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The OHL address blindside hits and fighting in new rule changes

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The premiere development league in North America has made some changes for the upcoming season

Saginaw Spirit v Niagara IceDogs Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Today the Ontario Hockey League sent out a press release updating everyone about some rule changes to the league for the 2016/2017. You can read that here.

The easiest change to digest is that the league will adopt the NHL’s hybrid icing rules for the season.

The next two are big ones.

First, they have amended their fighting limits rules:

In addition, the league took further steps to address fighting in the game by lowering the threshold prior to automatic disciplinary action being assessed from 10 fights per player per season to three fights per player per season. Players exceeding such threshold will be subject to an automatic two game suspension, for each fight exceeding the threshold.

Note: If a player is instigated upon, the fighting major is not included in the player’s total number of fights.

A 70% drop in the number of fights allowed is a drastic one, but as hockey fans drift towards being a majority against fighting, especially at junior levels, the league drifts with them.

Most OHL fans quickly jumped to hockeyfights.com to look up OHL numbers and I was one of them.

55 OHL players last season had more than 3 fights, with the leader, Jacob Friend, capping out at 13 total. HF doesn't separate those that had the player instigated against, and the OHL claims no player crossed their threshold of 10 games.

The last season without a cap, 2011/12, the fighting leader was Ty Bilcke with 37 total fights. A drop from 37 to 13 for the fighting leader is huge.

Has there been an increase in dirty play because "players can’t police themselves"? Maybe, but no one tracks that kind of stuff so it’s all opinions at this point, especially without a list of injuries to work from.

I haven’t been quiet about my dislike for fighting, and especially at the junior level, so the OHL’s steps towards reducing it further is welcome in my opinion. No, I'm not worried about a players lack of fighting skill when they get to the majors. If the development leagues start cutting it out, the majors will be forced to change their style.

The first change mentioned in the release was the biggest, and has the largest impact on play safety:

At its annual league meeting, the Ontario Hockey League Board of Governors took further steps in addressing player safety through the adoption of a "Blindside Hit Rule" whereby there will be a penalty assessed for those players who check an opponent from the blindside. Based on the discretion of the referee, a minor, major and game misconduct or match penalty may be assessed. Such infraction would also be subject to review and possible supplementary discipline by the league.

It’s important to ingrain this before the NHL, that you can’t go around hitting people when they can't see you coming.

Possibly the most controversial rule the OHL’s implemented, I know this will start many arguments online and in bars before the season begins, and many more between officials and coaches once play starts, but the anger is worth the eventual reward.

I don’t have the time to get too in depth, I wanted to share the news, but the off season is still over a month from being finished, and this is a topic that should get the in depth treatment for sure.