It’s the most exciting moment in hockey. Gloves and sticks go flying in all directions as the crowd roars and jumps to their feet, captivated by the two modern-day gladiators exchanging blows down on the ice below. In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find an event in a hockey game (with the exception of maybe a goal) that electrifies the crowd more than two men throwing flurry after flurry of punches at one another.
Fighting has officially been part of hockey for nearly 100 years, when the NHL incorporated Rule 56 into their rulebook in 1922. Today, fighting—covered under Rule 46—gives referees the ability to call a variety of penalties on the offenders with the most common being a five minute major for both players involved. Critics of fighting say that fighting is barbaric and has no place in today’s game. They claim that even though those involved are penalized, the penalties aren’t nearly harsh enough, and fighting should be taken out of hockey all together. I wholeheartedly disagree with this. Fighting is a crucial part of hockey, and its complete removal from the sport of hockey would cause violence to actually increase alongside “cheap shots”.
One of the main reasons that fighting occurs is for retaliation. Let’s say Team 1’s enforcer injures Team 2’s star player with a borderline-dirty hit. A few shifts later, Team 2’s enforcer goes up to Team 1’s enforcer and fights him to show him that getting off the hook for the hit isn’t as easy as serving a penalty (or suspension). If there was a complete ban on fighting, what would stop Team 1’s enforcer from going out and throwing more dirty hits? Nothing. Dirty hits would skyrocket. Fighting allows players to police themselves to some extent. Gary Bettman, the Commissioner of the NHL, fully supports keeping fighting in the game and thinks that it acts as a “thermometer” to the sport and “may prevent other injuries”.
Not only does fighting allow players to prevent more and more dirty hits, but it shows an amount of emotion that is unrivaled in any other sport, and momentum can completely switch within minutes of a fight. To sum up, if you don’t like fighting, get used to it, because it isn’t going anywhere.