WHAT IT IS
Fighting during a professional hockey game is allowed in North America and is considered an established tradition.
NHL Rule 46, the “fisticuffs” rule, regulates the fighting. [NHL]
Each player receives a 5-minute major penalty for fighting. Extra penalties can be added if the referee deems it necessary, but a player cannot be ejected for fighting.
- Fighting is forbidden in the Olympics, in European leagues, and in the NCAA. [The New York Times]
Rules for fighting in NHL
Most fights are set up by the enforcers prior to the game.
Drop sticks and gloves
Both players must drop their hockey sticks and gloves since they could be used as weapons.
Players must keep their helmets on for protection. Failure to do so will result in an extra 2-minute penalty.
Players must signal to the referee once they've agree to end the fight.
WHY IT MATTERS
Fighting has been a recent source of controversy for the sport, especially with more knowledge of contact sports and concussions. Fighting is considered essential to die-hard hockey fans but can be viewed by outsiders as barbaric with serious consequences.
Being an "enforcer" is how some players make it to the NHL. [The Players Tribune]
Agreeing to fight prior to the start of a game could actually protect the players since it prevents opponents from taking cheap shots on defenseless or unwilling players. [Business Insider]
Fighting can be considered a very exciting moment in a hockey game. Many attend games in hopes of a fight. [Business Insider]
Enforcer-type players are on the decline, so some believe the league might as well ban fighting. [The Hockey News]
Fighting could lead to concussions and future neurological problems for enforcers. [Forbes] "Heavyweights" have the potential to knock a player unconscious.
Some feel fighting is not appropriate for young children to watch. [The Guardian]
WHERE WE ARE NOW
NHL Commissioner Garry Bettman indicated that fighting will remain a part of the game for the foreseeable future.
According to an NHL Players’ Association survey, 98% of NHL players support fighting. [The Hockey News]
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Will the sport ever be forced to change?
Learn more about how hockey has evolved into a more skill-oriented game.
Does the love of the game need to come at the price of possible neurological damage?