Why Do Hockey Referees Allow Fights? (Rules & Best Fights)
Fighting has been a part of hockey culture for a long time, and it divides people’s opinions on whether it should be allowed. Be that as it may, hockey fights remain to this day, and it can be hard to understand as there aren’t fighting in non-combat sports such as basketball or soccer. So, why do hockey referees allow fighting in ice hockey?
Referees won’t break up fights in hockey because it’s the linesmen’s job. The linesmen won’t break up fights immediately either for safety reasons. Also, fighting isn’t illegal in hockey and is allowed to a certain point to increase interest in the sport and solidarity among teammates.
As I said earlier, fighting has been a thing for so long in ice hockey that it’s part of the culture, even though there’s an ongoing debate about whether it should be.
Anyways, interfering with fighting isn’t the referee’s job as they are busy watching it for penalties, whereas it’s the linemen’s responsibility to interfere if they even will. Linesmen are often instructed not to interfere as it can be very dangerous going between two usually large and powerful men beating each other on hard slippery ice with sharp skates on their feet.
You should note that fighting isn’t allowed in junior leagues, and most amateur hockey games won’t allow fighting because it isn’t “necessary,” so to speak, there. However, fighting can be allowed or even slightly encouraged with hockey players over 16 years old, especially in North America,
Professional leagues such as NHL, KHL, and many more allow fighting on the ice. Next, let’s learn more about the fighting rules, both written and unwritten in the National Hockey League.
Related: How Much Does A Hockey Referee Make? (Salaries Per League)
Is It Legal to Fight In the NHL?
When talking about fighting in ice hockey, it can mean many things. Are we talking about playing and fighting with friends on the neighborhood ice? If so, there are no rules there, instead ones made by you and your friend. On the other hand, ice hockey is at the highest level, meaning NHL is different with many things legal and illegal. That said, is fighting legal in the National Hockey League?
According to the NHL Rulebook, referees will determine penalties after a fight, yet it is accepted in the NHL. Generally, fighting always results in a major penalty, a five-minute penalty for both players involved in the fight.
Many rules are at play when a fight happens on the ice. Here are a few of the most important ones:
- When a fight occurs, all players not engaged shall go immediately to the area of their players’ bench. Goalkeepers shall remain in their goal crease.
- Any player who continues a fight after the referee has ordered him to stop or who resists a Linesman in discharging his duties shall incur a misconduct or game misconduct penalty in addition to any penalties imposed.
- No player may remove his helmet before engaging in a fight. A two-minute minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct will be issued if he does. Helmets that come off in a fight will not result in a penalty.
- A misconduct or game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on any player involved in fighting off the playing surface or with another player who is off the playing surface. These penalties are in addition to any other time penalties assessed, including the major penalty for fighting.
- Any player wearing tape or any other material on his hands (below the wrist) who cuts or injures an opponent during an altercation will receive a match penalty in addition to any other penalties imposed for fighting under this rule.
- A match penalty shall be assessed to a player who punches an unsuspecting or unwilling opponent (i.e., “sucker punch”) and causes an injury.
- A major penalty shall be imposed on any player who fights.
These are a few of the important rules considering fighting in the NHL. If you want to learn everything, I suggest looking at the NHL Rulebook.
There are other unwritten rules to fighting in the league, which is called The Fighter’s Code. Here are a few notable ones;
- No sucker punches
- Stop punching when the player is beaten
- Don’t initiate a fight without throwing punches
- Take off your gloves and visor before fighting
- Fight a player of your size
- Don’t fight a player of skill
Looking at the unwritten rules above, you can sense respect deep within them. There’s a set of rules that if you don’t follow, you will lose respect from your teammates, fans, and everyone watching. Don’t fight a smaller guy as you could often easily beat him, don’t sucker punch people; if you start a fight, follow through, and so on.
One of the most important rules is don’t fight a superstar player. This could be very dangerous as players of skill are valuable for the teams. Instead, hockey players called the enforcers and goons are often the ones fighting each other.
In fact, the enforcers are meant to fight, although they also play regular positions. The goons are meant to fight other goons, which makes it fair for both teams, and increases the interest in the sport; most fans like it, and it raises team spirits.
Is There Fighting In Olympic Hockey?
Olympic hockey is a different thing from ice hockey played in the leagues. The Olympics are the world’s most important sports competition, with many other sports than hockey. The rules are also more strict as more cultures are involved from all over the world. This makes you wonder whether fighting is allowed in Olympic hockey?
Fighting is strictly forbidden in Olympic ice hockey and will lead to ejection from the game for the players involved.
Even though Olympic hockey and NHL are quite similar, they still have notable differences. Fighting is one of the most significant ones as fans, and even the players are looking forward to fighting in NHL, yet it’s prohibited in the Olympics.
This is because the Olympics are a contest of higher principle and etiquette. Also, many nations and cultures, such as Japan or European leagues, come to the Olympics where fighting isn’t a part of ice hockey.
So, if you’re looking for fights in hockey, I suggest you stick with the NHL, where you’ll find the most, or scroll down for videos for some of the best fights of all time.
Can You Fight the Referee In Hockey?
Fighting amongst players in hockey, usually started by the enforcers, also known as a goon, is common, especially in North America. Referees or linesmen are usually close by when a fight is happening to ultimately stop the fighting. However, what if a player or both would attack the referee? Can you do that, or is that strictly forbidden?
If a player hit a referee or linesmen on purpose, it would immediately result in a game misconduct penalty, meaning a suspension from the game. In addition, a discussion of a more significant penalty would be held after the game by the league, potentially resulting in game or season bans.
Ice hockey officials shouldn’t be intentionally directed with violence in any situation. If a player intentionally does so, it will be brought to the attention of the NHL commissioner, the highest-ranking executive officer in the National Hockey League. Then, serious consequences would be issued.
For example, Dennis Wideman hit a linesman Doug Henderson from behind and claimed it was unintentional. However, the NHL issued a whopping ban of 20 games as there is no middle ground for touching an official.
What do you think? Does it look unintentional? I’d say Dennis knew exactly what he did.
Related: What Do Hockey Referees Wear?
Are There Consequences From Hockey Fights?
Even when hockey fighting isn’t exactly illegal, there can be consequences. Think about other things in life that aren’t illegal, yet there definitely can be consequences for almost everything you do, whether good or bad. So, what happens after fights in hockey?
Hockey fights always result in major penalties in the NHL, meaning a five-minute penalty for both players involved. In other leagues such as Collegiate, European, and the Olympics, the fighters are given a game disqualification which is an ejection from the game.
Also, the NHL Rulebook states that some instances, such as being the aggressor for fights three times in a game, will lead to suspension for his team’s next two regular season games. During play-offs, a two-time aggressor in the same game will get automatically suspended for the next team play-off game.
Fighting in junior leagues below the age of 16 will often lead to ejection from the game, even in the United States.
Oh, and fighting on your nearby ice rink when playing recreational hockey won’t result in consequences, at least from any league. I won’t recommend fighting on recreational ice as there is often far less protective equipment, potentially leading to serious injuries.
Here’s a table showing many fighting situations and consequences from the NHL rulebook.
|The players participating in a fight||Major penalty|
|The fighter removes a helmet or jersey||Minor penalty|
|The fighter has taped hands and injures other||Match penalty|
|The fighting off the playing surface||Game misconduct penalty|
|The beating continues after the fight has ended||Major penalty/game misconduct penalty|
|The player is the aggressor||Major penalty/game misconduct penalty|
|The player is an instigator for the second time||Major penalty/game misconduct penalty|
|The player is the instigator during the final five minutes||Major penalty/game misconduct penalty|
Examples of Famous Ice Hockey Fights
I can’t finish this article with a good consequence without showing you some of the most iconic fights after all this talk about throwing gloves on the ice and letting testosterone flow. Below you can find some of the most popular ice hockey fights of all time;
Bruins vs. Rangers – 1979
One of the biggest fights in NHL history was between the Boston Bruins, which is involved in most of the hockey fights or as it seems, and the New York Rangers in 1979. The incident wasn’t a small fight but more than a war that escalated even to the fans. Take a look at this famous incident below.
Bruins vs. Capitals – 1998
Another rather famous brawl was between Washington Capitals and, surprise, surprise, Boston Bruins. This escalated among many players as well, where linesmen were in tough spots. Take a look and imagine what the fans must be thinking at the moment.
Aaron Downey vs. Jesse Boulerice – 2003
If you fancy something quick and not so war-like, look at how Aaron Downer from the Dallas starts dodging the punch of Jesse Boulerice from Carolina Hurricanes and knocks him out with one single punch.
Do you like hockey fights? Well, that’s enough fight talk and videos for today. Until next time! Let me know in the comments below whether you found this article interesting and if fighting should be part of hockey or not.