The Fight of Our Heroes
Heroes need to fight. Whether it is on the gridiron or the ice, viewers love to watch star athletes play at what seems to be a superhuman level. Star players make sports more exciting. Exciting enough that these athletes become heroes in our society. The best way to ensure these heroes stay on the ice is to encourage fighting in the game of hockey. Not only does the physical violence of fighting create a safer environment on the ice, but the mere threat of violence also helps keep the game in check.
Hockey is a game of speed and skill. As the game has evolved it has become more and more dangerous. If one was to watch hockey from the 60’s or 70’s it would almost be considered a different game. Players using wooden sticks, goalies’ barley wearing pads, and not a helmet in sight. This would lead a person to believe the game was more dangerous back then. However, this was the time period where the enforcer ruled with an iron fist.
McKay writes in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, “A total of 1,685 individual players were injured during the six-year analysis stretching from 2006 until 2012.” A rigorous analysis of all injuries found the main cause of injuries in the NHL was body checking. Body checks can cause severe damage to the brain leading to CTE. At the speed of on ice collisions it is expected to cause pain. Causing pain in hockey is a strategy that has been proven to win games.
To combat these collisions another type of battle must ensue. This battle occurs in both the mind and the body. Thelen writes in Fighting In Ice Hockey: There is More Behind a Clenched Fist than Pain, “fighting in ice hockey occurs when disrespectful and dirty plays do not get called or seen, and the players take justice into their own hands with The Code. The Code is simple, play dirty and retaliate dirty, you will be held accountable for your actions on the ice.” This idea of The Code is well known in hockey across all levels of play.
The Code is similar to the unwritten rules of baseball as well. Both work in the same manner to protect individuals without any action be taken. However, when punishment is needed it is handed out in both sports. In baseball, a batter may be brushed off the plate for previous actions. Some more unfriendly actions even warrant a better to be plunked in the back with a fastball. Each individual scenario can be debated; whether the batter deserved the punishment or not, but the debate never questions the unwritten rules itself.
Doroshenko mentions in Fighting in Hockey — Player Perceptions “I’d rather see a player fight and lose than turn his cheek and not fight at all, and I think a lot of the players are like that.” This mantra is commonly heard throughout all levels of hockey when one is asked their perception on fighters. Doroshenko mentions the sport is built on toughness and even in “the first hockey game ever played indoors under written rules, it ended in a fight where many players brawled with members of a skating club.” From the start of the game fighting has been a part of its DNA. With the long-standing precedent, it is not unexcepted for players to have the idea all players should be fighters in their mind.
In the study conducted by Doroshenko he states,” Almost 70 percent of the participants concluded that fighting is needed within the game.” His study conducted with Division 1 ice hockey players from the northeast United States found this significant result. Now, one may question why the players are so compelled to feel violence is needed in their sport, but his results do not specify why but just provide their significance.
Branching off Doroshenko’s research it can be concluded that players feel safe when an enforcer is on their team. Colburn pens in Honor, Ritual and Violence in Ice Hockey, “Fighting is understood as a form of retaliation and informal punishment after an offending player endangers an opponent through an act of aggression or carelessness. Referees can impose formal penalties in games, but their ability to monitor can be limited.” Through a secondary system player manage the on ice activities. This may be clear when you take a broad look at the idea, referees control the players and players control the game. However, with a more nuanced approach it becomes clear that the players themselves are the ones controlling the game and the officials. When a puck is stuck in the corner and two or three players are digging, kicking grabbing, and slashing it is not clear to an onlooking official what exactly is happening. These types of plays lead to injury and retaliation. However, when the presence of an enforcer is added these scrums tend to end in a clean and safe manner.
Lastly, Sirianni writes in The Specialization of Informal Social Control: Fighting in the National Hockey League from 1947-2019, “The game of ice hockey presents a collective action problem: competing teams have an incentive to play in a manner that could physically harm their opponents but maximizes their own probability of winning.” As explained by Sirianni, teams stand to benefit from injuring players. This phenomenon is only seen in a few sports with hockey being the only that allows combat to prevent it. Through the use of The Code players minimize this risk and when someone goes against The Code they are met with extreme consequences.
Afterall, hockey is a dangerous game. Through the progression of media hockey has become more and more accessible to the average American. With such high interest, players become stars but they are not your typical celebrities. These men abide by a code of honor on the ice which entails complete brutality. Through the players willingness to abide by The Code, the players officiate themselves thus creating a safer environment on the ice.
Colburn Jr., Kenneth. 1986. “Honor, Ritual and Violence in Ice Hockey.” The Canadian Journal of Sociology 10: 153–70.
Doroshenko, Jordan, “Fighting in Hockey — Player Perceptions” (2013). Sport Management Undergraduate. Paper 61.
McKay CD, Tufts RJ, Shaffer B.The epidemiology of professional ice hockey injuries: a prospective report of six NHL seasons British Journal of Sports Medicine 2014;48:57-62.
Sirianni, A. (2019, February 22). The Specialization of Informal Social Control: Fighting in the National Hockey League from 1947-2019. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/j9qpd
Thelen, D. G. B. (2022). Fighting In Ice Hockey: There is More Behind a Clenched Fist than Pain (Master’s thesis).
I am looking to see how well my essay provided a clear cause and effect argument. I feel like I might have been reppettive throughout. Please let me know if thats the case
That’s a good Feedback Plan, GoBirds. Let me begin by distilling each paragraph to one sentence. That will surely highlight any repetitions. Each sentence should make a Causal claim.
Your first paragraph is actually 2 paragraphs.
1. Without fighting, sports would not be exciting, and players would not be heroes.
1a. Without hockey fights, hockey would be less safe.
2. Despite slow play and poor equipment, enforcers kept hockey safe in the 60s and 70s.
3. Body checking, a dangerous but winning strategy that causes severe pain, comprised most of the 1,685 on-ice injuries over 7 years.
4. Players follow The Code by retaliating on the ice for uncalled body checks.
5. Unwarranted retaliations are not enough to threaten the sanctity of The Code.
6. Players have considered The Code honorable since the very first hockey game.
7. Without evidence, players contend that fighting is necessary.
8. Enforcers make their teammates feel safer by providing an unofficial method of limiting the danger of scrums.
9. Only hockey permits enforcers to limit injury to their teammates by dispensing injury to opponents.
10. Hockey stars are honorable thugs.
What do you think, GB? Do you see any repetition?
Are you surprised at any of the claims your paragraphs are making?
Would you have summarized them similarly?
Most importantly, do you see any evidence in these claims that enforcement has resulted in fewer injuries? Can it be proved with evidence? Are there leagues in different jurisdictions with different rules on fighting? If so, you could compare injury numbers across different enforcement regimes.
This post is always eligible for Revision, followed by additional Feedback and a Regrade.