Fighting in Hockey and The Human Response

Five years ago today, the defending World Champion Boston Bruins hosted the Carolina Hurricanes, in a match-up that featured many big, bad “bruisers” but also had their fair share of fast, talented goal scorers. Up a goal halfway through the first period, a member of the Hurricanes intentionally pummeled a Bruins player along the boards and was rightfully called for a penalty. That hit was what ultimately started how the rest of the game would play out…

Hockey fights can have many effects on its audience, one of which is excitation – we have a physiological arousal when we are watching said fight. At this specific game in Boston’s TD Garden, there were numerous reasons why the fans would be “aroused.” It circles around being in a state of excitement because of the first fight that we see the captain, Zdeno Chara get into with an opposing member of the Hurricanes. In my experience, most hockey fans enjoy the occasional throw down between players. It gets them riled up and up out of their seats cheering on their team’s player. Paul Newman’s character in Slap Shot says, “We got a Image result for slap shot fightnew attitude! It’s bringin’ success.” Of course, he is talking about fighting and how he encourages his own players to take part in it, and believes it is how the team will attract all its fans. The fans at the game against the Hurricanes stood and applauded all parts of the fighting and misconduct. They chanted for their players, against the others and booed and harassed the referees.

A few consistencies with each scrum in this game: 1. Milan Lucic was hitting every one in sight trying to get someone to go with him. 2. Tim Gleason really antagonized any and all Bruins, causing them to get 10 minute misconducts and tossed from the game. There are players like this that are good for hockey getting under peoples skin, trying to get the man advantage on the ice. However, there are a few in the NHL that should not be praised for their play, behaving on the ice in ways that diminish their character and the character of any one or thing surrounding them (See: Matt Cooke, Steve Ott, etc.). Then you have guys like Chris Kelly who is not a top goal scorer, nor is really known for getting in many fights. But he won’t back down either. When the bell rang for him, at a point where his team trailed two goals, he did what he had to do to try and get some life from his teammates.

With each fight in this game, around 94 penalty minutes given out between the two teams, roughly 60 of those minutes for fighting and misconduct, fans were pumped up. Unfortunately for everyone, some fans felt that they needed to exercise their feelings by littering the ice at one point. That’s the ugly result of fights and disagreeing with the calls on the ice. They had been watching a good old fashioned hockey game, and it was too bad some exaggerated their emotions.

Sports often promote physical health and well-being, encourages camaraderie and even gives confidence to young ones while presenting heroes to look up to. While fights in hockey are cheered and encouraged, they are still penalized, and that’s something we can’t forget. It’s allowed, but it’s not like players and teams don’t know these consequences. They know what they’re getting into and often pay the price for it. In recent years, there has been talk about the future of fighting in the NHL. Personally, I do not think that the NHL should do away with fights, because I feel it is a part of the game. Unfortunately in the game 5 years ago, the bouts didn’t help the Bruins win, but clearly it had a strong effect on both the guys on the ice and the fans watching.

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