michal Jordan, OHL Plymouth (4th round 2008)
Brett Bellemore, OHL Plymouth (6th round 2007)
Brandon Sutter, WHL Red Deer (1st round 2007)
Zach Boychuk, WHL Lethbridge (1st round 2008)
Robert Slaney, QMJHL Cape Breton (AHL signee)
Harrison Reed, OHL Guelph (3rd round 2006)
Stefan Chaput, QMJHL Lewiston (5th round 2006)
Drayson Bowman, WHL Spokane (3rd round 2007)
Chris Terry, OHL Plymouth (5th round 2007)
Samuel Morneau, QMJHL Baie-Comeau/Val-d'Or (7th round 2008)
Justin McCrae, WHL Spokane (4th round 2007)

Colorado Avalanche -- Had no CHL tryouts at the team's July development camp
Jack Combs, OHL Saginaw (Free Agent)
TJ Galiardi, WHL Calgary (2nd round 2007)
Dustin Sylvester, WHL Kootenay (Tryout)
Kelsey Tessier, QMJHL Quebec (4th round 2008)
Joel Chouinard, QMJHL Victoriaville (6th round 2008)
Cameron Gaunce, OHL Mississauga (2nd round 2008)
Kevin Montgomery, OHL London (4th round 2006)
Nigel Williams, OHL Belleville (2nd round 2006)
Trevor Cann, OHL Peterborough(2nd round 2007)
Peter Delmas, QMJHL Lewiston (2nd round 2008)

Edmonton Oilers
Phillipe Cornet, QMJHL Rimouski (5th round 2008)
Jordan Eberle, WHL Regina (1st round 2008)
Milan Kytnar, WHL Saskatoon (5th round 2007)
Garet Hunt, WHL Vancouver (Free Agent)
Kyle Paige, OHL Kingston (Free Agent)
Jordan Bendfield, WHL Medicine Hat (7th round 2008)--Signed to ELC by the Oilers last week
Jesse Dudas, WHL Swift Current (6th round 2006)
Alex Plante, WHL Calgary (1st round 2007)--expect a CHL team change for him shortly
Dalton Prout, OHL Barrie (Tryout)
Kalvin Sagert, WHL Prince George (Free Agent)
Andrew Perguini, OHL Sarnia (Free Agent)
Bryan Pitton, OHL Brampton (Free Agent)

Nashville Predators
Brandon Buck, OHL Guelph (Free Agent)
Nick Spaling, OHL Kitchener (2nd round 2007)
Ian McKenzie, WHL Seattle (Free Agent)
Mark Santorelli, WHL Chilliwack (4th round 2007)
Jon Blum, WHL Vancouver (1st round 2007)
Chet Pickard, WHL Tri-City (1st round 2008)
Jeremy Smith, OHL Plymouth (2nd round 2007)