Fighting in Hockey

Currently, there is lots of debate about the topic regarding whether or not fighting in hockey should be allowed. Fighting is an essential part of hockey because it allows players to be punished for a dirty hit on another player, and is not limited to the referee’s discretion. A dirty hit in hockey is any hit that is unexpected or unnecessary with the intent to severely injure a player.  Fighting has always been a part of hockey and I believe removing it would make the sport even more dangerous.

People think that fighting should not be allowed because it is too similar to a street fight. I do not agree with this belief because fighting in hockey occurs in a strictly regulated environment; consent is present between the two players and there are referees present to help oversee the fight. Referees will intervene if the fight gets out of hand or once a player is on the ground. Yes, fighting in hockey is violent and the intention of a fight is to beat your opponent, but ultimately it is the players’ decision as they both have mutually consented.

Fighting in hockey can occur when a dirty hit on a player is thrown, in which one of the victim’s teammates will step up and fight the player who delivered the hit. An example of this was is in a game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Montreal Canadians. A star player from the Canadians got hit from behind which caused an injury to his back severe enough to warrant a trip the hospital. For some reason the referee did not think the hit was worthy of a penalty and a player from the Canadians skated right over to the guy who made the dirty hit and initiated a fight. This demonstrates great teamwork because you want to make sure that your teammates always have your back and will stand up for you. It allows for star players to not worry about being headhunted, as other opponents fear potential retaliation.  For further reading on a first person perspective about fighting in hockey, read the article called Why We Fight written by a player from the Montreal Canadians, http://www.theplayerstribune.com/why-we-fight/.

Hockey with fighting allows the sport to be safer because the players know there will be consequences for implementing dirty hits. The “enforcer” of the team is an unofficial role in hockey but it deals with the response to violent plays by the opposing team. Most likely, a dirty hit will be executed on a star player in order to reduce their level of play. These actions should not go unnoticed and that player needs to know not to unfairly hit their player again. Without fighting, playing hockey would be dangerous for smaller, more skilled players to be on the ice for fear of the opposing team’s dirty hits. Fighting is a way for players to receive a consequence, otherwise not given, for their actions that may deter them from repeating the same behaviour.

A study was conducted analyzing 710 hockey fights and out of those, only 17 caused injuries, five of them to the knuckles. The study also showed that the “risk of concussion in a fight was much lower for brawling hockey players (0.39 percent) compared to the risk for those who checked one another (nearly 4.5 percent).” People who think fighting in hockey is the main cause of injury will be surprised to learn that the risk of simply partaking in the sport leads to more injuries. Both players involved in a fight are aware of the risks that are involved and choose to engage regardless of the potential injuries. To read more about the study analyzing 710 fights and the conclusions made, read Randy Dotinga’s article titled, Hockey Fistfights Rarely Cause Injuries, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/bones-joints-and-muscles/articles/2011/10/21/hockey-fistfights-rarely-cause-injuries-study-claims.

Aggression is prevalent in hockey due to the sheer nature of the sport; two opposing teams in constant physical struggle for the puck and trying to get it through a wall of defenders to have a clear shot on net. According to Jim Parry in his article, Violence and Aggression in Contemporary Sport, the type of aggression found in hockey is considered offensive aggression. This type of aggression encompasses activities that are allowed in a sport to gain an advantage over another player. Parry believes, “violence in a sport might be seen as: harm or injury to others which is against the rules.” I look at fighting in hockey as being part of the rules because there are guidelines outlining penalization for taking part in a fight. With this being said, is fighting in hockey not considered violence? The definition of violence is “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” According to the definition, fighting in hockey is considered violence because there is an intent to hurt the other player. However, Parry’s definition of violence fails to encompass the violent acts in sports that are seen in the confines of the rules. I think fighting in hockey should be considered violence due to the aggressive nature of play. Those players who do resort to fighting will be penalized by being awarded a penalty that will deem them unable to play.

When two players agree to fight, they know that they will be in the penalty box for 5 minutes, unable to assist their team. Fighting in hockey is necessary in certain circumstances only if the benefit out weighs the 5 minute penalty that will be awarded to both players. If fighting was removed fully from hockey, there would be a lot dirtier playing and more injuries resulting from players not being able to let off some steam by dropping the gloves. Removing fighting could result in players settling disputes off the ice which would be more dangerous and lead to worse repercussions.

There will always be a place for fighting in hockey. If you remove fighting from the game, there is no real back lash for players taking runs at each other.Does the penalty a fourth line player receives really proper punishment for injuring a star player? If the hit is to bad the player may receive a game suspension or just a penalty for interference. The consequences don’t really matter to a player on the third or fourth line if he takes out the opposing teams star player. With a star player being injured, it can turn an entire series around. If fighting is removed, and players are not worried about the consequences of a dirty hit, more player will get injured from open ice hits.

References:

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/bones-joints-and-muscles/articles/2011/10/21/hockey-fistfights-rarely-cause-injuries-study-claims

http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/nhl/nhl-safer-with-fighting-players-say-1.2416907

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/why-we-fight/

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