Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

Debating the role of fighting in the NHL


Before our presentation (and being hockey players ourselves), we were both pro-fighting. However, in doing research and seeing how many people lives fighting effects on and off the ice, we are starting to rethink our view on fighting in the NHL. Some of the NHL players that are literally fighting for jobs have been battling health issues and struggling through their lives. Every athlete is a person longer than they are a player. Views on fighting in the NHL included pros and cons; however, at this time we believe the negatives are starting to outweigh the positives.

Some reasons for why fighting should be left in hockey is because it keeps people discipline, builds team chemistry, can change the momentum of the game and brings excitement to the game. If fighting were to be taken out of the game it can open the possibility of introducing more stick work into the game, which can potentially be more dangerous. You may also have guys try to hit the better players knowing that they will not have to pay the price for it. There are many ways to build trust and team chemistry; the argument can be raised that when a teammate sticks up for you on the ice and is willing to drop the gloves to defend you, it will build trust between the players. A fight can often change the momentum of a hockey game; a good fight can get the crowd excited and loud which can change the momentum of the game. It can also get the players pumped up; all around it can wake everyone up. Nice goals and big hits can bring the crowd to there feet, when you look at the crowd when I fight breaks out there are not to many people sitting down.

When looking at reasons why fighting should be taken out of the NHL we found that fighting can cause health issues, head injuries, not setting a good example for youth and fighting is not something that is taught at a young age. Fighting can have lasting effects on some of the players that are willing to take on the job of being an enforcer, when watching some videos there were players saying that they would lose many nights sleep knowing who they would have to fight the next night. When fighting you also run the risk of head injuries, when fighting on ice you have the risk of losing your balance and potentially hitting your head of the ice. Reasons like this can allow for strong arguments towards taking fighting out of the NHL. Many youth see NHL players as role models, so when seeing a fight in a game it gives youth the wrong impression. They may feel that if they fight it will get the crowd cheering and cheer up there teammates. When you are coming up through the hockey system come of the skills that are taught may be how to body check, shoot, pass, stickhandle, etc. You never see coaches teaching young players how to fight or protect themselves in a fight. Since people do not know these things it may run the risk of more injuries with hockey fights.


Lewinson, R. T., & Palma, O. E. (2012). The Morality of Fighting in Ice Hockey: Should It Be Banned?. Journal    Of Sport & Social Issues, 36(1), 106-112.

Leard, B., & Doyle, J. M. (2011). The Effect of Home Advantage, Momentum, and Fighting on Winning in the      National Hockey League. Journal Of Sports Economics, 12(5), 538-560.

Paul, R. J., Weinbach, A. P., & Robbins, D. (2013). American hockey league attendance: A study of fan      preferences for fighting, team performance, and promotions. International Journal of Sport Finance, 8(1),      21-38.

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5 thoughts on “Debating the role of fighting in the NHL

  1. I feel that at the end of the day fighting is not going anywhere. I agree that fighting can be detrimental to player’s health and can also provide children with a poor example that violence is acceptable. That being said fighting is part of hockey’s culture and unless the NHL decides to suspend or fine players a significant amount of games or money for dropping the gloves it will remain part of the game. I may be bias and believe there is a place for it in hockey however I think the NHL is moving in the right direction. Hockey is a physical sport by nature and most teams usually have guys who do not mind standing up for teammates or changing the momentum in a game. I feel the NHL is moving towards fully eliminating NHL enforcers. These guys are players that play less then five minutes a game and main role as a player is to fight. In todays game the speed and pace of play is at an all time high. Teams need to be able to play all four lines and six defence without having deadweight only playing two minutes a game. Teams that are successful are able to roll four lines and wear down teams with their depth. Having a designated enforcer or fighter will not be able to roll four lines and therefore limit their chances of keeping up with a team that can. Teams need players that can play and wasting a roster spot on someone who is relatively useless unless their gloves are off will become an anomaly. The new approach the NHL is moving towards makes players such as Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla even more valuable. Having impact players (top line players) that can still hold players accountable by being able to drop the gloves are the kind of players every team would covet. I believe the NHL may become more sensitive to fighting. As suggested in class perhaps the NHL will change and not celebrate fighting, by on televised games going to commercial when a fight breaks out. These changes however could upset long time viewers and hockey traditionalist. Ultimately the culture of hockey and fighting go hand in hand and unless the NHL hands out stiffer punishments as previously mentioned fighting is not going anywhere anytime soon.

    Cam Braes (3463711)


  2. This is a tough topic to discuss with die-hard fans. On the one hand you have a tradition very deeply entrenched in the sport with consenting adults participating; on the other hand you have an anomaly in the sporting world with its outdated and unsafe traditions. The world has seen a number of traditions fade to make room for more inclusive and relevant ones. It appears that the NHL relies too heavily on the marketing benefits of “tradition” and selfishly continues to sacrifice the safety and well-being of its players to cash-in on this hyper-masculinized tradition.


  3. I liked the discussion in class around not celebrating fighting in hockey. I don’t think it is something that we can just snap our fingers and have it disappear, because yes it would change the nature of the game. But at the same time it should not be the biggest part of the highlights and the part that is remembered most.
    If a new sport was to become popular now I don’t think we would allow fighting but it is hard to get rid of something that has been tradition for so long. . It might take the new generation growing up and not playing with enforcers or not being able to fight until a certain age level to realize that it isn’t completely necessary, and that it ends up doing more harm then its worth.


  4. As a fan I personally feel that fighting should remain in hockey. It is something that is most remembered from watching a professional hockey game along with big hits and nice goals. If they take fighting out of the game I think that we will see more dirty hits leading to more injuries, however I do understand injuries happen during fighting as well. After searching on youtube for best hockey fights ever you can see a video that has over 3.5 million views, that alone shows to me that there are people who are interested in fighting staying in hockey and a reason why I think it should stay.


  5. Fighting in the NHL is part of the sport. The fighting aspect is one of the great ways that the NHL brings in revue. I dont think they will get rid of fighting unless there are more health risk for the players.


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