Archive | December 1, 2015

Can Weapons be Introduced into MMA Style Fighting Leagues?

December 1, 2015

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By Marshall Putnam – Thompson Rivers University 3L JD Student

Back in April 2015, a strange development occurred in the Russian M-1 Mixed Martial Arts (“MMA”) league. The league, in an effort to test audience reception, introduced medieval style fighting into the MMA arena. Rather than your typical MMA fight where two shirtless combatants pummel each other using punches and kicks, the combatants in this arena wore full body armor equipped with blunted swords and shields. The result: a gladiatorial battle between two knights reminiscent of Game of Thrones.

russian-fighting-swords-mma-628

The audience loved it, spurring the M-1 president to state they would pursue developing it into a full league with separate weight categories, provided they find enough fighters. Although this can be dismissed as a mere publicity stunt, it does pose a serious legal question: can weapons be added into MMA fighting leagues?

In some ways, the addition of weapons seems like a natural development in MMA leagues. After all, martial arts has a rich history of incorporating weapons. For example, the Eskrima style of martial arts is the national sport of the Philippines, and is known for emphasizing weapons-based fighting styles with weapons such as sticks, chained-sticks, knives, and daggers. The obvious issue presented by weapons, even blunted weapons, is the substantially increased likelihood of combatants causing serious bodily harm to each other.

The legality of combatants attacking each other with weapons may appear trivial in some regards. The obvious argument is that the fighters have already consented to engage in a fight, and with or without weapons, there is a risk of either fighter causing bodily harm to the other. The law has already contemplated this possibility, and deemed it legal in the circumstances. From this perspective, the legality itself of engaging in an organized fight has not changed. The only tangible difference is the manner in which combatants are permitted to harm each other; before they were limited to the natural extensions of their body (fists and feet), and now they would be permitted an unnatural extension of their body, i.e. a weapon.

The legal issue arises in the fact that the criminality behind inflicting an assault is increased when a weapon is added. Proof of this claim is found Canada’s Criminal Code, as there is a provision for basic assault (section 266) and another provision altogether for assault with a weapon causing bodily harm (section 267). The difference between the two provisions is that assault with a weapon bears a substantially higher period of incarceration of up to ten years. As it stands in Canada, inflicting an assault using a weapon outside the organized sport arena is treated markedly more severe.

If the MMA arena of sport functions as a shield protecting the combatants from criminal liability when assaulting each other without the use of a weapon, can this shield be extended to protect against criminal liability arising from assault with a weapon? There is evidence supporting the conclusion that it just might.

Consider fencing for instance. Fencing is a recognized sport where the combatants use swords against each other. A fencing sword is modified with the addition of a circular tip to prevent it from inflicting serious bodily harm, and is considerably light-weight. The combatants also wear protective gear, notably around their face, as an added precaution against receiving serious bodily harm. This suggests that combatants may use weapons against each other in an organized fight provided adequate precaution has been taken.

It follows that the legality of introducing weapons into MMA leagues likely hinges on the ability for the coordinators to prevent the likelihood of combatants inflicting and suffering serious bodily harm. In the Russian M-1 league the combatants used heavy-weight blunted swords. In an effort to nullify the increased likelihood of inflicting serious bodily-harm, the fighters wore full armor plating. There is a balancing act of ensuring the increased probability of inflicting serious bodily harm is countered by incorporating equally serious preventative measures.

Ultimately, the legality of introducing weapons into MMA leagues would likely come down to the ability of organizers to convince the courts that the safety precautions taken adequately address the increased ability for combatants to inflict serious bodily harm. Time will tell if MMA leagues opt to introduce weapon-based martial arts, likely following a profit versus risk-assessment. In the end, the fights themselves would surely be as entertaining as any legal battle that may ensue.

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The Hostage Cup

December 1, 2015

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By Nawel Benrabah – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student

In 1888, Lord Stanley was appointed Governor General of Canada and witnessed his first ever ice hockey game in Montreal. Soon after, Lord Stanley’s three sons began playing for the Ottawa Rideau Rebels, a team that toured all over Ontario with an aim to promote the “richness of the game.”

Lord Stanley was captivated by the game and had decided that the ice hockey teams of Canada needed a symbol for which they would compete. This idea was advanced and proposed in 1892 on behalf of Lord Stanley by Lord Kilcoursie. The idea was met with great approval and applause.

The Cup was purchased by Lord Stanley for the equivalent of $50 and was destined to be awarded annually to the best hockey team in Canada. Fast forward several years and Lord Stanley’s mug is under the effective control of the NHL. To be clear, the NHL does not own the trophy but rather uses it by an agreement with the Trustees of the Cup.

When Lord Stanley created the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, the trophy was to be held by two Trustees who would oversee the annual tournament and award the champions “The Stanley Cup.”

During the 2005 lockout, the second time in the history of the cup where no champions were crowned, a group of recreation league hockey players from Ontario, named the “Wednesday Nighters” hired Tim Gilberts of Gilberts LLP to challenge the NHL’s exclusive control of the Stanley Cup. The matter was settled before arriving to court and was accompanied by an extensive Confidentiality Agreement. The suit was deemed moot once the NHLPA and NHL had reached this agreement with the Wednesday Nighters. But why all the secrecy?

The NHL is a business cartel composed of owners and administrators who benefit from a multibillion dollar industry dependent upon a trophy that is not theirs to possess. Of course it is in their best (economic) interest to maintain control over the information surrounding any questioning of their “right” to control the cup. Perhaps there is a conflict of interest in that the Trustees of the Cup are former NHL players and Stanley Cup Champions?

In recent years, the Cup has been awarded to the most uncanny and unexpected teams in the league, which include Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. I ask, since when do Californians or Floridians care about hockey? Since their teams won the Stanley Cup!

In 2014, the NHL signed a $4 billion broadcasting agreement with Rogers Communications for the exclusive rights to regular season and some playoffs games. During a Skype guest lecture in the Spring of 2015 with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, a student asked, “Why does the NHL continue to grow the hockey market in California?” He replied simply, “California, and especially Los Angeles is one of the largest broadcasting markets in the United States and there is a clear benefit for the league in pushing and growing the sport from the ground up.” Mr. Daly was referring to the San Jose Sharks recent addition of an American Hockey League team named the San Jose Barracuda, and the possible creation of a new western league.

The last Canadian team to be awarded the Stanley Cup was the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. Yes, that is 22 years ago! Montreal AAA 1893 First Stanley Cup Champions

[Right: Montreal AAA 1893, First “Stanley Cup” Champions.]

Hockey is an important historical, cultural and societal piece of Canadian identity, yet we are so passive when it comes to hockey’s most prized treasure.

The Cup contributes to the NHL’s financial growth annually all the while Canadians are not recompensed for their generosity in allowing the NHL to use their Cup. It is reported that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made $3.5 million during the 2004-05 lockout year and today his salary has tripled to approximately $7.9 million. Imagine if that kind of money was flowing through communities across Canada?

This post could very easily become a tangential dissertation about Executive Compensation however I will end by simply calling on all Canadians/Canadiens to raise their voices and demand that the NHL FREE STANLEY! LIBERER STANLEY!

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