Hockey fights

Why do hockey players fight so much? They even have a special place called a penalty box. They rarely have fights in football, and all they do in those rare cases is throw you out of the game. Same in baseball, where fights hardly ever happen either. In soccer you get a flag.

Could it be that because they play with sticks they feel especially combative? But Jai Alai players don’t fight. Is there something I’m missing here?

Every other sport throws you out of the game for fighting, and for anything serious, you’re liable to be suspended for future games as well. This is a much stronger deterrent than a five or ten-minute penalty.

I am pretty much non violent. My last fight on the streets was when I was 8 years old. But when I was playing hockey ,I got into fights occasionally. When you are on a breakaway and have cleared the defenseman and he hooks your ankle and brings you down on your face, you come up pissed off.
If you get checked and he brings the butt of his stick into your ribs ,it hurts and you remember. Next time you get a shot at him ,you pay back. It is a dangerous game. Pucks hurt like hell and somehow find a skinny little crease in your pads that is unprotected.
Some players are really dirty and take liberties in every check. You get hurt enough ,you begin to take it personally.

Because it’s just an accepted part of the sport. Baseball used to be quite a bit more violent than it is now. They changed. Hockey didn’t. That’s the way the sport is.

That said, there is less fighting in professional hockey today than there used to be.

There also is the fact that physical intimidation is an effective tool in hockey.

The is almost no fighting on college hockey. In college, if you fight, you are out of that game and the next game. I think it makes for a better game.

Do the minor league teams (AHL etc) teach fighting?

I’ve never played hockey, but it looks a lot more intimate than football. The rink is smaller, the play is faster, the players hit more often, and the play doesn’t end right after the hit. I think the last reason is one of the biggest. There are fights on the rugby pitch more than football but less than hockey. They’re penalized about the same as hockey (10 minutes out of an 80 minute game, compared to 5 minutes out of a 60 minute game). There are more fights at the men’s club level; I think it’s partially because a lot of the men think they have more to “prove”, and because the level of play is higher so the action is faster and more intense.

The big picture is that fighting is part of the culture of the game. This trickles all the way down to low level adult hockey.
Most NHL fights are not real acts of retribution or revenge. They are 2 guys who have agreed to a hockey fight. There are players who’s roles are fighters, if they aren’t fighting, they have no purpose in the league.

The very few real hockey fights are almost always lopsided with one player wailing on another. After all, if you are really upset with another players actions, the penalties won’t stop you from pounding him.

There’s alot more to fighting in hockey than it appears. It has always been a way for the players to police themselves but it is also a tool for intimidation or morale boosting. It also helps to get the crowd involved in a game, or to quiet them down.
In the old days, players were tough and usually defended themselves but the game evolved to include enforcers to protect star players so they wouldn’t have to fight.
For example, nobody touched Gretzky without Semenko coming after them.
Today, the instigator rule prevents this so it is rare for anyone to pay the price for dirty plays or cheap shots. Now fights occur when someone loses their temper, or the coach sends a player in to fight.

And of course you posted this 2 hours before the digg story came out about it:

http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/articles/2008/12/17/etiquette_of_nhl_fighting/

Explains NHL fighting quite succinctly.

I believe fighting is “taught” more or less in juniors… OHL… QMJHL… WHL… and semi-pro leagues like the LNAH.

By the time they get to the AHL or ECHL they have the rep as a tough guy (like John Mirasty, Brandon Sugden, Jody Shelley)… they sorta refine their hockey skills in the minors to actually be NHL caliber players
Go Crunch!

Think of the ‘enforcers’ and the fights as steam valves.

Hockey by its nature is a violent sport, yes, even in college and Euro leagues(full shields; more finesse, less physical*). Like gonzomax said, things just build up over the game, season, series. If you try and take away fighting all together I guarantee that you would see an increase in McSorely or Bertuzzi(which I think was still much worse than the former despite my Avs bias) type incidents; perhaps not usually to those degrees, but definitely more cheap shots. Though, like Sparky812 said the instigator rule has reduced the enforcer role.

As ‘SlapShot’ taught us, there does have to be a balance, but the violence simply can not be removed completely. Sparky does make another good point though, that it also serves as an accepted and valid momentum shifter. In such incidents there is enough respect between players that the ‘fighters’ will “pick on someone there own size”(look for some of Brashear’s friendly and amusing prefight banter on youtube); of course they will welcome anyone else that is willing to step up. In a similar vein, during NHL training camps you will often see the younger guys throw the gloves down with their own (hopefully)future team mates in an effort to show they are tough enough to cut it at that next and highest level.

Fighting still has, and should always have IMHO, its place in hockey. It is naturally part of the game. It frustrates me when people try and take it out of the game, watch NCAA/Euro leagues or soccer even, but don’t fix what isn’t broken…less it be your nose :stuck_out_tongue:
*a big reason why players are told to play in Juniors rather than College if they want a better shot at the NHL
ETA in light of CircleofWilis’ post: Go T-Birds!

I don’t fully understand this concept. Say one team has Tough Guy who goes after AllStar. AllStar’s teammate, Brute, fights Guy instead. Or did one team need to field* Brute just because the other team had AllStar?

*What’s the equivalent for a sport that’s not played on a field?

Ha! Never mind, I completely understand now. I just saw this clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1ybtRwAcZI

Because it’s good for ratings.

There’s also a some strategy that goes into fighting. Other teams really put a hurting on your star player. The enforcer tries to scare them away from that. Sometimes you’re losing the game and a good fight might give your team the boost it needs to turn the game around. Other times, you can pester the opposing teams players into starting a fight with you out of sheer frustration, thus giving them extra time in the box and giving your team the advantage. And other times people just get pissed off (Youtube link) Oh goalies generally stay away but they do fight once in a very rare while.

Obligatory Bob Probert tribute.

Bonus.
One of the YouTube comments on the second video said it best: “Bob Probert might be the only man that Chuck Norris fears.”

Which gets used for all sorts of infractions - it certainly isn’t there solely to punish fighting.

If fighting is such an integral part of the sport why does it cease as soon as there is something worthwhile on the line, namely the playoffs?

Enforcement is still there. Nobody wants to be the one that fought and got in the penalty box to let the game-winner go in to kick them out of the playoffs .

This is something of a myth - there were plenty of fights in last year’s playoffs that I remember.