The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has banned fighting during the 2023-24 season.
QMJHL players who fight during a game will be automatically ejected and face a potential suspension, according to new safety regulations published Thursday by the league.
Any instigator of a fight will face an automatic one-game suspension, while any participant declared “the aggressor” will be suspended for at least two games.
If a player has already been involved in a fight that season, they will automatically be suspended an additional one game for any other altercations.
The QMJHL has been working toward eliminating fighting from the league since 2020, when the league added a 10-minute misconduct penalty to the usual five-minute major for fighting.
Under those previous rules, players were automatically suspended for one game if determined to be the aggressor or if they had already been involved in three fights.
That rule change already resulted in a sharp decline in QMJHL fights. There were 86 fights recorded during the 2022-23 season, a decrease from 188 fights in 2018-19, according to hockeyfights.com (h/t Daily Hive).
QMJHL owners voted in February to ban fighting under pressure from Quebec sports minister Isabelle Charest, who told the league “all involved players be expelled from the ongoing game and be suspended for the next,” The Hockey News’ Tony Ferrari reported.
Charest’s office noted that she has the power to impose regulations on the QMJHL, but “would prefer to reach a consensus” with the league.
The league’s general managers and coaches generally understood the decision, league spokesperson Maxime Blouin said in March, per CBC’s Cassidy Chisholm.
“Some of them are actually former high-level hockey players,” Blouin. “They understand the impact of injuries during their time in hockey, but [also] after their hockey career. Players who got 15-20 concussions, they understand the impact of it on their daily life. So, the mentalities are evolving, the sport is evolving, and I think it’s evolving toward a safer environment.”
The QMJHL is the first of the Canadian major junior leagues to prohibit fighting.
Ron Robison, commissioner of the Western Hockey League, told Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek in March that the WHL has “no plans to change our fighting rules.”
Ontario Hockey League commissioner Dave Branch also did not commit to any rule changes, but said the QMJHL’s rule change “will give us an opportunity to see the effect on the game in general.” The OHL was the first major junior league to institute mandatory suspensions for any player totaling more than a certain number of fights in a season.
Fighting is still allowed in the NHL. There were 558 fighting majors handed out in the NHL in 2022-23, compared to 532 in the WHL, 424 in the OHL and 147 in the QMJHL, according to Sportsnet Stats.