QUEBEC - The Action democratique du Quebec is charging Sports Minister Michelle Courchesne with interference and wants her to stop pressuring the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to impose tougher sanctions on players who fight.
Sylvain Legare, the party's sports critic, says there is no consensus on the issue of fighting in hockey and he accused Courchesne on Monday of leading a solo crusade to address the topic.
A committee mandated by the league to study how to reduce violence called last month for stiffer penalties for brawling and other acts of "gratuitous violence."
It also recommended better support for players, coaches and officials and the introduction of an anti-violence campaign.
But there was no recommendation for an outright ban on fighting.
Legare was particularly incensed with Courchesne issuing a news release last Friday in which she called on the league to go further on the issue of fighting.
The league's governors were to decide Monday whether to adopt the recommendations, while a news conference on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday.
"Let the league have complete, 100 per cent autonomy in managing this situation," Legare said.
"When I see the minister asking for things (in a news release) I find that unacceptable."
The issue of violence surged to the forefront following an attack by Quebec Remparts goaltender Jonathan Roy on Chicoutimi Sagueneens goalie Bobby Nadeau during the QMJHL playoffs last year.
Video of Roy beating on Nadeau, who did not fight back, was shown repeatedly on television newscasts.
The Crown has brought a charge of one count of assault against Roy, 19. He is set to appear in court Sept. 16 and may be fined up to $2,000 with six months in prison.
"The problem is not fights, but extreme cases like Jonathan Roy's attack on Bobby Nadeau," Legare said, adding on average there is only one fight per QMJHL contest.
"The numbers are dropping year to year, but there isn't a league in the country that will ban fighting," Legare says.
Luc Ferland, the Parti Quebecois sports critic, says he solidly backs the abolition of fighting in hockey but wants the league to make a decision without outside influences.
"I maintain that fighting has no place in hockey just as it doesn't have a place in any other contact sport," Ferland said.
Ferland adds that some parents he's met in arenas have told him they might pull their children out of amateur hockey if fighting is still tolerated.