By Al Silverman
NEW YORK CITY - National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman announced today that the league will soon ban player fighting to “modernize the game and increase player safety.”
“The world is different now than when hockey began and we are evolving, too”, said Bettman. “It’s 2022, our players can’t continue to just punch each other in the face whenever they’re upset. The world is more civilized these days.”
Bettman has appointed Jeff Whittle, a long-time consultant for organizations like FedEx, Pizza Hut, and the MLS’ Chicago Fire, to oversee the rule change as the NHL’s new Directory of Sensitivity.
Whittle also brings game experience to the job, serving as the head coach for his daughter’s hockey team for the last three seasons.
“Instead of fighting with their fists, we want players to use their wits”, Whittle said. “Sarcasm, talking behind each other’s backs and eye-rolling are just some of the tools we’re going to teach players in intensive sessions we plan to hold soon. I think they’ll see it can be equally if not more damaging to their opponents in the long term.”
Whittle presented marketing materials designed to promote the new rule change to players, including “Smash Feelings, Not Orbitals” posters that will be hung in every NHL locker room.
The NHL remains the only league within the sport to allow fighting, with bans in youth leagues, college games, and at the Olympic level, and has faced calls in the past to tone down the “staged” violence.
“This is long overdue”, said Jessica Binder, 27, head of ‘Human Rights, Let’s Go!’, a group that opposes fighting in the game. “This is hockey. Men punching each other should be saved for boxing. Which we’re also trying to ban.”
The NHL’s Director of Player Safety, George Paros, though conflicted, has signaled his support for the upcoming change.
“I agree with the decision”, Paros said. “But will I miss seeing guys punch each other repeatedly in the face? Absolutely.”