Quebec government asks QMJHL to ban fighting before providing funding
HALIFAX -- As the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League gets ready to resume regular season play next month, a fight for financial assistance has the league revisiting a common debate about the role of fighting in hockey.
With few to no fans in the stands leading to a major hit to club revenues, the QMJHL has asked the Quebec provincial government for assistance.
The Quebec provincial government is considering subsidizing Quebec-based teams with $20 million to help keep them afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But there may be conditions attached.
Quebec Education Minister Isabelle Charest says before the province cuts a cheque, she’d like to see the league remove fighting.
Long-time hockey broadcaster John Moore says he was surprised by the move.
“To hold the league and those millions of dollars and say, ‘You won’t receive this unless’… that’s an awful strong threat,” says Moore.
Moore says he isn’t sure the league will remove fighting in order to receive the funding.
“The Quebec league has reduced fighting and they have taken steps to do that,” says Moore.
Trevor Stienburg believes the Quebec government is overstepping their jurisdiction.
“I just don’t think the government should be changing the rules of the industries they’re going to give money to,” says Stienburg.
When it comes to fighting, Stienburg is more than just a fan with an opinion. He has several fights under his belt during a long professional career that included 71 NHL games.
“I was drafted as a goal scorer, and when I didn’t have the ability to do that, I had to do other things to stay in the game,” explains Stienburg.
He doesn’t see hockey fighting as gratuitous violence, and believes in moderation, it is a legitimate part of the sport.
“I was sticking up for my teammates at that point,” says Stienburg, who believes it’s interesting that this conversation is happening at a time when fighting is already declining in the sport.
Jody Shelley played for four teams over a 10-year NHL career, where he developed a reputation as one of the most feared enforcers in the pros.
But his deepest loyalties are with his former junior team, the Halifax Mooseheads, and the league that gave him his start.
“It is one of the most prestigious leagues in the world. They’ve got to do whatever they can to keep this going,” says Shelley.
He says he’s not in favour of any Major Junior Hockey League scrapping fighting entirely, but admits that the league may be rocked to consider it during a pandemic.
“For them to be able to subsidize the teams is a great thought, and worth looking at,” says Shelley, adding that he would support any decision that is made as long as it helps strengthen the league.
The QMJHL announced in August that it intends to open its season Oct. 1 and play a 60-game schedule in 2020-21, saying that games in Quebec will be played with no fans.
The six Maritime QMJHL teams will be allowed some fans in attendance depending on provincial regulations.