Many believe fighting is an essential part of the game in hockey.
Some fans abhor it, but others get pumped when the gloves are thrown down and the ballet of two grown men on skates pummeling each other begins.
But violence in hockey is down. Twenty years ago, 42% of NHL hockey games had at least one fight in them. Today, it’s less than 15%.
To some, that’s a tragedy. After all, part of the beauty of hockey is the barbarity of it all.
So for those who enjoy that part of the game, why not eliminate the hockey part and just have the fighting?
That’s the brainchild of a former hockey player turned general manager of a minor-league hockey team in the early 2000s.
A.J. Galante’s team was known as the Trashers and they quickly became known for fighting on the ice. His story was featured on a Netflix series called “Untold: Crime and Penalties.”
Ice Wars International
Although the Trashers are gone, Galante’s influence remains.
Galante created something called Ice Wars International and the idea is to just feature fighting in hockey. No more hockey. Just the fighting.
Eliminate the middle man.
The first contest was held this past Saturday in Edmonton, Alberta. According to a combat sports site, the event featured an 8-man tournament and two “grudge match” bouts, all using MMA gloves and full hockey gear (minus sticks)—with each tournament fight consisting of two 1-minute rounds.
And it was all regulated by the Wyoming Combat Sports Commission.
Fans loved it. Outkick’s Joe Kinsey said the game is brilliant because it gives the consumer what they want.
“Professional hockey has pretty much legislated goons right out of the sport, so in steps Galante to give fans what they used to see at a hockey rink — minus the actual game,” Kinsey said.
“It’s absolutely genius and makes me think there are other possibilities out there like running backs vs. linebackers. We live in a TikTok society that wants 20-second content bursts to satisfy their brains,” he said.
In order to give this new league some credibility though, it needed a commission to oversee it. That way it would have a semblance of order, some rules, and structure.
Enter Cheyenne’s Bryan Pedersen, an investment advisor, former legislator and MMA fighter.
Pedersen created the Wyoming Combat Sports Commission. His commission sanctioned the first legal American bareknuckle fighting event since the 1800s. The live event held in 2019 at the Ice and Events Center in Cheyenne was viewed by more than 100 million people across the world.
In November, Pedersen hosted the world Lethwei title fight at the Ice and Events Center. Lethwei, the national sport of Myanmar, is a combat sport that allows the use of fists, knees, elbows, feet, clinches, and headbutts.
The match drew over 3.1 million streams.
Ice Wars International reached out to Pedersen because of the success he’s had in the combat sports world.
“They contacted us and we have a rule that says if we can do it safely and there is some precedent for regulating the sport, we can do it, so we worked with them for the promulgation of rules,” he said.
The larger picture is the financial opportunity, Pedersen said. Pay-per-view streams mean money and economic development for Wyoming.
“When you hear ‘Live from Wyoming,’ we don’t have enough money in the state tourism board to be in front of 3.1 million people in a two-hour time period,” Pedersen said.
“People are going to think about going to see Cheyenne Frontier Days, Thermopolis, Yellowstone, Cody or whatever,” he said. “It’s a great way to get our name out.”
Now, he wants Ice Wars International to call Wyoming home.
The group is interested, he said, because of what his commission was able to do two years ago.
During the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020, Cheyenne was epicenter of combat sports.
While most other venues across the country were shut down, Pedersen held 13 combat sports events in Cheyenne. They all followed the state’s health rules and no COVID cases were recorded.
“We’ve proven that we’re a venue that can attracts crowds and they can make a lot of money from Pay-Per-View,” he said.
“We’re saying, ‘Yeah, you can make your money off of pay-per-view, but let’s produce it out of Wyoming,’” he said.
And not just in Cheyenne, he said. Because Ice Wars has a mobile arena — an ice platform that can be transported from city to city, Pedersen believes it can travel throughout the state.
“Indoor, outdoor, whatever,” he said. “We can move it all over Wyoming.”
The advantage, he said, to moving the company here is the regulatory framework in the Cowboy State.
“We’re regulation-friendly,” he said. “We’re open to industry coming to us. We’ve proven we can do it.”
In the immediate future, Pedersen foresees five or six weight classes with 20 to 30 regular fighters. Ice Wars International will eventually expand, he said, and work on branding some household names.
He said he hopes to find a Wyoming hockey player to sign-up to give up some hometown support.