Fighting In Hockey
Hockey is the only professional sport where fighting is permissible. It may be against the rules, but the practice is tolerated during a game. But does that encourage players to fight for the sake of fighting?
Hockey players do not pick fights for fun. The sport itself is very intense on emotions. It evokes physical reactions that could lead to severe injuries to an opponent. The hockey fights are nuanced and usually break out when a team member is injured unjustly.
This article defines a hockey fight and the penalties imposed on instigators. A brief explanation of the benefits of fighting is also given, emphasizing marketing opportunities in the sport. And if you’re interested in knowing more, read our article covering the aspects of why hockey is a contact sport.
Hockey fights occur when two or more players engage in fistfights. There are special rules for fighting in the game that has remained flexible and varied throughout hockey history. The only thing consistent throughout the evolution of hockey is the assessment for a penalty when fighting is instigated.
Getting penalized for a fight you are permitted to engage in, is a bizarre idea. But it is phrased as a semi-legal practice in most cases. There are a few rules that govern the conduct in a fight. These rules are very intricate for an element that has no immediate impact on the game’s outcomes.
The rules are:
- A single fight can engage only two players, but multiple fights can take place simultaneously.
- Players are not allowed to fight with gloves.
- Mutual consent of both participants is necessary.
- The referee can intervene at any moment deemed appropriate to break the fight.
For professional hockey, the National Hockey League is the authority over hockey regulations used during professional hockey games. So what does it do to discourage fights in the sport? A significant penalty is imposed on all players involved in a fight. A minor penalty is assessed to the instigator, and it teeters on the edge of misconduct. But if the altercation is prolonged for ten minutes, then a significant penalty is imposed.
The teams involved in fights off the ice are fined $25,000. Additional penalties are also imposed on individual players concerning their participation in the event. Suspension for ten games is automatically tagged on players who break Rule 56(a) for instigating fights during the wrong times.
The referee on the field determines the penalties according to the incident. They can also confer with the Commissioner to review a situation and its appropriate penalization for events off the ice surface.
Despite the odd nature, fights in hockey tend to have some kinds of benefits as well. Whether it is the quirk of human nature or a smart marketing strategy, that is hard to know. Still, one thing is clear: hockey fights increase viewership by the thousands. Also, make sure to read our article on why hockey is such a fun sport to watch.
The televised hockey fights have helped the game gain a huge fan base over the years. The grotesque nature of the fights has played a significant role in attracting casual viewers. An individual may not be clear about all of the hockey rules but, they can easily watch a match to see their favourite player get in fistfights with someone who is not as favoured on the ice!
These fights excite people to come to the stands, which can help the team’s finances. If the fighting were eradicated from hockey history, then perhaps, some of the biggest teams would not have been able to make it in the long run.
Fighting in hockey does not impact the scoreboard, but it is respected for the emotional significance on the ice. Announcers point out when players will drop the gloves to ignite the team spirits. If a critical player realizes that his team is in dire need of motivation, he will drop his gloves and fight to show the team that they have not lost the game yet.
Once the team is motivated by a single player’s initiative, they are sometimes observed attributing their victory to the instigator for firing up the team in the right direction.
Fights allow players to police each other on the ice. While this has been limited due to the instigator penalty, the idea is still kept alive during these altercations. When a player faces a star player and finds them involved in dirty plays, they can team up against the star player and combat the unfairness.
Although this concept seems infantile, dirty plays can lead to severe injuries, which is why sometimes offensive players may be taught a lesson about their conduct. It is easy to manage a suspension or even hefty fines, but the knowledge that a player can break your bones on the ice is enough to sometimes cause a fight to put a stop to the dirty plays.
Hockey is primarily a team game, and players on a team defend each other at all times. Fights on the ice can sometimes allow the establishment of genuine team spirit. If one player is cornered, then the entire team sticks together to fight for them.
The unity of the team boosts confidence and can allow everyone to play with their full potential. This can help with their success over the long term.
Since hockey is an aggressive game, the players on the ice sometimes need an altercation to end an ongoing dispute during the game. This is why players drop their gloves on the field and settle the difference immediately instead of letting the beef stew for long.
A fight during the game is easy to manage and can be far less dangerous than festering anger after the game.
One of the oldest traditions of the sport is fighting. It is seamlessly intertwined with the origins and operation of the celebrated game. The practice of fighting keeps generations engrossed in the sport together as they share the most memorable instances from their generation. In the end, the tradition keeps visibility alive.
Viral videos of hockey fights have been mostly responsible for keeping the non-hockey fans intrigued with the sport. Regardless of the viewer’s interest in the sport, most of the games’ viewership enjoys the punches thrown in the face of an offensive player. The spontaneous revenge for dirty play keeps the viewers hooked to their screens and the conversations going.
The violence on the ice is often considered as a marketing strategy because of the function it performs. Undoubtedly, fans enjoy delinquent displays, and permitting fights helps with the growing size of the audience.
It is often observed that for-profit leagues, such as the NHL, are played by pro-fighting teams. In contrast, the teams funded by non-profit organizations break away from fights, such as high school leagues. Also, our article looking into contact in women’s hockey shows that it is not tolerated for players in women’s leagues.
Fighting sells tickets, and that is mostly what matters to the profit-making leagues. This shows that some of the fights on the ice may be for the viewers only, to make them feel like they got what they came to see, which means that not every fight is an organic reaction on the field.
Hockey fights are an emotional experience for the viewers. Fighting helps keep viewership high and growing. It is necessary for the leagues’ marketing and sometimes proves to have positive impacts on the players.
It is not only about an immediate reaction to dirty play on the ice, but about the history it carries in the game as well. Fights have such an impact on the sport that it would remain incomplete without them.
- NHL: NHL Players Want to Keep Fighting, Even if Rule Changes on the Horizon
- Bleacher Report: The Bizarre Culture of Hockey Fighting