Mirroring decisions by other private businesses, the National Hockey League has decided to institute open-carry gun rules for the 2015-2016 season.
The League said that allowing players to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms on the ice will be a deterrent to fights and also be popular with fans.
“We believe that allowing players to carry and brandish loaded weapons will significantly cut down on excessive violence in the game,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “Everyone knows that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. But we’ve found out that a good guy with a gun also stops a bad guy with a hockey stick, who would otherwise be free to slash, cross-check and high-stick opponents with impunity.”
The NHL’s decision follows in the footsteps of businesses like Home Depot and certain fast food chains which have relaxed their rules to comply with so-called “Bring Your Guns to Work” laws that have passed in 22 states.
Professional hockey first experimented with on-ice munitions during the 2011-2012 pre-season, when triple A junior hockey leagues allowed concealed carry under players’ jerseys. The new rules resulted in a 36% reduction in penalties and an 88% cut in fights. And in states with stand-your-ground laws, hockey penalties were virtually nonexistent.
Moreover, attendance for Junior A games skyrocketed by 680%, boasting sellout crowds for the first time in minor league pre-season history.
That led to widening the experiment during the 2012-2013 regular season, where Junior A players were encouraged to carry openly visible holstered handguns and shoulder-slung rifles. With the exception of eight unfortunate incidents, the introduction of the new Stand-Your-Ice rules came off without a hitch.
“Sure, there was that one embarrassment when a sudden-death shootout turned into an actual shootout,” admitted Bettman. “But luckily it ended with only a flesh wound and a few stitches – nothing the league doesn’t already see on a regular basis.”
“As for the accidental discharge of a Glock G42 during the Ottawa-Saskatchewan playoff series,” Bettman added, “we have since amended the rulebook to make it a minor penalty to clean or reload weapons while the puck is in play.”
Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky was supportive of the rules change, saying that open-carry is a great way to neutralize goons who intimidate more skilled players. "I wish I was packing back in my day," said Gretzky. "Guys like Dave Shultz and Terry O'Reilly would've been a lot more polite if they knew a cheap elbow shot could lead to some buckshot."
In a statistical curiosity, hockey shootings were much more prevalent in games played in U.S. cities than matches played in Canada. But the NHL Players Union attributes that statistical anomaly to the relatively poor mental health system in America, increasingly violent video hockey games, and Seth Rogen movies.
(Photo editing by Josh Greenberg)