As It Happens

Former NHL enforcer wants to outlaw fighting in hockey including Quebec's top junior league

Enrico Ciccone, a Liberal member of Quebec's National Assembly and a former NHL hockey player, introduced a private member's bill Wednesday that would ban fighting in amateur sports in the province. The bill would ban fighting in sports when the athletes are under 18, with combat sports excepted.

Enrico Ciccone, who played for several NHL teams, says he wants to protect young people

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

Enrico Ciccone, a Liberal member of Quebec's National Assembly and a former NHL hockey player, introduced a private member's bill Wednesday that would ban fighting in amateur sports in the province. The bill would apply to athletes under the age of 18, except in combat sports.

Cicccone is a former NHL defenceman who played for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens, among others. He spent much of his time on ice as an enforcer — his fights are well-documented on YouTube. 

So it might seem a bit surprising that he's now pushing a bill that would stop what he was once known for.

"Well, you know what? If they call me ...hypocritical, well that's all right," said Ciccone in an interview with As It Happens host Carol Off.

"As you know, things have changed through the years and society has changed, and we have numbers, we have scientific reports also that [show] us the damage it can do on your brain," he said. 

Ciccone said he is in physical and emotional pain every morning, and wants to protect young people in Quebec from suffering in the same way.

"We just want to try to work ahead to make sure that these kids don't go through what I went through, what a lot of my teammates went through," he said, citing teammates who had concussions and later struggled with memory loss problems, or Alzheimer's disease or even died by suicide.

"This is something that I wake up, Carol, every day thinking, 'You know what, it might happen to me also,' because I had around six or seven concussions in ... my career," he said.

"In my era, you know, it was a part of the game, it was a part of the game plan also — intimidation. But as we go through the years, you know ... there's less and less fighting," he said.

Two hockey players are seen fighting on the ice.
Thomas Ethier, left, and Jordan Lepage fight during a QMJHL game on November 23, 2018. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Details of the bill

Fighting is already banned in most Quebec hockey leagues, but not the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league, which would have to change its rules around fighting under this bill. Many NHL players went through the junior league on their way to the NHL, including Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy. 

Ciccone says that the ban won't disadvantage Quebec hockey players, because he says the NHL drafts players based on their ability to play the game and score, not their fighting skills.

"It's not about letting your gloves down. That happened 20 years ago, it was a part of the game. Not anymore," he said.

The bill received unanimous support by all 121 MNAs, and now, will be considered by Isabelle Charest, Quebec junior education minister responsible for sports.

Earlier this fall, Charest called on the QMJHL to ban fighting after the league requested aid from the provincial government because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league requested $20 million in provincial aid, and was given $12 million.

At the end of September, the league introduced tougher penalties for fighting. Previously players who were involved in a fight got a five-minute major penalty; now they will get a 10-minute misconduct penalty on top of the major penalty. 

Charest applauded the move in a tweet.

However, QMJHL league commissioner Gilles Corteau told the Canadian Press that the changes to the rules around fighting weren't a condition for receiving financial support from Quebec. 

As for Ciccone, he says the penalties for fighting don't fix the problem, and don't protect young people.

Ciccone pointed out that Quebec's provincial alcohol and gaming authority wouldn't give out a permit for adults to fight with their bare fists, but it was still considered acceptable for athletes in the QMJHL, some who may be as young 15, to do so.

"So this is very ironic and these things should be stopped," he said. 

Written by Andrea Bellemare. Interview produced by Kevin Robertson.


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