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Are Hockey Players Allowed to Fight? The Official Rules and Unwritten Etiquette

Are hockey players allowed to fight?

Fighting in hockey is an aspect of the game that has long been debated, with official rules and unwritten etiquette governing how players engage in these physical altercations.

From dropping gloves to protecting your team’s goalie, numerous traditions have become ingrained within the sport. However, as conversations surrounding player safety gain momentum, questions arise about whether fighting should remain a part of hockey culture.

In this blog post, I’ll delve into the official regulations and unwritten codes that dictate on-ice fisticuffs while examining arguments for and against their continued presence in the game.

Key Takeaways

The Rules And Regulations Of Fighting In Hockey

Referees and linesmen play a critical role in enforcing the rules of hockey fights, which are only allowed when both players agree to it and must end once one player falls to the ice or after five seconds of wrestling.

1. The Role Of Referees And Linesmen

In any hockey game, referees and linesmen play crucial roles in maintaining order and ensuring player safety. They have the authority to intervene when a fight breaks out on the ice.

As soon as players drop their gloves and engage in a physical altercation, linesmen step in to monitor the situation closely.

Referees, on the other hand, are responsible for assessing penalties after a fight has ended. By following the NHL rulebook on fighting, they determine if instigator or aggressor penalties should be issued based on each case’s specifics.

2. Player Conduct During A Fight

During a fight in hockey, there are certain conduct guidelines that players must follow. These include:

– Keeping their sticks and gloves on the ice to avoid additional injuries.

– Avoiding targeting the head of the opponent, as this is considered dangerous and could lead to penalties or suspensions.

– Knowing when to stop fighting and respecting the decision of the referees and linesmen.

– Not leaving the bench during a fight can result in bench-clearing penalties for the entire team.

– Removing their jerseys before starting a fight, as it may give opponents an unfair advantage.

– Not jumping into fights uninvited, as this goes against the unwritten rules of fighting in hockey.

– Accepting responsibility for their actions and facing any consequences or disciplinary measures that come with it.

Players must maintain proper conduct during fights to ensure player safety and uphold the integrity of the game.

3. Bench Clearing Rules

One of the most serious violations in hockey is bench-clearing, which occurs when members from both teams leave their respective benches to engage in a fight or altercation.

This behavior is considered highly dangerous and poses significant safety risks for all involved, leading to severe consequences. The NHL imposes strict penalties on players who breach these rules, including fines and suspensions. 

In 1987, the NHL imposed a new rule mandating that any player starting or joining a brawl would be automatically ejected from the game. Additionally, the first player leaving the bench for a brawl would receive a suspension for 10-games, his coach would get a 5-game suspension, and his team would get a $10,000 fine. The second player on the ice would receive a 5-game suspension, his coach would get a 3-game suspension, and his team would be fined $10,000.

The Unwritten Etiquette Of Fighting In Hockey: Players must get consent before engaging in a fight and show respect toward their opponents by removing their gloves and helmets.

4. Consent And Respect For Opponents

In Ice hockey, players are expected to show respect towards their opponents during a fight. One important unwritten rule is that both players must consent before the fight starts.

It’s common for enforcers to ask each other if they want to go at it before it even begins. Additionally, an unspoken code of conduct requires players to stop fighting when one player shows signs of surrender or becomes injured.

Moreover, respecting your opponent includes avoiding targeting sensitive body parts like the head and neck. Doing so can cause serious injuries that could negatively affect a player’s career, leading to disciplinary action from officials and penalties for the team.

5. Removal Of Gloves And Helmet

One of the unwritten rules of fighting in hockey is the removal of gloves and helmets before engaging in a fight. This ensures that no one gets injured by accidentally hitting a helmet or face mask during a fight.

However, there have been instances where players have used their equipment as weapons during fights, resulting in serious injuries.

Overall, removing gloves and helmets before a fight is essential to fighting etiquette in hockey.

6. Knowing When To Stop

Hockey players have to know when to stop fighting. While the official rules dictate that a fight ends once one player falls or is taken down, there are also unwritten rules about knowing when enough is enough.

Players must respect their opponents and avoid targeting vulnerable areas like the head. Referees and linesmen will step in if they believe that a fight has gone on for too long or has become dangerous, but players should also be aware of their limits and be willing to end the altercation before it gets out of hand.

In recent years, there has been increasing concern over player safety in hockey, leading some to question whether fighting should still have a place in the game.

7. Avoiding Targeting The Head

In hockey fighting, avoiding targeting the head is essential to unwritten etiquette. While fighting is allowed in the sport, players are expected to be mindful of their opponent’s safety.

Punching or hitting someone in the head can result in serious injury and even concussions. It goes without saying that disrespecting one’s teammate can also lead to expulsion from the game.

In fact, removing an opposing player’s helmet is considered a violation of on-ice conduct rules enforced by referees and linesmen.

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The NHL Fighting Code

The NHL Fighting Code includes the purpose of enforcers and the unspoken code of fighting, emphasizing team unity.

The Purpose Of Enforcers

Enforcers have a significant role in hockey and are known for their physicality on the ice. They are typically tough guys who act as enforcers to protect skilled players and prevent opponents from taking liberties with them.

Enforcers engage in fights that help deter opponents from targeting skilled players, which promotes team unity. The NHL has its own set of rules about fighting, but enforcers often abide by unwritten codes of conduct that govern when and how one should fight.

The Unspoken Code Of Fighting

Fighting in hockey comes with its own set of unwritten rules. The “code” includes respecting your opponent and the officials, avoiding targeting the head, and knowing when to stop.

For example, it is considered bad etiquette to attack a player who has fallen on the ice or continue hitting them after they have stopped fighting back.

In addition, certain players are known as enforcers whose primary role is to fight and protect their team. They also play an important role in upholding the code by agreeing on fights beforehand and ensuring both players are consenting parties.

The Importance Of Team Unity

Team unity is essential to any successful hockey team, and fighting can often play a significant role in building that unity. When a player sticks up for a teammate or gets into a scrap with an opponent to defend his team’s honor, it sends a message to everyone on the ice that they are all in this together.

The importance of team unity is not lost on enforcers, whose primary job is to protect their skilled teammates. By being willing to drop gloves and engage in fights, enforcers send a clear message that they have their teammates’ backs no matter what.

Additionally, when skilled players see their tough guys sticking up for them, it creates trust and respect between everyone on the roster.

Debates And Controversies Surrounding Fighting In Hockey

Despite its long-standing tradition in ice hockey, the act of fighting on the rink has been widely debated and criticized over the years. From safety concerns to its effect on gameplay and entertainment value, there are various viewpoints regarding the role of fighting in hockey.

Safety Concerns And Risks

While fighting is an accepted part of hockey, there are concerns about the safety risks it poses to players. Head injuries, concussions, and even death have been reported in several instances where fights occur on the ice.

The NHL has taken steps to reduce these risks through penalties and fines for dangerous hits or reckless behavior during fights. However, some argue that more needs to be done to protect players from harm and eliminate fighting entirely from the game.

Despite this debate, many players believe that fighting can serve as a way to police the game and prevent cheap shots against their teammates while also releasing pent-up emotions on the ice.

Effect On Game Strategy And Entertainment

The presence of fighting in hockey has been a topic of debate for many years. While some argue that it adds to the excitement and entertainment value of the game, others believe it detracts from its professionalism.

From a strategic perspective, teams may employ enforcers, players who are skilled in fighting, as part of their lineup. This can provide physicality and intimidation on the ice, impacting an opponent’s gameplay and morale.

Despite this element being widely accepted as part of hockey culture by fans and players alike, there have been recent calls for stricter rules regarding fighting due to concerns about player safety.

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Players should always wear Hockey protective equipment.

Protection in Hockey
  • Protective gear covers the head, chest, and other parts of the body. The purpose of wearing this equipment is to reduce injuries while playing the sport.
  • As you can see, hockey players have a lot of protection on them when they are playing their game. This helps them avoid being hurt during games and allows them to play better with less stress about getting injured by another player’s hit or stick swing toward your head or body area!


Fighting in hockey is a topic that remains controversial and highly debated. While there are official rules and regulations in place to govern fights on the ice, there are also unwritten codes of conduct that players must follow to show respect for their opponents.

The NHL has its own set of rules and codes, including the role of enforcers and team unity. While some argue that fighting should be removed from the game due to safety concerns, others consider it an essential aspect of hockey culture.