Should Fighting be Illegal in Ice Hockey?

Fighting is usually illegal in sport except ice hockey, why? Fighting in hockey has been banned everywhere outside the NHL (National hockey league) and the EIHL (Elite ice hockey league) in minor leagues, college teams or academy teams. Fighting has been a part of the NHL since 1917 and has increased rapidly, in the early 1960s there was a 20% chance of a fight but in the 1980s it had increased to 100%. This equals to at least one fight per game which increased the fan-base. Ice hockey fighting videos have millions of views on YouTube.

There is a “code” in hockey which shows if you play the game you fight if you have to and each and every player is informed about this so called “code” even before they sign the contract joining the team, In the season 2016-2017 there were 372 fights in 1,230 games.

Ross Bernstein, the author of the book, the code: the unwritten rules of fighting and retaliations in the NHL said “hockey is, and always has been, a sport steeped in a culture of violence, players have learned, however, to navigate through its mazes and labyrinths of physical contact by adhering to an honor code of conduct.”

Steven Stamkos, a former Tampa Bay lightning player said “you have to police yourself sometimes on the ice, when you see a fight, now it’s a response someone didn’t like something that was done on the ice. I think you need that, it’s healthy”

You have 12 grown men in a contained area, moving at high speeds (as high as 30 mph, ice hockey is the fastest team sport) there is a lack of space to move and a lot of avoiding people and getting hit into the side of the rink, contact is unavoidable. Contact is encouraged and is an important part of the game. Sometimes when a player doesn’t have the puck, they are inspired to body-check somebody. Most of the time players don’t think they’ve been hit cleanly or it wasn’t necessary, or they got embarrassed and they want payback, so it starts a fight. Players have a fierce loyalty to their teammates, like other sports they “hate” their opponents and want to defeat them. The need to feel that they are physically and skillfully better than their opponents in every way.

The NHL has been seen to encourage players to fight or at least try and start some sort of excitement because fights increase attendance which means more money for the clubs and it’s entertaining to watch if the game isn’t as interesting enough, a majority of fans oppose a fighting ban at the professional level because it makes the game for interesting and more for your money, ticket prices for a single game can go from $20-$500 depending if you get a good seat or not.

“Fighting exists in hockey because we enjoy watching people fight” Travis Hughes, former player of the Toronto Maple Leafs

Fighting causes 10% of concussions in hockey, it can also lead to long term health problems, heavy use of pain medication, and even death. Scientists and doctors found that players who were known as “enforcers” who are players who stand up for their team and defend their players by any means necessary, almost 23% had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which is a degenerative brain disease cause by blunt impact to the head (most likely from being punched).

Scientists are still doing research to determine how much brain damage an enforcer in the NHL receives during their playing career, but new research is coming out about TBI’s (Traumatic Brain Injuries) that results in behaviour like Alzheimer’s Disease. The biggest difference between TBI and Alzheimer’s is that TBI is purely caused by repeated brain trauma and is completely preventable. Other effects of brain injuries include anger, depression, , anxiety, violence, inappropriate actions, , , lack of , poor , and emotional outbursts. An enforcer is an unofficial role in ice hockey it means like a “fighter”, “tough guy” or a “goon”.

An enforcer’s job is to respond to dirty or violent play by someone in the other team, the enforcer is expected to respond aggressively, by fighting or checking the player, they are expected to react harshly to violence against star players or goalies. Enforcers are signed to take out or injury the star players on the other team, so they have a better chance at winning. Enforcers are different from “pests” in hockey, a pest’s role is to draw penalties from the other team causing them to get distracted, they are too busy trying to fix the line up to replace the missing player due to the penalty their whole team is off guard or getting them off their game, while not actually intending to fight the opposition player, pests and enforcers often play together on the same line up.

On the 15th of August 2011 Rick Rypien was found dead; He played several seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, He was only 27. He had a long battle with clinical depression have been linked to his death. This is not the first piece of news this off-season to the hockey world as Derek Boogaard was found dead in his apartment on May 13th, he was 28 at the time. The Medical Examiner found Boogaard’s cause of death to be a mix of alcohol and the painkiller Oxycodone. These two young, great hockey players were both enforcers, who fought for the sake of their team.

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