Why do they fight in the NHL and what are the unwritten rules of fighting in hockey?
Fighting has been a part of the NHL for 100 years, and is not penalized as it would be in other sports. It’s against the rules, but not totally forbidden.
Fighting has been an accepted part of professional hockey for a hundred years. It is technically against the rules, but it does not generate great penalties as it would in other sports.
Rule 46 regulates fighting in hockey
According to Rule 46, “A fight shall be deemed to have occurred when at least one player punches or attempts to punch an opponent repeatedly or when two players wrestle in such a manner as to make it difficult for the Linesmen to intervene and separate the combatants.”
The referees are given the discretion regarding what penalties to impose, and they determine to which degree the participants were responsible for starting the fight or continuing it.
The most extreme penalty would be getting ejected from the game, but getting involved in a brawl would be given what is called a “major penalty” which could mean sitting out only five minutes of a game.
Fighting to stand up for a teammate
The number one reason for starting a fight is to defend a team mate. The underlying principle behind these conflicts is respect. If a player sees that a fellow team member has been dealt a dirty hit, then he is actually expected to take action. The unwritten rule is that a player cannot simply hold the instigator accountable- he has to agree to it. However, you still risk getting hit if you refuse to fight when someone wants to stand up for a team mate.
On the other hand, if a player has given a big hit to an opponent, he will expect retaliation and would not be surprised if the other team members struck back.
According to hockey historian Ross Bernstein, fighting in a way makes players aware that they will be punished for playing unfairly.
“The game has always been allowed to police itself. So when you do something bad, you pay the consequences.”