Fighting has been an officially accepted part of the hockey at the professional level for almost a century. In 1922, the National Hockey League incorporated Rule 56 into its official rule book, which governed what it then called “Fisticuffs” as an official part of the game.

Today, the section of the NHL rule book dedicated to fighting is Rule 46. It says that referees are given “very wide latitude in the penalties with which they may impose under this rule.” According to former NHL official Kerry Fraser, fighting is technically a rule violation.

Any player who fights is automatically subjected to sitting in the penalty box for at least five minutes. Additional penalties, including ejection, can be imposed if deemed necessary by the referee.

We sought to understand why this sanctioned violence is still embraced by the league, which, based on a recent interview with its commissioner Gary Bettman, doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

Bettman called fighting a “thermostat” for the game, and that it “may prevent other injuries.”

According to author Ross Bernstein, who wrote the book “The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL,” fighting is a way for the sport to “police itself,” and to remind players that there are consequences for stepping over the line during play in such a way that “the Code” is violated.

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45 COMMENTS

  1. It’s because it’s better to let them blow the steam off than take the chance at someone using their stick as a weapon cause they let it build

  2. 3:00 3000 MInutes in the penalty box. That means he spend more then 2 days of his life in there. 😀

  3. If you play hockey at all at any level and someone even accidentally hits you with their stick… You want to beat the shit out of them.

  4. They should allow fights in the NBA. Would love to see 6’4 giants fight against each other.

  5. They have fun they are still friends at the end of the game I mean I love a good team fight in NHL

  6. “3,000 minutes in the Penalty box”

    Dude, at that point, he should’ve just pursued a Career in Boxing.

  7. Me: The real reason why fighting is allowed in hockey: so that the fans don’t fall asleep! The only sports more boring than hockey are soccer and golf.

  8. Fun fact the first legitimate hockey game ended in a fight. It’s as old as the sport itself.

  9. Fighting is allowed because hockey can be a very frustrating sport and the fighting is very therapeutic. A lot of times you feel way better after and prevents you from doing something stupid with your stick like blind someone.

  10. No ruling here, except hilariously screwing up the words written on the page. It’s rule 56 not 46 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣(no offense) *dumb ass* this is not directed at anyone

  11. Biggest fight I’ve seen was when they had the college kids who were gonna get drafted next season. At the END of the game, they all just got in a line of sorts and fought. I guess they figured “hey they can’t punish us all and we’re done in the game.”

  12. I’m 47, so I got to grow up watching the Broad Street Bullies. It was an amazing time to be a Flyers fan. I wish I had known how amazing it was, but I was too young. I just liked how a grown up was taking the time to teach me this weird game. Its one of my first memories…watching Flyers games in my uncles basement while all the adults drank beer, smoked and cheered at the TV.

    Anyway, I’ve seen the game change, and rather dramatically. Nobody used to wear any helmet, except the goalie, and even then he just had the type of goalie mask in the Jason horror movies. Fights were guaranteed. The losing team seemed to almost always instigate something when the game was out of reach late in the 3rd period. It created rivalries unlike that in any other sport. It also kept players honest. If you went after a teams star player, you can bet your ass you were going to have to face one of their goons later in the game. It was even more amazing in person. My uncle had season tickets since the Flyers inaugural season, so he had pretty good seats at the Spectrum. He’d take me once or twice each season. Back then, winning held additional challenges. If a team couldnt beat you with skill, they beat you with braun. As a matter of fact, thats how the Broad Street Bullies were born. After the Canadiens had kicked their asses left and right and humiliated the Flyers, he said that would never happen to us again, and built a team of thugs to protect their stars.

    Rivalries arent the same with how dramatically the fighting has dropped. Watching the game isnt nearly as satisfying as it used to be….the game was perfect in the 70s and 80s….IDK why they had to ruin a good thing.

  13. nowadys hocky is rotting down to a sport full of tryhard players with rich parents trying to be next Ovie or Crosby. It’s insane that u have to start at 4 to become a pro.

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