Sports

Canadian lacrosse gets tough on fighting

The WLA Burrards leadership insists that fighting is part of the sport at the higher levels, and helps players police their game. - Contributed photo
The WLA Burrards leadership insists that fighting is part of the sport at the higher levels, and helps players police their game.
— image credit: Contributed photo

The Canadian Lacrosse Association took steps to eliminate fighting from the sport this week, but the Maple Ridge lacrosse community may not be embracing the changes.

On Monday, CLA directors declared they are opposed to fighting, and toughened up their sanctions against fighters.

They approved changes to Rule 45 in the Box Lacrosse Rule and Situation Handbook. Now a major penalty and a game misconduct will be assessed to any player or goalkeeper who fights. The major penalty will be served in its entirety by a player who was one the floor when the fight took place. If there is an instigator or clear aggressor in a fight, the non-offending player shall not receive a game misconduct.

“After lengthy discussion and revisions, the updated rule enforces that fighting is not tolerated. If an athlete, at any level, takes part in a fight, they will be removed from the game,” said Monday’s CLA press release.

Lance Andre, president of both the Maple Ridge Burrards of the Western Lacrosse Association and Ridge Meadows Minor Lacrosse Association, had mixed feelings about the rule.

“I think it’s a good thing for junior and minor lacrosse,” he said.

But for the WLA, he feels the fighting crackdown will prevent teams from protecting their scorers.

“As soon as you do that, your superstars are going to get abused, and there would be no way to protect our elite athletes,” he said.

“Fighting’s a part of the game. And let’s face it: the fans love it.”

He said the ruling is somewhat redundant, in that fighting is already all but banned from minor lacrosse. For a first fight, a player is suspended for two games, and on the second fight they will receive a five-game ban. It is generally only an issue for the older age groups, and only a handful of incidents each year.

“You can’t promote youth fighting,” said Andre.

He said the WLA has players who also play in the professional National Lacrosse League and he believes it should follow the lead of the senior circuit, which has fighting.

“We have to follow what they’re doing.”

He said teams already use agitating tactics designed to get offensive players off their game – slashes, dirty hits, hits off the ball and hits after the whistle.

The new CLA rule would encourage another one: “What would stop you from having one of your bottom players go after a superstar.”

“I don’t think anyone’s in favour of fighting,” he said. “But there has to be a mechanism in place to protect your elite athletes.”

He said the WLA has its own governing body, which will be working with the CLA about this new approach to fighting

Daren Fridge also has a broad lacrosse experience, as the GM/coach of the Burrards, and a coach of his nine-year-old son’s team.

The coach and educator in him sees the need to try and keep the game safe for young athletes. The coach in him wants to protect his stars.

“I understand the path they’re trying to go, but they’ve slapped a minor lacrosse rule on senior lacrosse.”

He, too, said elite players already play with large bullseyes on their backs, and “I don’t see this rule helping.”

Fridge said the comments on Twitter and other social media showed an instant negative reaction to the new rules.

“We don’t have a fighting problem in our league.”

The CLA press release outlined the new rules as a safety issue: “Fighting in the sport is an unnecessary risk – it is a dangerous activity for any athlete to be a part of. Incidents of concussions can increase with every fight that happens; it is becoming more apparent that a blow to the head area has the potential to cause severe and long-term injury. The health and safety of all participants in Canada’s national summer sport is amongst the leading concerns of the Canadian Lacrosse Association –changes to Rule 45 demonstrates our collective assertion that fighting in the game will not be tolerated and lends additional protection to our participants. “

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