World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Fighting in ice hockey

Article Id: WHEBN0000568048
Reproduction Date:

Title: Fighting in ice hockey  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Penalty (ice hockey), Detroit Red Wings–Colorado Avalanche brawl, Blades of Steel, Matthew Barnaby, Donald Brashear
Collection: Aggression, Ice Hockey Penalties, Violence in Ice Hockey, Violence in Sports
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Fighting in ice hockey

A fight during a junior league ice hockey game between Frölunda HC and VIK Västerås HK

Fighting in ice hockey is an established tradition of the sport in North America, with a long history involving many levels of amateur and professional play and including some notable individual fights.[1]

Fighting is usually performed by enforcers, or "goons"—players whose role it is to fight and intimidate—on a given team[2] and is governed by a complex system of unwritten rules that players, coaches, officials, and the media refer to as "the code".[3][4] Some fights are spontaneous, while others are premeditated by the participants.[5] While officials tolerate fighting during hockey games, they impose a variety of penalties on players who engage in fights.

Unique among North American professional team sports, the National Hockey League (NHL) and most minor professional leagues in North America do not eject players outright for fighting[5] but major European and collegiate hockey leagues do, and multi-game suspensions may be added on top of the ejection.[6] Therefore, the vast majority of fights occur in the NHL and other North American professional leagues.

Physical play in hockey, consisting of allowed techniques such as checking and prohibited techniques such as elbowing, high-sticking, and cross-checking, is inextricably linked to fighting.[7]

Although often a target of criticism, it is a considerable draw for the sport, and some fans attend games primarily to see fights.[8] Those who defend fighting in hockey say that it helps deter other types of rough play, allows teams to protect their star players, and creates a sense of solidarity among teammates.[3] The debate over allowing fighting in ice hockey games is ongoing. Despite its potentially negative consequences, such as heavier enforcers (or "heavyweights") knocking each other out, some administrators are not considering eliminating fighting from the game, as some players consider it essential.[9] Additionally, the majority of fans, as well as players,[10] oppose eliminating fights from professional hockey games.[11] However, considerable opposition to fighting exists and efforts to eliminate it continue.


  • History 1
  • Rules and penalties 2
    • North American professional leagues 2.1
    • Collegiate, European, and Olympic 2.2
  • Enforcers 3
  • Causes 4
    • Game-related reasons 4.1
    • Personal reasons 4.2
  • Effect on game 5
  • Efforts to ban fighting 6
  • Etiquette 7
  • Tactics 8
  • Officials' role 9
  • Notable fights and brawls 10
  • Notable promoters 11
  • Notable detractors 12
  • See also 13
  • Footnotes 14
  • References 15
  • Further reading 16


Hockey fights per NHL season
Season # of fights
2013–14 469
2012–13 347*
2011–12 546
2010–11 645
2009–10 714
2008–09 734
2007–08 664
2006–07 497
2005–06 466
Source: 2009 *Lockout shortened year

Fighting has been a part of ice hockey since the sport's rise in popularity in 19th century Canada.[1] There are a number of theories behind the integration of fighting into the game, the most common of which being that the relative lack of rules in the early history of hockey encouraged physical intimidation and control.[1] Other theories include the poverty and high crime rates of rural Canada in the 19th century.[1] The implementation of some features, such as the blue lines in 1918, actually encouraged fighting due to the increased level of physical play. Creation of the blue lines allowed forward passing, but only in the neutral zone. Therefore, puck handlers played at close quarters and were subject to a great deal of physical play. The emergence of enforcers, who protected the puck handlers and fought when necessary, followed shortly thereafter.[7]

In 1922, the NHL introduced Rule 56 that formally regulated fighting, or "Tex Rickard of Madison Square Garden, who also promoted boxing events, saw financial opportunities in hockey fights and devised marketing campaigns around the rivalries between various team enforcers.[12]

In the current NHL rulebook, the archaic reference to "fisticuffs" has been removed; fighting is now governed under Rule 46 in the NHL rulebook. Referees are given considerable latitude in determining what exactly constitutes a fight and what penalties are applicable to the participants. Significant modifications from the original rule involve penalties which can be assessed to a fight participant deemed to have instigated the fight and additional penalties resulting from instigating a fight while wearing a face-shield.

Most fights per NHL season
Season Player # of fights
2012–13 B. J. Crombeen 14
2011–12 Brandon Prust
Shawn Thornton
2010–11 George Parros 27
2009–10 Zenon Konopka 33
2008–09 Zack Stortini 25
2007–08 Jared Boll 27
2006–07 George Parros 18
2005–06 Brian McGrattan 19
2003–04 Krzysztof Oliwa 31
2002–03 Jody Shelley 27
2001–02 Peter Worrell 33
Source: 2007

Although fighting was rarer from the 1920s through the early 1960s, it was more brutal than it is today. Star players were also known to fight for themselves since fewer professional teams existed and competition was fierce for roster spots; therefore enforcer-like players (who usually possess very limited overall skill sets) did not typically make professional teams. However, with the NHL expansion in the late 1960s allowing more players to chances for roster spots and the emergence of star players like Wayne Gretzky, enforcers became more common. Also, the rise of the "Broad Street Bullies" in the 1973–74 and 1974–75 Philadelphia Flyers popularized fighting in the NHL. The average number of fights per game rose above 1.0 during the 1980s.[4] Many teams signed enforcers to protect and fight for smaller offensive stars.[13] By 2009–10, however, the amount of fights in the NHL declined to .58 per game.[4]

Since the 1970s, three rules have curtailed the number and scope of fights in the NHL. In 1977, the league created the "Third Man In" rule which attempts to eliminate the bench-clearing brawl by providing for the ejection of the first player that joins a fight already in progress.[14] Another rule automatically suspends the first player from each team that leaves the bench to join a fight when it is not their shift.[15] In 1992, the "Instigator" rule, which adds an additional two-minute minor penalty to the player who starts a fight,[14] was introduced, though the rule has been controversial.[16]

Rules and penalties

Rules of the NHL, the North American junior leagues, and other North American professional minor leagues punish fighting with a five-minute major penalty. What separates these leagues from other hockey leagues and nearly all other sports is that they do not eject players simply for participating in a fight. However, fighting is punishable by ejection in minor, college, and European leagues, and in international and Olympic competition.

The rulebooks of the NHL and other professional leagues contain specific rules for fighting. These rules state that at the initiation of a fight, both players must drop their sticks so as not to use them as a weapon. Players must also "drop" or shake off their protective gloves in order to fight bare-knuckled, as the hard leather and plastic of hockey gloves would increase the effect of landed blows. Players must also heed a referee warning to end a fight once the opponents have been separated. Failure to adhere to any of these rules results in an immediate game misconduct penalty and the possibility of fines and suspension from future games.[14]

In many leagues, linesmen will permit a fight between two players to run its course until one or both players end up on the ice. Linesmen will actively try to break up fights that are one-sided, where one player gains an advantage, where more than two participants are involved, or in situations involving multiple fights.

In the NHL, when a player is fined, his lost pay goes towards the NHL emergency assistance fund. A fined coach's lost pay goes to the NHL Foundation.[17]

North American professional leagues

Shawn Thornton (left) fighting Wade Brookbank

In the NHL, American Hockey League, ECHL, Southern Professional Hockey League, and other notable minor leagues, officials punish combatants with five-minute major penalties for fighting (hence the phrase "five for fighting"). A player is automatically ejected and suspended if the player tries to leave the bench to join a fight, and is also automatically ejected for using weapons of any kind (such as using a skate to kick an opponent, using a stick to hit an opponent, or wrapping tape around one's hands, or even spitting), as they can cause serious injury. A player who receives two instigator penalties or participates in three fights in a single game is also ejected automatically. Furthermore, his coach can be suspended up to ten games for allowing players to leave the bench to join a fight.[7][15]

A player who commits three major penalties (including fighting) during a game is automatically ejected, suspended, and fined. A player ejected for three major penalties in a game, or for use of weapons, cannot be replaced for five minutes.[7]

Fights almost always start in response to an opponent's rough play. As such, those who engage in fights aren't usually accused of bad sportsmanship.

In 2003, the ECHL added an ejection, fine, and suspension of an additional game for any player charged as an instigator of a fight during the final five minutes of the third period or any overtime. The NHL and AHL adopted the rule in 2005–06, and the NHL includes a fine against the ejected player's head coach.[15]

Collegiate, European, and Olympic

In Division I and Division III NCAA hockey, the fighters are given a Game Disqualification, which is an ejection from the game and a suspension for as many games as the player has accrued Game Disqualifications during the course of a season.

For example, if a player engages in a fight having already received a Game Disqualification earlier in the season, he is ejected from that game and suspended for his team's next two games. This automatic suspension has made fighting in college hockey relatively rare.

Fighting is strictly prohibited in European professional hockey leagues[18] and in Olympic ice hockey.[19] The international rules (by IIHF) specify in the rule 528 – Fisticuffs or Roughing[20] the following penalties (among others):

  • Match penalty (the player is ejected from the game and another player serves 5 minutes in addition to any other penalties imposed in the penalty box) for a player who starts fisticuffs.
  • Minor penalty (2 minutes) for a player who retaliates with a blow or attempted blow.
  • Game misconduct penalty (ejection from the game) in addition to any other penalties for any player who is the first to intervene in fisticuffs which are already in progress.
  • Double minor penalty (4 minutes), major penalty + game misconduct penalty (5 minutes and ejection from the game), or match penalty (at the discretion of the referee) for a player who continue fisticuffs after being told by officials to stop.
  • Misconduct penalty (10 minutes; second misconduct penalty in one game means automatic ejection) for a player who intentionally takes off his gloves in fisticuffs.


The role of "enforcer" on a hockey team is unofficial.[2] Enforcers occasionally play regular shifts like other players, but their primary role is deterring opposing players from rough play. Coaches often send enforcers out when opposing enforcers are on the ice or any time when it is necessary to check excessively physical play by the opposing team.[21] Enforcers, particularly those with questionable playing skills, can be colloquially referred to as goons. As the years go by, the teams need for an enforcer seems to be decreasing. In today's game, coaches and teams want a well rounded player.


There are many reasons for fights during a hockey game. Some reasons are related to game play, such as retaliation, momentum-building, intimidation, deterrence, attempting to draw "reaction penalties", and protecting star players. There are also some personal reasons such as retribution for past incidents, bad blood between players, and simple job security for enforcers.[21]

Game-related reasons

A large fight in an OHL hockey game between the Sudbury Wolves and Ottawa 67s

Of the many reasons for fighting, the foremost is retaliation.[21] When players engage in play that members of the opposing team consider unscrupulous, a fight can ensue. The fight may be between the assailant and the victim, between the assailant and an enforcer from the victim's team, or between opposing enforcers. Fights that occur for retaliation purposes can be in immediate response to an on-ice incident, to incidents from earlier in the game, or to actions from past games.[21] Enforcers who intend to start a fight have to consider their timing due to the Instigator rule. For example, putting the opposing team on a power play due to penalties incurred from fighting is less advisable when the game is close.[22]

Enforcers sometimes start fights to build game momentum and provide a psychological advantage over the opposing team. These fights usually involve two enforcers, but may involve any player who is agitating the opposition.[8] This type of fight raises morale on the team of the player who wins, and often gets the home crowd into the game as well. For that reason, it can also be a gamble to start a fight for momentum; if an enforcer loses the fight, the momentum can swing the wrong way.[23]

Intimidation is an important element of a hockey game[2] and some enforcers start fights just to intimidate opposing players in hopes that they will refrain from agitating skilled players.[24] For example, in the late 1950s, Gordie Howe helped establish himself as an enforcer by defeating Lou Fontinato, a notable tough guy who tallied over 1,200 penalty minutes in his career.[25] Fontinato suffered a broken nose from the fight.[26] After that incident, Howe got a lot more space on the ice and was able to score many goals over the span of his career because he intimidated other players.[27] Conversely, games in European professional leagues are known to be less violent than North American games because fighting is discouraged in Europe by ejection and heavy fines. Since the penalties for fighting are so severe, the enforcers are less able to intimidate opposing players with fighting and said players take more liberties on the ice.[9]

For teams that face each other frequently, players may fight just to send the message to the opposing players that they will be the target of agitation or aggression in future games.[28] Teams that are losing by a considerable margin often start these fights near the end of the game when they have nothing to lose.[29] Enforcers may start fights with more skilled players to draw what is called a "reaction penalty", an undisciplined reaction to aggressive play on the part of the enforcer. This practice is also known to be difficult due to the Instigator rule.[30]

Another reason is the protection of star players. Fighting within the game can also send a message to players and coaches from other teams that cheap shots, dirty plays, targeting specific players will not be tolerated and there will be consequences involved. Fighting can provide retribution for opposing team's players getting targeted or injured. Overall, fighting is known to be a beneficial policing that the game needs to keep players in line. Over the history of hockey, many enforcers have been signed simply to protect players like Gretzky, who was protected by Dave Semenko, Marty McSorley, and others, and Brett Hull, who was protected by Kelly Chase and others.[31] Many believe that without players protecting each other, referees would affect the game play by having to call more penalties, and the league would have to suspend players for longer periods.[32]

Personal reasons

Many young enforcers need to establish their role early in their career to avoid losing their jobs.[33] Due to the farm systems that most professional hockey leagues use, enforcers who get a chance to play at the level above their current one (for example, an American Hockey League player getting a chance to play in an NHL game) need to show other players, coaches, and fans that they are worthy of the enforcer role on the team.[34] Players and coaches enjoy being with enforcers who fight for their teams, not for themselves.[32]

There are also times when players and even entire teams carry on personal rivalries that have little to do with individual games; fights frequently occur for no other reason.[35] An infamous rivalry that produced many fights was between the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche during the 1990s.[36]

Effect on game

Statistics indicate that fights are detrimental to teams' play, or have inconsequential benefits. Since the 1979-1980 season, teams in the bottom three of fighting-related major penalties have finished at the top of the regular-season standings 10 times and have won the Stanley Cup 11 times, while teams in the top three have won the regular season and Stanley Cup only twice each. One statistical analysis calculated that winning a fight benefited a team by about 1/80th of a win in the standings. Two others showed that fights increase scoring, but does so evenly for both teams so do not significantly affect wins. It is very difficult to quantify how much or how little of an impact can have on a team's success. However, it is known that fights do provide momentum to teams and can allow teams to rally off of a teammate fighting an opposing player. Even though it is very hard to prove how much or how little a fight impacts a team and its performance, it is thought to have a huge impact of the game's momentum swing throughout a given game. In a way, fights can be seen as a performance enhancer to a team and may equate to a team's success. [37]

Efforts to ban fighting

The Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine announced in Position Statement in 1988 that "Fighting does cause injuries, which range from fractures of the hands and face to lacerations and eye injuries. At present, it is an endemic and ritualized blot on the reputation of the North American game."

Criticism often arises after single acts of violence committed during fights. For example, on March 21, 2007,

  • Allen, Kevin (1999), Crunch: Big Hitters, Shot Blockers & Bone Crushers: A History of Fighting in the NHL, Triumph Books, .  
  • Bernstein, Ross (2006), The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL, Triumph Books, .  

Further reading

  • Adami, Hugh (February 25, 2007), "Sabres' Ruff stuff results in $10,000 fine", Ottawa Citizen, retrieved June 12, 2013 .
  • Allen, Kevin (1999), Crunch: Big Hitters, Shot Blockers & Bone Crushers: A History of Fighting in the NHL, Triumph Books, .  
  • Associated Press (2007), "Drury injury sparks brawl in Sabres' SO win vs. Sens",  .
  • Barrie Examiner (April 5, 2007), "Keep fighting, hockey fans say", Barrie Examiner .
  • Bernstein, Ross (2006), The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL, Triumph Books, .  
  • Blount, Rachel (2007), "Minnesota Wild brawler thumbs nose at hockey purists",  .
  • Botterill, Cal (2004), "The Psychology of Professional Hockey", Athletic Insight (University of Winnipeg), retrieved April 9, 2007 .
  • Brownlee, Robin (2007), "Fighting debate renewed in hockey circles",  .
  • Burstyn, Varda (1999), The Rites of Men: Manhood, Politics, and the Culture of Sport, University of Toronto Press, .  
  • CBC (1987), "Punch-up in Piestany",  .
  • CBC Sports (2004), "10 Hockey Violence Lowlights",  .
  • Dater, Adrian (March 25, 2007), "Debate? Let's drop the gloves",  .
  • Dater, Adrian (2006), Blood Feud: Detroit Red Wings v. Colorado Avalanche: The Inside Story of Pro Sports' Nastiest and Best Rivalry of Its Era, Taylor Trade Publishing, .  
  • Fisher, Red (2007), "Legendary Richard's fire, pride unmatched", The Gazette .
  • Gough, David (April 4, 2007), "Fighting not necessary for hockey", Courier Press (Wallaceburg, Ontario) .
  • IIHF (2010), Official Rule Book 2010–2014, retrieved November 2, 2010 .
  • Jenkinson, Mike (April 1, 2007), "NHL no place for fighting",  .
  • Joyce, Gare (2006), When the Lights Went Out: How One Brawl Ended Hockey's Cold War and Changed the Game, Doubleday Canada, .  
  • Joyce, Greg (2005), "Ontario native Dean Mayrand wins Hockey Enforcers and collects $62,000", Canadian Press, The (Brockville) Recorder & Times .
  • Lebrun, Pierre (March 24, 2007), "Fighting the good fight",  .
  • Legends of Hockey (2007), "Lou Fontinato", Legends of Hockey, retrieved April 25, 2007 .
  • Lemieux, Josie (2003), A good ol' hockey fight relived, Sports Central, retrieved April 22, 2007 .
  • Maaddi, Rob (March 6, 2004), Flyers bully Senators in 5-3 victory, USA Today, retrieved April 15, 2007 .
  • Maclean's, "Cherry: Has He Gone Too Far?",  .
  • McIntyre, Gordon (March 27, 2007), "Fighting part of hockey: Bettman: Canucks players agree with commissioner about the role of fisticuffs",  .
  • National Hockey League (2012), "NHL Rulebook Rule 46",  .
  • National Hockey League (2012), "NHL Rulebook Rule 70",  .
  • Naylor, David (March 23, 2007), "Fight On?", The Globe and Mail .
  • NCAA (2004), "2004 NCAA Ice Hockey Rules and Interpretations" (PDF), .  
  • Neumann, Thomas (2007), Happy anniversary to Red Wings, Avalanche, .  
  • Pollett, Graham L. (February 9, 2007), "Correspondence", Middlesex-London Health Unit .
  • Rodrigues, Hugo (December 20, 2006), "Board wants ban of OHL fighting",  .
  • Schwartz, Larry (2007), The ageless wonder, .  
  • Spence, Ron (2003), Darren McCarty: Enforcing by Committee, Hockey Enforcers, retrieved April 12, 2007 .
  • Wilson, P. (February 27, 2007), "Hockey brawls ruin a once grand game",  .


  1. ^ a b c d Bernstein 2006, p. 3
  2. ^ a b c Bernstein 2006, p. xix
  3. ^ a b Bernstein 2006, p. xxi
  4. ^ a b c Morrison 2007.
  5. ^ a b Bernstein 2006, p. 31
  6. ^ NCAA 2004, p. 61
  7. ^ a b c d e Bernstein 2006, p. 4
  8. ^ a b Bernstein 2006, p. 36
  9. ^ a b McIntyre 2007
  10. ^
  11. ^ Barrie Examiner 2007
  12. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 5
  13. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 33
  14. ^ a b c NHL Rulebook 46
  15. ^ a b c NHL Rulebook 70
  16. ^ "Fighting in Hockey: A Timeline". CBC. February 27, 2009. 
  17. ^ Associated Press (November 23, 2006). "NHL suspends three players, fines two coaches for Caps-Thrashers melee".  
  18. ^ Brownlee 2007
  19. ^ a b Rodrigues 2006
  20. ^ IIHF 2010, p. 73
  21. ^ a b c d Bernstein 2006, p. 34
  22. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 35
  23. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 38
  24. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 41
  25. ^ Legends of Hockey 2007
  26. ^ Schwartz 2007
  27. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 42
  28. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 46
  29. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 47
  30. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 48
  31. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 53
  32. ^ a b Scott, Nate (2015-01-15). "The Ivy Leaguer who fought his way to the NHL". USA Today. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  33. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 50
  34. ^ Botterill 2004
  35. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 55
  36. ^ Dater 2006
  37. ^ Klein, Jeff Z. (2012-01-22). "Numbers Indicate That Skill Usually Packs a Bigger Punch Than Fists". The New York Times. pp. SP9. Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  38. ^ a b Dater 2007
  39. ^ Lebrun 2007
  40. ^ Naylor 2007
  41. ^ Wilson 2007
  42. ^ Jenkinson 2007
  43. ^ Gough 2007
  44. ^ Klein 1986
  45. ^ "Fighting not up for debate: Bettman". CBC News. March 26, 2007. 
  46. ^ Pollett 2007
  47. ^ Hackel, Stu; Klein, Jeff Z. (January 2, 2009). "Senior Player Dies From Injury Sustained in On-Ice Fight". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  48. ^ Bishop, Dr. Pat (January 6, 2009). "Editorial: Fighting has no place in hockey". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  49. ^ "Hockey player's death prompts helmet questions". The Hamilton Spectator. January 2, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  50. ^ "Derek Boogard - A Brain 'Going Bad'", New York Times, Dec 5, 2011 10:05 AM ET. Part 3 of a three-part series chronicling Boogard's life and the posthumous research on his brain. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  51. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 56
  52. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 57
  53. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 60
  54. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 100
  55. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 65
  56. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 69
  57. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 70
  58. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 74
  59. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 73
  60. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 76
  61. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 62
  62. ^ Spence 2003
  63. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 63
  64. ^ a b "Officiating Procedures Manual" (PDF). International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  65. ^ Bernstein 2006, p. 77
  66. ^ Dave Seminara (Dec 22, 2009). "Over the Glass and Into Hockey Lore". NY Times. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  67. ^ "Legends of Hockey -- NHL Player Search -- Player -- Wayne Maki".  
  68. ^ Lemieux 2003
  69. ^ CBC 1987
  70. ^ Joyce 2006
  71. ^ "NHL Recap (Colorado-Detroit)".  
  72. ^ BBC (February 10, 2001). "Brawl taints Panthers' victory". Retrieved 2006-12-29. 
  73. ^ CBC (February 14, 2001). "British league suspends Canadian hockey brawlers". Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  74. ^ "BBC SPORT - OTHER SPORTS - League punishes teams over brawl". 
  75. ^ Maaddi 2004
  76. ^ (2010). "Матч КХЛ был сорван массовой дракой хоккеистов". Retrieved 2010-01-09. 
  77. ^ "This is hockey?". 2010-01-09. 
  78. ^ "Both teams lose". 2010-01-10. 
  79. ^ "Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames Brawl To Start Saturday Night's Game". Huffington Post (BC). 2014-01-18. 
  80. ^ Maclean's
  81. ^ Joyce 2005
  82. ^ Blount 2007
  83. ^ "Fighting has no place in hockey, GG says". CBC. January 26, 2012. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  84. ^ Burstyn 1999, p. 139


See also

Notable detractors

  • Fighting is a popular component of Don Cherry's Rock 'em Sock 'em Hockey video-highlight series. Cherry has made more than 20 editions of the series which has sold more than a million videos.[80]
  • The [81]
  • The late enforcer Derek Boogaard, then of the Minnesota Wild, started hockey fighting camps for children in 2007, complete with T-shirts splattered with artificial blood. Boogaard argued that the focus was on teaching players how to protect themselves, but critics argued that it contradicted efforts to renew youth interest in joining leagues.[82]

Notable promoters

  • World Hockey Association Birmingham Bulls enforcer Dave Hanson, known for his 11-year professional career and role in the movie Slap Shot, fought hall of famer Bobby Hull of the Winnipeg Jets and in the process got Hull's wig caught in his knuckles. The incident landed Hanson in the news, and irate Winnipeg fans attempted to assault him on his way out of the arena.[65]
  • On December 23, 1979 at the end of a 4-3 Boston Bruins victory over the New York Rangers, an altercation led to most of the Bruins scaling the plexiglass and fighting several fans at Madison Square Garden. Terry O'Reilly, Mike Milbury, and Peter McNab were fined and suspended several games. The incident led to higher plexiglass in the arena, and has entered sports lore.[66]
  • In an NHL preseason game between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues on September 21, 1969, Bruins defenceman Ted Green and Blues left wing Wayne Maki, attacking Green, engaged in a bloody stick-swinging fight[67] that resulted in Green sustaining a skull fracture and brain damage, forcing him to miss the entirety of the 1969–70 NHL season, with Maki emerging uninjured. As a result of the fight, Green would play for the remaining nine years of his professional career with a pioneering variety of hockey helmet in both the NHL and WHA.
  • April 20, 1984 – A bench-clearing brawl broke out at the end of the second period of a second-round playoffs matchup between the Quebec Nordiques and the Montreal Canadiens, after many smaller-scaled battles had occurred throughout the game. A second bench-clearing brawl erupted before the third period began, provoked by the announcement of penalties; a total of 252 penalty minutes were incurred and 10 players were ejected. This game prompted referee Bruce Hood to retire from the NHL once the playoffs ended,[68] and is commonly referred to as the Good Friday Massacre.
  • January 4, 1987 – The Punch-up in Piestany: A World Junior Ice Hockey Championships game between Canada and the Soviet Union was the scene of a bench-clearing brawl that lasted 20 minutes and prompted officials to turn off the arena lights in an attempt to stop it, forcing the IIHF to declare the game null and void. The fighting was particularly dangerous as fighting was a surprise and a custom unknown to the Soviet players, some of whom escalated the fighting beyond what was considered acceptable in North America. Both teams were ejected from the tournament, costing Canada an assured medal, and the Soviet team were barred from the end-of-tournament dinner.[69] A book by Gare Joyce was written regarding the event.[70]
  • March 26, 1997, Brawl in Hockeytown – The Avalanche and the Red Wings engaged in nine fights, including bouts between Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux and goalies Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon.
  • April 1, 1998 - A game between the Avalanche and Red Wings involved a fight between goaltenders Chris Osgood & Patrick Roy in which both goaltenders received minor, major, and game misconduct penalties.[71]
  • February 9, 2001 – A game between the Nottingham Panthers and the Sheffield Steelers in the British Superleague saw "one of the worst scenes of violence seen at a British ice hockey rink". When Sheffield enforcer Dennis Vial crosschecked Nottingham forward Greg Hadden, Panthers enforcer Barry Nieckar subsequently fought with Vial which eventually escalated into a 36-man bench-clearing brawl. Referee Moray Hanson sent both teams to their locker rooms and delayed the game for 45 minutes while tempers cooled and the officials sorted out the penalties. Eight players and both coaches were ejected, and a British record total of 404 penalty minutes were incurred during the second period. The League handed out 30 games in suspensions to four players and Steelers coach Mike Blaisdell and a total of £8,400 in fines.[72][73][74]
  • March 5, 2004 – A Philadelphia Flyers – Ottawa Senators game resulted in five consecutive brawls in the closing minutes of the game, including fights between many players who are not known as enforcers and a fight between Flyers goalie Robert Esche and Senators goalie Patrick Lalime. The game ended with an NHL record 419 penalty minutes, and an NHL record 20 players were ejected, leaving five players on the team benches. The officials took 90 minutes to sort out the penalties that each team had received.[75]
  • January 9, 2010 – In a Kontinental Hockey League game between Vityaz Chekhov and Avangard Omsk, a bench-clearing brawl broke out in the 4th minute of the first period, and a bench- and penalty-box clearing brawl broke out 39 seconds later, forcing officials to abandon the game as there were only four players left. 33 players and both team's coaches were ejected, and a world record total of 707 penalty minutes were incurred during the game.[76][77] The KHL imposed fines totaling 5.7 million rubles ($191,000), suspended seven players, and counted the game as a 5–0 defeat for both teams, with no points being awarded.[78]
  • January 18, 2014 - A game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames erupts into a line brawl from the opening face-off. Vancouver had just returned from a deplorable one-goal, no-win road trip. Calgary then inflamed the Canucks further by starting with their fourth line. Vancouver line-matched, and Calgary instigated the fight. Significant penalties and more than a few ejections were assessed, but since the incident did not involve the goalies or the star players, play eventually resumed although sporadic fights erupted throughout the game.[79]

Some fights have attracted significant media attention due to injuries sustained by one or both participants and other factors.

Notable fights and brawls

In a multiple fight situation the linesman will normally break up fights together, one fight at a time using the same procedures for a single fight. The linesmen will communicate with each other which fight to break up. In a multiple fight situation the referee will stand in an area of the ice where he/she can have a full view of all the players and will write down—on a pad of paper commonly known as a "riot pad"—the numbers of the players that are involved in the fights, watching for situations that warrant additional penalties, such as players removing opponents helmets, players participating in a second fight, players leaving a bench to participate in a fight, or 3rd players into a fight. The referee will not normally break up a fight unless the linesmen need assistance, or a fight is occurring where a player has gained a significant advantage over the other player, leading to concerns of significant injury.[64]

In a single fight situation the linesmen will communicate with each other as to which player they will take during the fight, clear out any sticks, gloves, or other equipment that has been dropped and wait for a safe time to enter the fight, which they will do together. If both players are still standing while the linesman enter, the linesman will approach from each side (never from behind), bring their arms over the combatants arms and wrap them around, pushing downwards and breaking the players apart. If the players have fallen, the linesmen will approach from the side (never over the skates), getting in between the two players. One linesman will use his body to shield the player on the bottom from the other player while his partner will remove the top player from the fight. Most linesman will allow a fight to run its course for their own safety, but will enter a fight regardless if one player has gained a significant advantage over his opponent. Once the players have been broken up, the linesmen then escort the players off the ice. During this time the referee will keep other players from entering the fight by sending them to a neutral area on the ice and then watching the fight and assessing any other penalties that are to be assessed.[64]

Officials trying to break up a brawl between Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks

Throughout a game, the referee and linesmen have a role in preventing fights through the way they are managing the game—calling penalties, breaking up scuffles before they escalate, etc. Despite an official's best efforts, though, fights do occur and once they do, the referee and linesmen have a certain set of responsibilities to follow in order to safely break up the fight. None of these responsibilities are written in any rule book, but often are dictated in officials procedures manuals.

Officials' role

Other examples include Gordie Howe's tactic of holding the sweater of his opponent right around the armpit of his preferred punching arm so as to impede his movement. Bob Probert, of the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, was known to allow his opponents to punch until they showed signs of tiring, at which time he would take over and usually dominate the fight. Some consider long-time Buffalo Sabres enforcer Rob Ray to be the reason that hockey jerseys are now equipped with tie-down straps ("fight straps") that prevent their removal; he would always remove his jersey during fights so his opponents would have nothing to grab on to. This is commonly referred to as the "Rob Ray Rule".[63]

Fighting tactics are governed by several actual rules and enforcers also adopt informal tactics particular to their style and personality. One tactic adopted by players is known as "going for it", in which the player puts his head down and just throws as many punches as he can, as fast as he can. In the process, that player takes as many punches as he delivers, although some of them are to the hard forehead. Fighters usually must keep one hand on their opponent's jersey since the ice surface makes maintaining balance very difficult. For this reason, the majority of a hockey fight consists of the players holding on with one hand and punching with the other.[61] Enforcers such as Darren McCarty advocated letting the opposing enforcer get a few punches in before putting in maximum effort, and assert that fighting is as much about knowing how to take a punch as it is about delivering punches.[62]


Another important aspect of etiquette is simply fighting fairly and cleanly. Fairness is maintained by not wearing equipment that could injure the opposing fighter, such as face shields, gloves, or masks,[58] and not assaulting referees or linesmen.[59] Finally, whatever the outcome of the fight, etiquette dictates that players who choose to fight win and lose those fights gracefully. Otherwise, they risk losing the respect of their teammates and fans.[60]

Long-standing rivalries result in numerous rematches, especially if one of the enforcers has to decline an invitation to fight during a given game. This is one of the reasons that enforcers may fight at the beginning of a game, when nothing obvious has happened to agitate the opponents.[56] On the other hand, it is bad etiquette to try to initiate a fight with an enforcer who is near the end of his shift, since the more rested player will have an obvious advantage.[57]

Enforcers typically only fight each other, with only the occasional spontaneous fight breaking out between one or two opponents who do not usually fight.[53] There is a high degree of respect among enforcers as well; they will respect a rival who declines a fight because he is playing with injuries, a frequent occurrence, because enforcers consider winning a fight with an injured opponent to be an empty victory.[54] This is also known as granting a "free pass".[55]

There are several informal rules governing fighting in ice hockey that players rarely discuss but take quite seriously.[51] The most important aspect of this etiquette is that opposing enforcers must agree to a fight, usually via a verbal or physical exchange on the ice. This agreement helps both players avoid being given an instigator penalty, and helps keep unwilling participants out of fights.[52]


Fighters such as Bob Probert and Derek Boogard have been posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease of the brain caused by repeated brain trauma. While the NHL took steps to limit head trauma from blindslide hits, it was criticized for doing nothing to reduce fighting, which consists of repeated deliberate blows to the head.[50] It is unknown if Boogaard's death was mainly attributed from his repeated head trauma from fighting and hits or from a possible addiction to painkillers while simultaneously abusing alcohol. His brain has been sent to Boston University for further testing and there has been no conclusive information that has been released regarding whether or not trauma related injuries Boogaard has suffered while in the NHL were the sole cause of his death.

The first known death directly related to a hockey fight occurred when Don Sanderson of the Whitby Dunlops, a top-tier senior amateur team in Ontario's Major League Hockey, died in January 2009, a month after sustaining a head injury during a fight: Sanderson's helmet came off during the fight, and when he fell to the ice, he hit his head.[47] His death renewed calls to ban fighting among critics.[48] In reaction, the league has stated that they are reviewing the players' use of helmets.[49]

Community members often become involved in the debate over banning fighting. In December 2006, a Ontario Hockey League, where the Knights compete, by attempting to gain the support of other school boards and by writing letters to OHL administrators.[19] On the advice of its Medical Health Officer, the Middlesex-London Health board has supported recommendations to ban fighting across amateur hockey and to increase disciplinary measures to ensure deterrence.[46]

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at 2007 press conference broadcast on CBC Sports said "Fighting has always had a role in the game...from a player safety standpoint, what happens in fighting is something we need to look at just as we need to look at hits to the head. But we're not looking to have a debate on whether fighting is good or bad or should be part of the game.".[45]

Some sports journalists have been articulating the idea with increasing frequency during the 2006–07 NHL season that fighting adds nothing to the sport and should be banned. Among the reasons they cite are that it is unsportsmanlike,[41] is a "knee-jerk" reaction that detracts from the skillful aspects of the game,[42] and that it is simply a waste of time.[43] Opponents of fighting cite the fact that international and college hockey, which both harshly penalize fighting with suspensions, lack the incidents or "stick work" violence proponents claim to fear, and question what it is about North American professional ice hockey players—unique to major professional team sports—that renders them incapable of controlling themselves on the ice without fighting. However, fighting provides a means of security for players. Fighting is a tool that players use to keep opposing players in check. Fighting allows players to police which hits and dirty plays are unacceptable. [44]

[40], have been circulating and the idea of banning fighting in response to incidents such as the Fedoruk–Orr fight.Colin Campbell Some league administrators, such as former NHL senior vice-president and director of hockey operations [38]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.