It's going to be a lot tougher to earn a living by dropping your gloves in the minors next season.
The American Hockey League on Thursday announced new rules aimed at reducing staged fighting and limiting the presence of one-dimensional players in its game.
Chief among them is an automatic game misconduct for any players who enter into a fight prior to, at, or immediately following the drop of the puck for a face-off. The rule mirrors the one put in place by the Ontario Hockey League prior to the 2014-15 season.
Players also face an automatic one-game suspension upon incurring their 10th fighting major during the regular season. For each subsequent fighting major up to 13, the player faces an additional one-game suspension. After that, each subsequent fighting major will draw an automatic two-game suspension.
The one safeguard in place: In any instance where the opposing player is assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major will not count towards the player’s total for this rule. That will prevent opposing players from targeting tough guys who are on the verge of a suspension.
The OHL instituted a 10-fight rule ahead of the 2013-14 season. Only one player reached that threshold and nobody did the following season. In 2015-16, however, four players were suspended after cresting the 10-fight ceiling.
According to hockeyfights.com, 20 AHL players would have been impacted if the new rules had been in place during that league's 2015-16 season. Michael Liambis, the league's leader with 20 fighting majors, would have been among eight players who reached the second stage of suspensions.
At least one AHL player stands strongly behind the new rules.
"The 10 fight limit and no fighting off the face-off rule is great," said Toronto Marlies tough guy Rich Clune.
Clune earned 11 fighting majors while splitting last season between the Marlies and Maple Leafs; 10 of them came in the AHL, putting him in a position to pick up a one-game suspension.
Although the new rules will curtail fisticuffs, Clune says they won't eliminate it from the game.
"Fighting isn't done," he said. "Just guys who suck are."
While the rules make good sense in the AHL, don't expect to see something similar enacted in the NHL any time soon. Just four players topped 10 fights in 2015-16: Colorado's Cody McLeod, Vancouver's Derek Dorsett, Matt Martin of the Islanders and San Jose's Mike Brown. With skilled depth being the new NHL ideal, there are fewer fourth-line jobs available to one-dimensional bangers.
Like Clune said, there's no room in the game anymore for guys who can't play.