The helmets came off when Windsor's Adam Wallace, right, and Tyler J. Brown of Plymouth squared off in a Dec. 31 game. ((Sarah Fraleigh/Canadian Press))

The Ontario Hockey League announced a new rule on Wednesday to address the issue of players losing their helmets during fights, whether intentionally or otherwise.

OHL commissioner David Branch had indicated earlier in the week the rule would be implemented, and it is effective beginning with games on Thursday.

"If a player should remove his helmet or undo his chinstrap prior to or during an altercation, such player shall receive a game misconduct in addition to any other penalties assessed and an automatic one-game suspension," the new rule states.

If a player removes his helmet and an opposing player doesn't, the penalty is two games.

If the player's helmet becomes accidentally dislodged during a fight, the new rule requires linesmen to intervene immediately.

The issues of helmets and fighting have come to the fore in the province since the death Jan. 2 of senior AAA player Don Sanderson.

Sanderson, 21, was in a coma for nearly three weeks after an incident in a Dec. 12 game. The Whitby Dunlops player was without a helmet when his head struck the ice during an altercation with a Brantford player.

The reaction has spanned from those proposing an outright ban on fighting to concern that players will continue to fight with helmets and visors on, potentially leading to more injuries.