Every new campaign, the question of whether it is time to ban fighting in hockey is asked and there is no shortage of answers. Hockey is notoriously known for permitting fist fighting that is often an attempt by the players to quarrel any lingering issues during the game between each team. This is vastly different then the other major sports today. Football does not permit any fist fighting at all, and any participants are often recipients of severe sanctions. Basketball follows the same path, as any players involved in altercations are ejected immediately. Baseball as well results in the ejecting of players and coaches involved. Therefore, fighting in hockey provides more negatives than positives to the game and a ban on fighting should be implemented.
Any individual unfamiliar with its rules may wonder why then does the National Hockey League allow fist fighting (with only a small penalty for taking part in the altercation rather than an ejection). For those unfamiliar with that answer, the consistent one given by those who are familiar is that fighting is a big part of the game of hockey. It acts as a way to deter players from possible intentions of hurting goalies, star players, or other important players. It is often referred to as being a part of the “culture” of hockey. An example of this culture would be, if one of your players attempts a dirty play on one of my teammates then it is encouraged and expected that I am to come to the defense of my teammate and fight you because as a “tough guy” that is what I am paid to do and how I make my living.
It is often argued that fighting in hockey can energize the fans and the players, while that is true; this energy often only lasts for a short period of time. Hence, fighting does not serve a true purpose on the outcome of a hockey game. The result of a fight does not guarantee that one team will win, nor does winning a fight garner points for a team. It does the opposite. It eliminates a player from each team for a short period of time, and also can cause injury, which potentially removes a player from their team for an extended period of time. A majority of fighting occurs in what most people understand as “garbage time.” This is when one team is significantly ahead of another and as a result the opposing team often musters up altercations for lack of purpose in the actual game itself. This again demonstrates how fighting in the game of hockey does not provide any positives to the result of the game.
Furthermore, if there is a ban on fighting in hockey, fans will see an increase in players with skill and ability and a decrease in players who contribute only to the fighting or physicality of the sport. There has already been a decrease in the employment of players who can only play tough, and an increase in players who can play tough but also possess the skills and abilities needed to contribute to team success. This will only help the game, as it will add to the speed, skill, and overall quality to each and every game.
Additionally, the encouragement of fighting promotes violence to an audience, which includes young children. Each time a game is on involving favourite household teams, families gather together to watch a hockey game and cheer on their beloved team. Children often dream of one day being on that same ice. With such a large young fan base, hockey is promoting violence through the existence of fighting. I remember being a young boy playing the sport of hockey, and in the street with friends, it always was amusing and fun to emulate fighting the way the professionals did. We have talked throughout lectures, and have read articles written about whether or not we should have young kids participating in the game of football. Less attention is made on whether young kids should be watching hockey. Fighting is in its most raw form, legalized assault within the confines of an arena and a set of rules. Do we expect young people to just ignore this type of violence and not try to emulate similar circumstances with their friends on the street? It can be understood that children will inevitably be exposed to violence during their years of adolescence, however, it seems plausible to try and focus their attention towards the work ethic and skills of the players rather than the ruthlessness and aggression that fighting entails.
Perhaps the biggest reason behind the push for the banning of fighting in hockey would be the head injuries that a fight causes. A hockey fight follows boxing in that the common goal is to punch your opponent, with the head being the primary target. In his article about violence and aggression in contemporary sport, Jim Parry makes a strong argument regarding taking the principal point of contact, the head, out of boxing saying “you can’t have boxing without the head as a target. That’s like having rugby without scrums, or the steeplechase without jumps.” (Parry 1998, 219). This demonstrates, as fighting in hockey is similar to boxing, the principal point of contact is the head, which results in severe injuries such as concussions that may keep a player out for awhile, or injuries that may not affect the player in the present, but will have ramifications in the future.
There are still those who believe that there is a place in hockey for fighting. As a former hockey player and fan of the game, I completely understand the perspective of players and some fans as to why the activity should remain. It is definitely exciting you cannot deny that. However, fighting within the confines of hockey provides more negatives than it does positives and as a result the time to ban fighting in hockey should be implemented sooner rather than later.
There are links below to different articles, as well as statistics outlining how removing fighting from hockey would be beneficial to the game.
By: Joseph Di Pompeo
Student No. 250621122
Resources (Articles & Statistics):
McNamee M.J., and S.J. Parry, Ethics and Sport, (London & New York: 1998), 219.