CEDAR RAPIDS – The commissioner of the United States Hockey League said Monday he has asked a panel of league personnel, owners and coaches to study whether player fighting should remain allowed in games.
This comes on the heels of last Saturday night’s game between the Dubuque Fighting Saints and Cedar Rapids RoughRiders that was suspended when Dylan Chanter of Dubuque was knocked unconscious during a fight with Corey Petrash of the RoughRiders.
“We have engaged a combination of our competition committee, which is made up of owners and coaches, and our hockey operations department,” Commissioner Skip Prince said. ”I have told folks to use any outside sources they think are appropriate or necessary, so we can review the rules. Our rules on dangerous play, our rules on player safety and our rules on fighting.”
Chanter lost balance and fell backward, hitting the back of his helmetless head on the ice. His helmet unintentionally came off during the scrap.
Chanter convulsed for a lengthy period of time after being knocked out. He was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids via ambulance and eventually airlifted to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City before being medically discharged.
He was diagnosed with a concussion and is back in Dubuque convalescing.
“It was an incident that obviously was an accidental outcome of a fight that was called a fighting major (penalty),” Prince said. ”Both players would have been sent off the ice if they were healthy. Not withstanding all of our efforts to keep things safe, a dangerous incident occurred. We are going to look at the rules to see if there are any changes that we can make. Just check our current stance on fights, which are significantly reduced in the USHL and which have really been limited to a few instances.”
Prince pointed out that players are not allowed to intentionally remove their helmets for fights, otherwise they face game misconducts and suspensions. He said the USHL has worked diligently to end what are referred to as “staged fights.”
He said last season the league averaged roughly one fight every other game and that average has dipped below that this season.
“We’ve taken out of the league the fight that we characterize as dumb and dangerous. That aren’t explicity related to the action,” Prince said. “(Not) what I would characterize as lost temper fights. That is what apparently occurred here. The players went into the corner, someone got hit, the players did not square off and become ‘Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots,’ which is no longer allowed. Guys just playing to the crowd.”
He lauded the care the player received on the ice and at the hospitals. Dubuque trainer Sean Murdoch and Cedar Rapids trainer Chris Ipson immediately tended to Chanter, as did RoughRiders team doctor David Tearse.
Paramedics arrived on the scene within 10 minutes.
“I can’t extend enough how impressed I was with the (medical) response that was given,” Prince said. ”From the trainers on the ice, to the physician who was there, to the care at St. Luke’s hospital, to the airflift to (University of) Iowa. Clearly the commitment that we have made, which is in our Tier I regulation, I think we’ve got the top-level care in junior hockey as a rule and regulation, hoping that we’d never have to use it. It certainly got used on Saturday. It was a testimony to how well (Chanter) was cared for in Cedar Rapids. I want to emphasize that.”
Prince said there is no timetable for a final resolution on whether the league will end fighting. The goal of the vast majority of USHL players is to move on to college hockey, where fighting is prohibited.
Fighting is allowed in professional games and at the major junior level in Canada. Proponents of fighting say it is a way for the game to police itself and that if it is eliminated, there will be an increase in illegal hits and other reckless play.
“I guess the question is, other than suspending players for multiple games for even beginning a fight, which has led in college to, among other things, what we would call a fight not being called a fight because no ref wants to toss someone out of a game, I’m not sure what the next steps are,” Prince said. “This panel is to engage in if we need to revisit any or all of those elements.”
RoughRiders Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson said Monday he is part of the USHL’s competition committee and is looking forward to being a member of the panel that will study the fighting issue. He did not want to make any other public comment.
After Saturday’s game, he was asked what he would tell someone who wonders why the league allows fighting.
“I don’t know if it should be (allowed),” Carlson said. “I have always had my concerns about it.”
“I don’t want to bias a committee that I am frankly trying to stay arm’s length from,” Prince said. ”I want to make sure they have the independent opportunity to review this. There certainly have been no limits placed on what their recommendations are going to be. We will review rules that were designed to prevent just this sort of thing from occurring, to see if this was a breach of the rules or whether the rules themselves are flawed.”