Fighting in Hockey


  • Fighting is allowed in professional hockey leagues across North America. This includes the NHL.
  • Each player receives a 5-minute major penalty for fighting. Extra penalties can be added if the referee deems it necessary.
  • Fighting is forbidden in the Olympics, in European leagues, and in the NCAA.


Fighting in the NHL goes back to the start of the game. Introduced in 1922, NHL Rule 56 (currently rule 46; also know as the “fisticuffs” rule) regulated what had already been a part of hockey culture. It is now imbedded in the fabric of the NHL; however, recently it has been a source of controversy for the sport. Fighting is considered essential to diehard hockey fans, but is seen as barbaric and unusual to outsiders.

  • THE SUPPORTERS- “Protect the history!”

    • Star protection:   It actually protects because it prevents opponents from taking cheap shots on defenseless players.
    • Entertainment:   Considered a very exciting moment in a hockey game.
    • Job entry:   Excelling in fighting is how some players made it to the NHL.
  • THE OPPOSITION – “Get rid of fighting!”

    • Health risks:   Fighting leads to concussions and future neurological problems for enforcers (players who most often are involved in the fights).
    • The game is changing:  Enforcer type players are on the decline, so the league might as well ban fighting.
    • PG-13:   Fighting is not appropriate for children to watch.


  • 98% of NHL players support fighting.
  • NHL Commissioner Garry Bettman indicated that fighting will remain a part of the game for the foreseeable future.


  • Read more here about how hockey is changing into a more skill oriented game.
  • How will the NHL be affected with continued public growth in awareness of head injuries in sports?