Monday, January 03, 2011

冰球賽打架暴力鬥毆 / Fighting & Violence in Ice Hockey Games

I have been practising one form of martial-art exercise or another in Hong Kong & Canada (kick-boxing now :) but never have the urge to beat somebody up. I have come to learn that the ability to determine where one's fist ends and another person's nose begins depends very much on an individual's temperament and the circumstances of such an encounter.

The same applies to ice hockey as a sport. For neighbourhood kids practising ice-hockey on a patch of ice in a park with their friends, some youngsters might play rough and tough, but they don't usually try to provoke a fight or engage in bare-knuckle brawls.

However, their behaviours change dramatically once these kids enter the minor leagues. It is not unusual to see gloves coming off several times in a match btwn two grudge-holding rival teams. There are even reports of parents encouraging their kids to beat the sh*t out of the other kids and even getting involved in fights themselves.

At the professional level, these aggressive behaviours become codified. Checking is legitimate and is part of the game in North America, to the extent that even transplanted European players are now focusing more on body slamming than on foot work. It is standard these days to teach players to use different "legal" checking techniques in an offensive or a defensive manner. Even "illegal" checking and fist-fighting are tolerated in ice-hockey: a player may be penalized but is seldom rejected from a game, unless the act is considered "violent assault" in the eyes of the referee or the police.

Perhaps that is why there is such a fierce debate on fighting violence (pun intended) in ice-hockey. Is it all right to have a "code" that distinguishes btwn a face-to-face "fair" fight and a sucker punch from behind? Are we not endorsing violence all-the-same even if we call the former "tolerable" and the latter "illegal"? Where do you draw the line btwn a "violent" and a "non-violent" act on ice? And, why do so many teams have "enforcers" who are not valued for the skating techniques, but rather their abilities to intimidate and retaliate? Unlike the teaching of traditional martial art sifu師傅, the challenge on ice is not so much abt controlling one's flaring temper, but has more to do with winning the game within the rules of the games.

So, is fighting going to stay with the NHL? Yes, I would think so, as long as there is a demand from the audience who pay to be entertained. As part of the entertainment/sport industry, should the NHL continue to encourage violence in hockey? Of course not, but as long as there is a demand, and as long as the acts are considered within the boundary of "The Code", then the fighting is not going to disappear any time soon.


* Wikipedia: "Fighting in ice hockey"
* Wikipedia: "Violence in ice hockey"
* Wikipedia: "Enforcers in ice-hockey"
* Bernstein, Ross (2006), "The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL", Triumph Books, ISBN 1-57243-756-1.

Photo Credit:
* Wikipedia: "Fighting in ice hockey" - Shawn Thornton (left) fighting Wade Brookbank


the inner space said...

So among the 4 big leagues NFL NHL NBA and MLB plus the latest addin the MLS.

I enjoy NFL and NBA games but never attentive to NHL. As you said the boundary of "The Code" Hari big brother,I just can not find that entertaining !!!

While MLB is more a mind game rather than a sport so I do sometimes watch that when travelling to North America esp their World Series.

MLS still at its infant stage though they paid big money for over-rated player like David Beckham.

Kempton said...

I have lots of fun watching our hockey teams do well (in NHL or Olympics games). But I've never and will never enjoy the fighting in the games. In fact, I am ashamed of the fighting in hockey, our national game.

P.S. Go Canada Go!!! I am going to watch a bit of the Junior game on Wednesday. I hope the Canadian team will beat the Russians again.

Haricot 微豆 said...


I used to watch professional sport such as CFL, NHL and NBA etc., but now I do so only occasionally. Instead, I use the time to do exercise myself, including ice-skating on the Rideau Canal !!!

Haricot 微豆 said...


I don't know which one is more "shameful": Faking injury in soccer games or fist fighting in ice-hockey? What are we telling our youngsters?

Look forward to the Canada vs Russia game of the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship !!!

According to Jan 5, 2011:

".... In fact, between 2002 and 2007 (six tournaments), Canada and Russia met for gold five times, Canada winning three. Although Sweden and the United States have made some noise at U20 in recent years, the foundation of the tournament’s rivalry rests in Canada and Russia. No two teams have played for gold as often; no two teams have a history as successful and as affected by an opponent.

Tonight, in Buffalo, another chapter in this history will be written. No one should be surprised by Russia’s presence in the game, and no one should be surprised if the team wins gold. And if Canada wins, well, it will have succeeded in its goal – to eliminate the bad taste left by last year’s defeat on home ice ..."

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