Brawling on the ice

December 5, 2011

Dirty Hands

I was eight years old when I went to Madison Square garden to attend my first Hockey game, where the Pittsburg Penguins came into New York to take on the Rangers.  As I entered the arena I saw that the fans were ecstatic for the game to begin.  The game began like any typical hockey game, vicious hitting and a tremendous amount of intensity.  As the game went on I noticed that the same two players on opposing teams were constantly going after one another.  Soon after this one of these players hit the other illegally from behind and I could not believe what I saw next.  These two massive men began brawling in the middle of the ice and nobody did anything to stop it.  They were wailing on each other for a sold five to ten seconds before one of them fell and the referee came to break it up.  After the fight ended both the Ranger Bench and the entire stadium was in a state of euphoria.  Everyone was out of his or her seats cheering at the top of their lungs and the entire atmosphere of the stadium had been lifted.  At that moment I was too young to understand why everyone was so happy, but now since I am older and well educated it makes complete sense to me.  Fighting in hockey games raises the moral of not only the players themselves but also the fans in the arena.  It gets them fired up and the adrenaline going.  There are many people who want to ban fighting completely in the National Hockey League.  Despite this fact, fights in hockey break out so often and change the overall intensity of the game so much that it has become tradition and a part of the game of hockey itself.

a typical hockey fight

Although fights in hockey can do so much good for a team, people are still being hurt in the process.  Sometimes the injuries sustained by players involved in fights are minor, while other times players sustain career ending injuries that potentially cause life long harm. According to Martin Hollis’ philosophy, people who commit morally wrong acts in order to serve greater purposes “dirty their hands.”  Therefore professional hockey players who enter into fights in order to raise the moral of their teams or intimidate other teams inadvertently dirty their hands.

Hockey fights can drastically change the pace of the game and can give a team a desired spark that could help them win.  Additionally, this spark is helped ignited by the clamorous fans.  Since hockey fights get the fans intensity to shoot through the roof it gets the home team even more fired up.  As the great Philosopher Niccole Machiavelli once stated, “ the ends justify the means.”  This means that you can use bad or immoral methods as long as you accomplish something good by using them.  Machiavelli believed that the morality of an action is based solely on the outcome of the action and not on the action itself.  This philosophy most certainly applies to hockey fights.  Beating someone’s face in order to help your team win a game is by no means morally right.  However, if this actually does help a team achieve the ultimate goal of winning the game then it is completely justifiable according to Machiavelli’s theory.

– Greatest Hockey fights of all time

Although fighting in hockey can inspire a team mentally, it has another negative aspect to it in addition to injuries caused by the fighting.  Hockey players who enter into fights on the ice get five-minute major penalties for it.  This means that the game goes from five on five to four on four.  Many people argue that this can drastically hurt a team since one team may lose a much more valuable player than the other team.  This is why it is so crucial that certain people fight while others do not.  As a result of this, hockey teams usually have one player who is known as the “enforcer.”  The enforcer for a team is not typically one of the most skilled players, but is very strong, intimidating, and can fight.  This player is a complete brute and has a main purpose of starting fights to intimidate the other team and ignite his team and the crowd.  If Machiavelli were alive today he would most likely support the idea of an enforcer on the ice because it helps a team accomplish their main goal of winning the game.

So I ask you, should fighting in hockey continue to be a praised tradition or should the National Hockey league ban it?



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6 Comments on “Brawling on the ice”

  1. sbyr Says:

    To answer your main question, yes I think that fighting should continue to be allowed in the NHL. Fighting adds accountability to the game. If a player makes a dirty hit on another player, he typically has to answer to the opposing team’s enforcer. The presence of enforcers generally deters—though doesn’t completely eliminate—dirty hits. Some issues you raise about fighting include the endangerment and injuring of players. However, there are unwritten rules of fighting that are generally followed in the NHL that reduce injury. Namely, players must agree to fight, they drop their gloves, and most importantly once one of the fighters falls the fight is over. The threat of fighting prevents arguably more dangerous dirty hits and plays.
    As for relating fighting to the problem of dirty hands, I somewhat disagree with your reasoning. While fighting can certainly raise the morale of the teams, it also serves several other purposes such as trying to change the momentum of the game or retaliating against some dirty play or cheap shot. Thus, I wouldn’t consider all instances of fighting as being for the greater good. Fights in the NHL break out all the time with varying causes. Some players just don’t like each other.
    Moreover, if both players agree to fight, and it’s a clean fight, I don’t think either player is committing “morally wrong acts”. Are boxers or UFC fighters guilty of committing “morally wrong acts”?

  2. bpkass Says:

    I think that this article is very interesting and I have talked about this with my friends on numerous occasions. After reading this article, I am even more comfortable with my opinion. I believe that fighting should continue to be a part of the NHL
    While fighting can be extremely dangerous and in almost any other environment, it should be stopped immediately, it is necessary to the game of hockey. If the game of hockey did not originate with fighting then i would not say that it is necessary to add it, but it clearly not right to take it out of hockey. This fighting brings fans to the game and serves a much larger purpose than just being aggressive. The author of this article, jonkeren, said it best. These fights go on mainly to help a team’s chances of winning. I have been in a similar situation as author, jonkeren. When I went to an Islanders game, I was not too enthused until Mark Parrish got in a serious fight with a member of the Montreal Canadiens. This drew my interest and I proceeded to cheer much more. This fan support helps the players be more inclined to win.
    It does not just have to go through the fans. If a player gets in a fight, he is also much more motivated to win. A player wants nothing more than to shut the other player up by beating him badly (beating him in the actual game, not physically). It is evident that while this might seem like a somewhat heinous act, it is done for the greater good. These fights serve a much greater purpose.
    In conclusion, I know that fighting in hockey is extremely dangerous and might seem pointless at times, but author, jonkeren, brings up a lot of valid points. There is more than just the fighting; it is the affect of the fighting. This fighting brings life to the fans as well as the players and increases a team’s odds of winning. Great post jonkeren!!!

  3. kpatch Says:

    Very interesting post by taking the actual act in a sport not just the people involved and connecting it to dirty hands. Fighting in hockey does seem to be quite barbaric to those who are not familiar with the sport. Yes players can get injured in a hockey fight, but they can get injured during any other part of the game as well. I would even go further and say that in a fight they are aware of what is coming towards them unlike a blindsided hit during regular play. There actually is an entire honor code that goes along with fighting in hockey. It can be in reaction to a dirty hit or just defending a teammate for one reason or another hockey fights have structure and it is very well known by each player what is appropriate during a fight. Every player will agree that going after player who is significantly smaller is unfair, as well as throwing a punch while the opponent is down. I would say that the means of fighting in hockey is justified by the ends which is redeeming or protecting teammates from previous actions.

  4. djavolio8 Says:

    Fighting has been a part of the game for awhile, and while there has been recent buzz around the negative effects this has on player health, I believe it is negligible in comparison to helmet to helmet hits. Fights happen all the time. In sports, on the streets, in someone’s backyard, in a frat house, everywhere. Yes, trauma to the head can be sustained but the average person cannot deliver a punch strong enough to deliver serious trauma to someone’s brain. As we see in the NFL, helmet to helmet hits can be devastating and have resulted in numerous concussions. A similar action needs to be taken in the NHL. Helmet to helmet hits do not enhance the game in any way, and instead endanger the lives of the players. If two “tough” guys want to throw their gloves off and punch at each other so be it. How much damage can one really inflict while wearing a pair of ice skates? The NHL, though, needs to abolish helmet to helmet hits and should look into providing its players with helmets that are of the most modern in technology.

  5. collinam Says:

    I think fighting in hockey should be allowed. As a life long hockey fan, I think that fighting is one of the best and most entertaining traditions in hockey. It gets the crowd and the players fired. With the new rules that have been established in hockey, fighting has been diminished significantly. Personally, I think there needs to be more fights. It brings attention to hockey, which the sport severely lacks. Hockey is one of the least popular major sports in the US (in terms of media coverage) and the sport could use all the attention it can get.

    Even though fighting is dangerous, it should continue to be a part of the game. It is necessary to the game. Fighting wouldn’t have started in hockey if it weren’t necessary. It is an effective tool to gain your team some momentum and excitement if you are losing a close game. The simple act of winning a fight can propel a team to a win. In this case, I think the Machiavellian logic applies. The enforcer mindset, almost by definition, is that they’ll do whatever it takes to help they’re team win. Enforcers are unique in the fact that they don’t care how they help their team, just so long as the do actually help. They’ll score a goal or get in a fight, it really doesn’t matter to them. As long as their team wins the game or gets a motivation boost, the means don’t really matter. I think this also holds true in the minds of almost everyone who has a stake in the team, whether it be the fans, the coach, the owner, or the other players. They all want to win and don’t care how they win. So the Machiavellian thinking holds especially true in hockey.

  6. Michael Zanger Says:

    Sadly, fighting in hockey has always been an element of the sport. Fighting enforces gender roles and stereotypes that MacKinnon failed to mention in the Sex Inequality model. MacKinnon talks about women being subordinate to men and the gender roles enforced between the sexes, but does not analyze the struggle between males and the conformity to male genders. Today, sports still proves to be an extremely homophobic environment, therefore creating a lot of hostility among men. To protect themselves, they lash out at one another at any sight of weakness in another individual. On one hand, it reinforces the male gender role of aggression and domination. Alternatively, it picks apart and calls-out those who are not conforming to masculinity.

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