Montreal

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League postpones vote on fighting ban until summer

Two thirds of the QMJHL leadership would need to vote in favour for the ban for it to go through. If that happens, the ban would then go into effect as of the 2020-2021 season.

'Why risk an injury that may threaten your life?' says one former player

Thomas Ethier, left, and Jordan Lepage fight during a QMJHL game on November 23, 2018. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Presidents and owners of 18 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams have decided to postpone voting on a fighting ban until August.

The vote had originally been slated for tonight's meeting, but after lengthy discussions, it was decided to delay any decision on the controversial topic, Radio-Canada has learned.

When the vote finally does take place, two thirds of the QMJHL leadership would need to vote in favour for the ban for it to be approved. If that happens, the ban would then go into effect as of the 2020-21 season.

The league, which is made up of players between the ages of 16 and 20, already has some measures in place to prevent fights from breaking out on the ice. For example, a current rule states that two players who fight in the last five minutes of a game may be suspended from playing in the next match.

It is not yet known exactly what penalties would apply to players who continue fighting.

Eric Lecompte, head coach of the Grenadiers de Châteauguay Midget AAA hockey team, used to play in the QMJHL. He remembers a time when fighting was considered a fundamental part of the sport, but believes that time has long since passed.

"With everything we know now with concussions and stuff like that, I think hockey has changed a lot. It's a game of speed now, it's a game of talent. Why risk an injury that may threaten your life?" said Lecompte, who supports the ban. 

Eric Lecompte, head coach of the Grenadiers de Châteauguay Midget AAA hockey team, believes fighting should no longer be part of the sport. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

He said the only way to properly enforce it would be to kick fighters off the ice for the rest of the game. 

Lecompte has had a few concussions himself, and says he never got any enjoyment from the fighting aspect of the sport.

As a 16-year-old, he sometimes had to fight against 20-year-old men who were much larger than him, he said. 

"A tough guy right now in hockey today, it's a guy that can bring energy, that can be physical out there, give body checks," said Lecompte. "A guy that can't play, just fights, I think it's useless in a team." 

Paul Simon, who was watching his grandson play a Midget AAA game in Châteauguay Wednesday night, used to enjoy watching the fights. Now, he would also like to see it banned. 

"It's not the kind of game they want to play now. It's speed, skill and no need for goons," said Simon. 

Simon said fighters should be immediately kicked out of the game. 

In 2008, the QMJHL rejected a motion to impose a 15-minute penalty for fighting, after QMJHL Commissioner Gilles Courteau argued that the rate of fighting in the league was already down and therefore did not constitute a problem. 

'Am I going to lose my memory?'

Liberal MNA Enrico Ciccone said he still fears the impacts sports-related head injuries might have on him. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

Enrico Ciccone, the official Opposition critic for sports, recreation and healthy living in Quebec's National Assembly and a former NHL player, said he would fully support the ban.

"Every morning I get up and I still wonder, is it going to happen to me? Do I have CTE? Am I going to lose my memory?" Ciccone told reporters Wednesday.

"This is something that I live with because of my colleagues and the players that I played against that have committed suicide, that have problems these days, that have died." 

Isabelle Charest, the provincial minister responsible for the status of women and a former Olympic speed skater, has long advocated for the ban. 

"I've said several times that I want the youth to evolve in a safe place, and that clearly means a ban or sanction on fighting," said Charest. 

The decision would also affect teams run by the QMJHL in other provinces, including those based in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. 

With files from Kate McKenna and Cathy Senay

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