Should fighting in hockey be allowed?

Hockey is one of the few contact sports where fighting between players doesn't result in immediate disqualifications for the players or their team, but recent incidents have made people question whether fighting should be allowed in hockey at all

Rise of the Issue

Fighting has been a part of hockey, specifically ice hockey, since the sport first became famous in Canada. Today, the National Hockey League (NHL) is the only organization that does not have a rule banning fighting, owing to the long tradition of ‘fisticuffs’ within the game. 

Generally, these fights have little to no impact on the outcome of the match, and serve as a way for players to blow off steam while on the field and prevent more violence from occurring. But although there are rules governing how players must conduct themselves during a fight and referees pay close attention to these at all times, a recent incident in the Stanley cup finals has made some question whether fighting shouldn’t be banned from hockey altogether, breaking with the sports’ long standing tradition.

Issue Timeline


Ice Hockey Arrives in the U.S.

Hockey first establishes itself as an organized sport in Canada in the late 19th century, to then start to become popular in the U.S. in the early 20th century.


First Game of the NHL in the U.S.

The Boston Bruins hosted the Montreal Maroons in the first hockey game ever played in the United States.


Implementation of the Instigator Rule

The NHL lays down its new rule for fighting between players known as the Instigator rule, which established a penalty of two extra minutes in the box for any player caught starting a fight.


Injuries and Lawsuits from Fights Force NHL to Implement More Safety Regulations

The NHL implements more rules designed to improve player safety and accountability during fights, including an extra penalty for players who removed their helmets.

Micro Issues



Fisticuffs have been a part of ice hockey since the establishment of the sport. Many argue that removing fighting from hockey would remove one of the unique aspects of the sport, while others argue that it is an outdated and dangerous tradition that needs to be amended or removed.


Entertainment Value

Many argue that one of the main draws for audiences to an ice hockey game is to witness an altercation on the ice, while others say that this creates a subculture that glorifies violence and toxic masculinity.



Supporters of fisticuffs in the NHL argue that fights between players help keep the violence on the pitch to a minimum and that the rules of altercations ensure it doesn't go too far, while opponents point to the many examples of incidents that put the lives of hockey players at risk.

Pro Arguments


It keeps violence to a minimum.

The common argument is that allowing altercations between players allows them to vent their frustrations without the risk of the violence escalating.


Fighting is a tradition in hockey.

Fighting has always been a part of ice hockey and banning it would feel like taking away a big part of the game’s identity for many.


It could help with teams’ performance during games.

Some argue that fighting is not only entertaining for fans, but also builds momentum for players, who experience a boost to perform better for their team after seeing one of their players in a fisticuff.


The rules in place ensure the safety of hockey players.

There is a code of conduct for players to follow that referees put in place that makes sure that any player who does not respect the code suffers severe consequences.


Fighting is what makes the game so appealing to many fans.

Fighting in ice hockey is a big part of what draws in more fans to the sport and increases the passionate support that teams and players receive from their audiences.

Con Arguments


Fighting in hockey glorifies violence.

The use of fighting to resolve differences between players promotes a hockey subculture where violence is seen as something to worship rather than to avoid.


Encouraging violent performances could create a culture of toxic masculinity.

The NHL has been embroiled in cases of sexual assault and violence against women and minority groups from hockey players that some have argued to be related to the sports’ glorification of a violent type of masculinity.


Fighting in hockey is a trend rather than a tradition.

Studies have shown that fighting in hockey, while it has always been present in the game, has gone through ebbs and flows through the sports’ history, ranging from it happening at every game to it occurring about 20% of the time.


It puts hockey players at severe risk.

Many cases of altercations in hockey have resulted in spinal fractures, skull fractures, and plates bleeding all over the rink, putting players through unnecessary pain and danger.


Fighting produces more violence, not less.

The NHL’s argument that fisticuffs reduce the amount of violence on the pitch has been proven wrong many times, as there have been many instances of altercations escalating to the point of severe injury for players.