Sports and Health

Fighting in Hockey

Dangerous or sport?

Hockey Fight


  • 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.

Helmet on

Players must keep their helmets on for protection. Failure to do so will result in an extra 2-minute penalty.

Signal ref

Players must signal to the referee once they've agree to end the fight.



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.


Job security

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]


Evolving sport

Enforcer-type players are on the decline, so some believe the league might as well ban fighting. [The Hockey News]


Health risks

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]


  • 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]

Key Vocabulary