Banning Fighting In Ice Hockey

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Violence within the National sport of Canada, Hockey has been evident and known throughout the sports world since the game’s inception. With the development of sports technology and Medicine it is clear that the brutal fist fights that take place on the ice are not as necessary and important to the sport and game as the fans and officials believe it to be. Fighting within professional hockey should be banned for the risk it puts on the players mentally and physically, but is also a risk to the impressionable youth that look up to these players inside and outside the rink. The speech and behaviour within the sport of hockey should change as well, allowing men to play the sport without unnecessary and needless war-like speech simply because it is expected of them as men due to social norms. Fighting within Hockey is prohibited in other men’s leagues including; the European professional leagues and Olympic Ice Hockey, the NHL should follow and set the game itself as a priority not giving a platform for violence. Fighting should be banned in professional hockey because, the violence within the sport is harmful for the players both mentally and physically but also harm the youth who look up to these athletes and hope to be in their position one day, fighting should also be banned as it further influences men to act masculine and aggressive when they may not want to, the final point would be that the NHL should follow other leagues in how they treat fights.

The sport of hockey brings people together and is enjoyed by fans all around the world. These fans enjoy the fast pace and skill associated with ice hockey, these skills demand a lifetime of devotion, hard work, and sacrifice. However, within the sport of hockey most notably in North America fights in the middle of games are believed to be an essential part of the sport. These fights negatively affect the game in many ways. Mainly that the players involved could get severely injured and hurt themselves and their careers as a result of this, the players could suffer both short term and long term mental and physical repercussions, former players who wished to sue the NHL over the leagues downplay of dangers regarding repeated head injuries the lawyer stated; the NFL had admitted that the repeated trauma experienced within a sport is linked to long term brain damage, however, the NHL continues to deny that such a link exists with the reasoning; hockey is not football (Westhead 2016). This comes after the U.S. federal court uncovered many hidden emails between NFL officials regarding the impact head injuries pose to players and their wellbeing. These problems may not manifest immediately but later in life these medical issues change the life of the players and those around them. Eliminating fighting is an issue for the league due to teams relying on specific players to have the sole job of getting in fights and winning, this position is called enforcer. This problem can only be resolved through an implementation of rules and penalties for players who participate in these unnecessary acts of violence. Two of the social determinants of health are Income and Occupation, these come into the picture when the NHL as a whole is viewed, it becomes clear that officials believe these fights bring in revenue as well as a “honoured tradition”(Goldschmied 2013). The glorification and support of this unnecessary violence makes it far more difficult to move towards a future in hockey where hockey is the focus of a game rather than a brawl. Oppression exists in the efforts of NHL officials to turn away from the evidence that these fights serve no purpose other than leading to brain damage later in their lives. Throughout the history of the sport enforcers have been responsible for countless injuries and problems for other players. The enforcers however are also the victims of a system that pushes them beyond the limits their bodies’ can endure. These fights reach farther than the lives of the players. Hockey is a sport loved by people of all ages 9% being under the age of 18(Thompson 2014). Many teenagers and kids look up to these players and emulate their idols both on and off the ice. The percentage of Youth playing in minor hockey leagues who admitted to copying illegal strategies they had seen professionals in the NHL use was 56% (Keays & Pless 2013). This cycle will continue as it has where NHL stars motivate the next generation of players, the only thing that needs to be changed however are the number of violent incidents that take place without any real consequences. Hockey continues to unite Canadians from all walks of life as well as be the sport Canadians gave birth to and proudly dominate. Youth and kids who watch the NHL with their families simply see these players fight, with the winner often receiving applause from their team and fans. This leads to the child believing that the violent acts are what deserve applause and attention rather than solely the skill of the players. Many experienced and well known hockey viewers have given this same reasoning. Canada’s former Governor General David Johnston who had once played competitive hockey himself supports the idea that the violence within the game sets a bad example to the youth who idolize these professional athletes (Staff 2012). These young fans see their heros on television and in games being cheered on as they get in fights and receive very little repercussions for their violent actions. The youth who go one to play in their own leagues and perhaps even the NHL one day will bring with them these habits of violence and continue this cycle.

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The violence and fighting within the NHL only further pushes the macho aggressive stereotype of man the public and the rest of the sports world see and are forced to live up to. These men since a young age are raised to be mean, cold, and aggressive. This image of a man within this huge sports organization can lead to a player feeling as if they’re not manly enough for the sport they love if they do not hurt the players on the opposing team. The men within the NHL are pressured to hurt as well as not show any pain they feel while playing and this sets a negative image for the sport and the other players. If a player is forced to ignore any pain they have no one in the league would feel comfortable seeking help or speaking out against any pain both mental and physical. This careless and aggressive mindset has led many people to adopt a similar Mentality and belief, Conn Smythe a player, coach, manager, and founder of the Toronto Maple Leafs publicly said that beating someone in a fight is a sign that you can beat them in a game of hockey (McMurty 1974). When leading figures in a sport say something those who look up to that person may begin to follow their example. Violence within the sport is nothing more than unnecessary brain damage and game stoppages. The main reason these fights take place is because the league continues to allow it. Players can not let down their guard during these games at any point as it may be seen as a sign of weakness and may be challenged to a fight. If the non-aggressive player avoids a fight he will be seen as weak and wimpy, further promoting aggressive masculinity. The promotion of support and friendly competition should be the defining traits of the NHL, rather than the brutal violent games seen in the league today. The sports world is resistant to allowing a shift in gender relations and remains a place where men promote and perform ideological versions of an aggressive masculinity (Tjønndal 2016). Hockey itself is not a gentle sport however, it does not need to be as aggressive as it currently is. The amount of players who have spoken up against the fighting within hockey should have made an impact on the lack of regulations and carelessness of the league. Many players who seek change are met with criticism and backlash from fans as well as officials as changes to the sport would be seen as disrespectful to the history and reputation of Hockey. The tolerance for diversity has seen a large increase in the past few decades however classic masculinity remains the same within the sports world (Tjønndal 2016). Although society is becoming far more accepting of the difference people may have the sports world has yet to catch up in this field. The sports world is often criticized for how an athlete is forced almost to fit a mold for how they must act, look, and even feel. This has forced many athletes to mask who they truly are when on the competitive stage rather than allowing them to display their true colours. Hockey is a prime example of how men who outside the rink or within their private lives are gentle, caring, and funny, but on the ice seek to simply hurt other players and get into fistfights with the opposing team. One huge contributor to the violence in hockey includes the role of the Enforcer. This player's job as a fighter far outweighs his job to contribute in strategic plays. Enforcers are the definition of othodox masculinity in sports, these players have the assigned job of hurting the other team in any way that benefits his own. Despite enforcers possibly being gentle men the rules of the sport and definitely the pressure of spectators and officials pushes them to commit acts of violence they might otherwise may never imagine doing. Societal pressure in a sports context specifically hockey expects men to be brutal, cold, and violent, however, these expectations are far outdated and steal from the real beauty within the sport which revolves around amazing plays and signs of teamwork at speeds few sports can even come close to. There is a common view that a sports game should be similar to that of a war or a competition on which team can be more “dominant”, this can be viewed in the way players speak, act, play, and even what their team is called. This is clear in the names of some teams for example; Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, and San Jose Sharks. These names all create an image of an aggressive or ferocious creature. The sport of hockey is rarely known to outsiders to the sport as one of skill and teamwork and instead is known as a brutal, bloody, and reckless sport that gives no regard to the well being of players painting them as gladiators as they fight almost once a game while the fans roar in excitement and commentators lift the winner on a pedestal. As long as these remnants of a time where men strived to be more dominant, aggressive, and violent exist. So will the needless damage players receive both mentally and physically, on and later, off the ice.

Hockey is a globally played sport inclusive to men and women of all ages and backgrounds, from the olympics all the way down to kids playing in their driveways. Hockey is a sport that brings people together but can require insane amounts of skill, dedication, and time. The hockey world outside of North America had come to the agreement that the sport of hockey is dangerous and the health of players should not be handled as if these amazing athletes never get hurt. Globally under The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) the fighting seen in the NHL is strictly “illegal”. In the NHL players who participate in fights are required to sit out for five minutes, after which they are allowed to join back in immediately. However, the IIHF treats fighting much more strictly ejecting any players who participates in a fight.(SportsNet 2018) There is a huge difference in how the officials see the sport of hockey and it might even be argued that those who choose to play under these rules care about their athletes more than their North American counterparts in the NHL. The olympics use the same IIHF rules within all their hockey games which are equally enjoyed by hockey lovers internationally, proving and arguing against the NHL officials claims that fights are essential to the sport in both culture and respect. Another point to be made is the fact that the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) prohibits fighting and doing so results in a penalty of a suspension from the next scheduled game. The lack of rough physical contact within the women's league is often praised as it allows the game to become much more skillful and team oriented. Misogyny is evident when these rules are looked at from a perspective separate from the game, such as why the men were allowed to fight with little repercussions since the NHL’s inception and why the NWHL, which was formed in 2015 during the 21st century a time in which women are known for their skill and dominance on many sports’ fields. The officials in charge of developing rules for this new sector of hockey might have believed that women are weaker than men and would not be able to handle the physical and mental repercussions of fighting, the same repercussions that officials within the NHL had denied when former NHL players tried to sue the league. The disparity evident within the rules of the leagues who’s players are different only in gender but identical in their passion, respect, and perseverance for the sport of hockey. If rough physical contact does not harm a player the rules implemented in women's hockey condemning violence wouldn't exist similar to the NHL, however this is not the case and brings into question what real reasoning exists to justify this inequality. The NHL is no different to the NWHL in terms of the sport itself, unnecessary rule differences create more problems then they might solve especially during a time where women's rights to equality have come to the forefront of many discussions.The NHL should follow in the footsteps of the NWHL and even IIHF and implement rules and regulations that combat the needless violence that takes place on the ice particularly fighting. Fighting has no place in a sport that does not revolve around pure violence such as, boxing, or mixed martial arts. Removing fighting from the NHL would allow the sport to progress and become one that would allow men to no longer fear being themselves both physically and mentally, not being pressured to be violent whether its offensive or defensive. Mentally these players would be able to play without fear of being hit or injured enabling them to focus solely on strategic plays and teamwork.

The fights within professional hockey should be banned because, physical trauma as a result of violence permitted within certain leagues negatively affects players as well as creates a bad image for the young fans, the needless violence creates an atmosphere that causes men within the league to feel they must act ultramasculine and use war talk, all professional hockey leagues should incorporate rules similar to those used by the IIHF to combat on ice fighting and other needless violence that may occur on the ice regardless of gender or age. The sport of hockey is one loved by people worldwide, creating a safe space for players while they play allows them to contribute better to the sport with longer lives and careers, better role models, and playing more strategic rather than rough.

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Banning Fighting In Ice Hockey. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
“Banning Fighting In Ice Hockey.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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