Home Sports Why Is Fighting Allowed in Hockey: Exploring the Best Hockey Fights

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Why Is Fighting Allowed in Hockey: Exploring the Best Hockey Fights

Fighting in ice hockey is a unique and regulated aspect of the sport, deeply rooted in its history and culture.

Despite growing concerns over health risks, it remains an integral part of the game, with strict rules and a code of conduct among players guiding its occurrence.

Key Takeaways
  • Despite seeming chaotic, fights in hockey are regulated by strict rules and result in specific penalties.
  • Fighting has been a part of hockey since its early days, influenced by an unwritten code among players to defend teammates and boost team spirit.
  • Due to health concerns, especially related to brain injuries, the number of fights in hockey has significantly decreased over the years, sparking ongoing debates about their place in the sport.

The Rules of Fighting in Ice Hockey

To the untrained eye, hockey fights might look like chaotic brawls. However, they are regulated by strict rules, especially in professional leagues like the National Hockey League (NHL).

According to the NHL rulebook, a fight is officially defined when at least one player punches or attempts to punch an opponent repeatedly. Additionally, fights can occur if two players wrestle in a way that prevents the linesmen from separating them.

Fighting is limited to two players at a time, though multiple fights can happen simultaneously on the ice. The instigator rule (Rule 46.11) imposes additional penalties on the player who starts the fight.

This rule, while sometimes controversial, is one of many that govern fighting in hockey. Penalties can also apply to players who leave the bench to join a fight, fight off the playing surface, or fight non-player personnel, such as coaches.

Why Fighting is Encouraged in Ice Hockey

A very interesting fact about ice hockey is that even though fighting breaks the rules, it’s often allowed and even expected because of a long-standing tradition among players.

Former NHL referee Kerry Fraser said that once a fight starts, it’s usually not stopped because it’s an important part of the sport’s culture.

Fights usually begin when a player defends a teammate after a hard hit. The fast and physical nature of hockey can lead to arguments and fights over trash talk or old grudges.

There are unwritten rules in hockey that say players, especially those who often fight, should pick opponents of similar size and remove their gloves and helmets to avoid serious injuries.

Sometimes, players fight to lift their team’s spirits. For example, in a 2017 game, Brenden Dillon of the San Jose Sharks and Austin Watson of the Nashville Predators agreed to fight and were later heard chatting in the penalty box about their summer plans.

History of Fighting in Ice Hockey

Fighting in hockey dates back to the very first game. The first recorded fight happened in 1890, and by the time the NHL was formed in 1917, fighting was a common aspect of the game. Early fights were more brutal and less regulated than today.

In 1905, Alcide Laurin became the first player to die from on-ice injuries, showing the dangers of unchecked physicality.

As hockey evolved, fighting became more systematic, with enforcers like Tie Domi and Bob Probert in the 1990s making it part of their game strategy.

These players became notorious for their fighting skills, adding excitement and physicality to the sport.

Modern Perspective on Fighting in Ice Hockey

Even though fighting has been part of hockey for a long time, it’s now being questioned because of its connection to brain injuries.

Many former tough players, like Todd Ewen and Bob Probert, have had serious health problems and even died young due to their aggressive style of play.

Some have suggested banning fighting in hockey, but it is still a big part of the game. Today’s players are more aware of their health, and fights are becoming less common.

For example, during the 2018-19 NHL season, there were fewer than 200 games with fights, compared to 384 games with fights in the 2006-07 season.

Even though fights happen less often now, they are still a well-known part of hockey, much like Rodney Dangerfield’s joke, “I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out!”

Top 10 Bloodiest Hockey Games Ever

Now, let’s delve into the top 10 bloodiest hockey games ever, where fierce rivalries and intense brawls left both the ice and players drenched in blood.

1. Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers (1979)

This game is famous for a brawl that happened after the match ended. Boston’s Stan Jonathan was attacked by a Rangers fan who stole his hockey stick. This led to the Bruins climbing into the stands to fight with fans, creating a chaotic and bloody scene.

2. Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche: The Sequel (1997)

Known as “Bloody Wednesday,” this game saw the Red Wings seeking revenge for a previous incident. A massive brawl erupted, involving many players and leaving both the ice and players covered in blood.

3. Boston Bruins vs. Chicago Blackhawks (2007)

During this game, Boston’s Zdeno Chara brutally beat Chicago’s David Koci. The fight was short but intense, with Koci left bloodied on the ice, showcasing the Bruins’ tough reputation.

4. Nottingham Panthers vs. Sheffield Steelers (2001)

In the now-defunct Ice Hockey Superleague, this game featured a long and chaotic fight with multiple players involved. The brawl lasted so long that it was hard to keep track of all the action.

5. Rockford IceHogs vs. Milwaukee Admirals (2022)

In the American Hockey League, Mathieu Olivier of the Admirals pounded Kurtis Gabriel of the IceHogs so severely that Gabriel’s face was covered in blood. This modern-day fight showed that intense brawls still happen outside the NHL.

6. Detroit Red Wings vs. Colorado Avalanche (1996)

During an NHL playoff game, Detroit’s Kris Draper was seriously injured by Colorado’s Claude Lemieux, who slammed him into the boards. Draper left the ice with a badly bloodied face, marking a violent moment in the series.

7. Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens (1978)

This game featured a brutal fight where Boston’s Stan Jonathan beat Montreal’s Pierre Bouchard so badly that blood was left all over the ice. The fight was even more dangerous because helmets were optional at the time.

8. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Philadelphia Flyers (1996)

This game is remembered for an early fight between Wendel Clark and Daniel Lacroix. The brawl escalated when the goalies, Ron Hextall and Felix Potvin, also fought, thrilling the crowd with their intense showdown.

9. Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues (2014)

A hard hit by Chicago’s Brent Seabrook on St. Louis’s David Backes led to a major fight. Backes was left dazed and bloody, and Seabrook received a three-game suspension for his actions.

10. Calgary Flames vs. Vancouver Canucks (2014)

The fight broke out right after the puck dropped, quickly turning into a full-scale melee involving both teams. The officials struggled to control the chaos, leading to numerous penalties before the game could properly start.

Evolution and Impact of Fighting in Hockey

Hockey fights have been a part of the sport’s culture for over a century. These bloody battles, from intense rivalries to personal vendettas, have left a lasting impression on players and fans.

While the number of fights has decreased in recent years, the stories of these violent encounters remain a memorable part of hockey history.

Whether it’s defending a teammate or boosting team morale, fighting in hockey remains significant and controversial.

As the sport evolves, so does the conversation about the place of fighting in the game.