A year ago, the National Hockey League adjusted its rule book in order to crack down on stick fouls. This season, the only significant changes are directed toward improving the league's image.
The frequent all-hands brawls last year, climaxing in the Philadelphia-Montreal pregame debacle, made the NHL a laughingstock and President John Ziegler has said he is determined there will be no repetition.
The first player of each team leaving the bench or penalty box to start a fight will be suspended 10 games and the second player of each team five games, with game misconducts issued in each case. Every player who leaves the bench in such a situation will be fined the maximum $500 permitted by the collective bargaining agreement.
The coach of any team whose player is first to leave the bench to fight will be fined $1,000 and suspended five games. If a player on the other team then goes on the ice, his coach will be fined $1,000 and suspended three games. The penalties will be doubled for any subsequent offense within three years.
Each team will be fined $10,000 when a player leaves the bench to fight and the fine will be increased by $5,000 for each subsequent offense within three years.
Teams involved in multiplayer altercations before or after the game or between periods will be fined $25,000 and the instigator suspended 10 games.
To close an obvious loophole, a new regulation provides that any team paying a fine or salary for a player punished under these rules will be fined $100,000.
In a further attempt to brighten its image, the league has established a fine of $1,000 for any owner or club employe guilty of public criticism of officials, with an additional $5,000 assessment to the team involved.
No changes were made to the actual playing rules.