FIGHTING

For the purpose of fighting when it comes to a Referee deciding whether or not to assess a Fighting penalty you can disregard the old notion of “3 punches were thrown” when deciding if a fight occurred or not.  Most Referees will not assess a Major penalty plus a Game Misconduct for fighting unless there is actually a fight (two players throwing punches or going “Toe-to-Toe”) or if one player does not want to fight and another player is throwing punches at him, or throws a sucker punch.

In hockey a player can be assessed an extra Minor penalty for being the Instigator and/or a Minor penalty for being the Aggressor.  Therefore, in one fight situation it is possible for a referee to give an Instigator (2 minutes), Fight (5 + GM) and an Aggressor (2 minutes) for a total of 9:00 minutes in penalties to one player and zero minutes to the opponent if the opponent didn’t fight back.

Instigator

When two players agree to fight (this does not have to be a verbal agreement) you usually see them circling or standing in front of each other inciting one another to drop their gloves first. Some think that if you drop your gloves first this automatically means that you will receive the extra Minor penalty that accompanies the “Instigator” penalty.  When two players agree to fight and are squaring off with one another it doesn’t really matter who drops their gloves first, the instigator penalty will for the most part not be assessed.

Instigators are called when one player clearly starts a fight, whether it be from attacking or jumping an opponent,  by skating a fair distance to get to the opponent, or when players don’t square off to fight one another.  So, once you see two players square off don’t expect to see an instigator penalty assessed.

Aggressor

The Aggressor penalty (2:00 minute time penalty) is called when a player uses excess force on an opponent, either during a fight or when the opponent covers up indicating that he wants to end the fight.  When there is a fight in progress, there is usually a little thing called “RESPECT” that ties into this barbaric part of the game of hockey. When the player who “Wins” the fight, usually determined by the player that is standing at the end of the fight or the player that lands on top when they fall to the ice, keeps punching as the linesmen are trying to break up the fight, or inflicts more than necessary punishment, he will most often receive the Aggressor penalty.

Players who respect their opponents and the game of hockey will fight and then split up without trying to get that extra couple of punches in.  The respect, however, is diminishing as every year passes, and as such Referees are required to assess extra penalties to try and bring the respect back into the game.

The other instance of an Aggressor being assessed is when only one player is assessed a Major plus a Game Misconduct for fighting.  This player’s opponent has either been jumped or covered up, thus making it impossible to assess the player a Major penalty plus a Game Misconduct for Fighting.

When only one person is fighting, he is really putting his team in a hole. For example, if a referee decides to give a major for fighting to one player only, he pretty much has to give an aggressor penalty on top of it. It is hard to argue that the player who was the only one fighting was not also the aggressor.

He Threw His Gloves Off

Just because a player drops his gloves in order to challenge another player to fight this does not constitute the initiation of a fight.  Unless there are actually punches thrown then there will probably only be a Minor penalty for “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” or a Misconduct penalty for “Inciting” assessed to the player that dropped his gloves to try and Incite an opponent into a fight.

Failing To Go To Bench During A Fight

When a fight occurs you may see both of the linesmen clearing the debris (gloves, sticks and helmets) away from the two combatants, but you may not notice what the Referee is doing.  It is very rarely that a Referee gets to even see half of the fight as his prime duty is to get all of the other players on the ice back to their players’ bench or to another area designated by the Referee if the fight is taking place in front of one of the players’ bench.

The reason for this is to avoid a brawl taking place.  As the other players watch the fight they may become involved in their own fight and this can escalate into a line brawl. The second fight and every fight afterwards on the same stoppage of play will receive an extra Game Misconduct on top of the Major plus a Game Misconduct for Fighting.  Referees don’t want this headache and therefore they devote their energy to get all remaining players back to their players’ bench or to a designated area. 

After the Referee orders the players to their benches, any player that does not listen to the Referee may be assessed a Misconduct penalty.

After the fight is broken up by the linesmen, the Referee usually asks the linesmen if anything unordinary occurred during the fight, such as one player biting the other.  The reason the Referee asks this is because he isn’t as close to the fight as the linesmen and he may not have seen the entire fight while getting the other players back to their bench.

The goaltender must remain in his crease unless directed by the Referee to go to another area on the ice.  If a goaltender leaves his crease during a fight on his own accord then he will receive a Minor penalty for “Leaving the Crease” during a fight.  Most Referees are too busy getting the players back to their benches during a fight and as long as the goaltender stays close to his crease there probably won’t be a penalty assessed to the goaltender for leaving his crease.  However, if the goaltender gets close to the fight or to his players bench without the permission of the Referee then he may receive this Minor penalty.

Third Man In

The best advice for a coach to give to his players is that once you see two opposing players begin to fight, get back to the bench or as far away from the fight as possible so that you don’t get yourself thrown out of the game.

As soon as a Referee assesses one player a Major penalty plus a Game Misconduct for fighting then any other players that intervene in that fight will receive a Game Misconduct for “Third Man In”.  Whether or not the player that intervenes in the fight becomes involved as a fighter, or a peacekeeper by trying to pull the players apart, this player will receive the Game Misconduct penalty plus any other penalties that he may deserve from the intervention.  This rule also holds true for any subsequent players that enter into that fight, such as the 4th, 5th, 6th player and so on.

For example, Domi and Brashear (assume they are in minor hockey) are skating down the ice trying to incite each other to fight when Brashear sucker punches Domi causing Domi to fall to the ice.  Brashear now gets on top of Domi and continues to punch him.  A teammate of Domi’s, Tucker, sees this happening and decides to intervene by grabbing Brashear and pulling him off of Domi without throwing any punches at Brashear.  What penalties would be assessed?

Brashear would probably receive a Major penalty plus a Game Misconduct for Fighting.  He would also receive a Minor penalty for being the “Aggressor” since he continued to punch Domi as he was down on the ice.  There probably would not be any “Instigator” penalty in this situation as both players were trying to incite each other into a fight.  Domi at most would probably receive a Minor penalty for “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” at most for his actions prior to the sucker punch, if he even receives a penalty at all.  As for Tucker, he would receive a Game Misconduct for “Third Man In” but probably would not receive any other penalties as he didn’t throw a punch but just acted as a peacemaker.

In this example, even though Domi is getting beat up, it is best for Domi’s teammates to wait for the Linesmen to get into the fight and split it up, thus saving themselves a suspension. Although when you see a teammate getting beat up it may be hard to fight the urge to help him out, try to fight the urge! 

Second Fight Same Stoppage of Play

When there is a fight already occurring on the ice, there can be no other fights on the ice during the same stoppage of play without being assessed an extra Game Misconduct on top of the other penalties that these players may receive.

EXAMPLE:  A fight is occurring on the ice and as the Referee is ordering the other players to get back to the bench, two of them decide that they want to fight also.  What penalties would they receive?

The two players in the original fight would receive a Major penalty plus a Game Misconduct for Fighting.  Since it was a mutual fight and they split up easily there are no Instigator or Aggressor penalties assessed.  The second fight would see both combatants receive a Major penalty plus a Game Misconduct for fighting plus another Game Misconduct for the second fight in the same stoppage of play.

This extra Game Misconduct can be assessed to the same player if a player gets into two fights during the same stoppage of play.  This is most likely to occur when a third person enters into a fight that is already taking place causing one of the combatants to become involved in another fight.  Both the third person into the original fight and the opponent that he is now fighting would receive the extra Game Misconduct for a second fight in the same stoppage.

9.20.4.1 – Leaving The Players’ or Penalty Bench

Rule 70b:

“…a double Minor penalty shall be imposed on the player of the team who was the first to leave the players’ or penalty bench during a fight.  If players of both teams leave their respective benches at the same time, the first identifiable player of each team to do so, shall incur a double Minor penalty.  A Game Misconduct penalty shall also be imposed on any player penalized under this section, plus any other penalties he may incur.” (Canadian Hockey Referee’s Case Book/Rule Combination, 2001, pg.188).

Bench clearing brawls were a common occurrence about twenty years ago, but since then rules have been put in place to severely punish players and coaches who decide to have a bench brawl.  When a Line Brawl occurs it usually consists of all ten skaters and the two goaltenders on the ice becoming involved in a fight with each other.  In this situation all 12 players can receive Game Misconducts for any action that warrants a Game Misconduct.  For instance, if all 12 players are fighting then all 12 players would receive Game Misconducts for Fighting plus 10 of these players would receive an extra Game Misconduct for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th fight in the same stoppage of play (see section 9.20.3.4).

When a player jumps over the boards to get involved in a fight or to start a fight, then this player would receive an automatic Double Minor penalty plus a Game Misconduct for this action on top of other penalties that he may receive such as a Major plus a Game Misconduct for Fighting.  The purpose of this rule is to try and deter players from jumping over the boards for the purpose of fighting which can escalate into an entire Bench Clearing Brawl and thus one giant headache for the Referee and his Linesmen plus some enormous suspensions to the players and coaching staff.

The Double Minor plus a Game Misconduct would be assessed to the player that the Referee is able to identify as the “first player to jump onto the ice” from the players’ or penalty bench.  If the first player to jump the boards is from the penalty bench then this player will also receive an extra Minor penalty for leaving the penalty bench early bringing his total to 6 minutes + Game Misconduct + any other penalties he may receive.

When the first player from each team jumps at exactly the same time making it impossible for the Referee to determine who was the first player to jump over the boards then each team would have their first player receive the Double Minor plus the Game Misconduct for leaving the bench during a fight or for the purpose of fighting.

The maximum number of players that can be assessed Game Misconducts (either for fighting, leaving the bench first, cross-checking, etc.) when a player leaves a bench for the purpose of fighting or during a fight is 5 players per team.  However, the player that jumped over the boards first can be assessed a Game Misconduct bringing the maximum number of Game Misconducts to 6 players on one team and 5 players on the other team.   This maximum number can occur several times during a game if there are other bench brawls later on in the game.

Thankfully, we don’t see this very often in minor hockey. However, it is still in the rule book.

Fighting Before The Puck Is Dropped

Have you ever wondered why players wait until the puck is dropped before they drop their gloves and begin to fight?  The reason for this is that if you get into a fight before the puck is dropped when you have just come off of the players’ bench then you may receive a suspension.

EXAMPLE 1: You have just jumped over the boards on a stoppage of play and you line up across from an opposition player.  Now you call him onto a fight, drop your gloves and begin to fight.  You clearly instigated the fight.  For your actions you would receive a Double Minor penalty plus a Game Misconduct for coming off of the bench for the purpose of fighting.  You would also receive a Minor penalty for being the Instigator and a Major penalty plus a Game Misconduct for Fighting.  All in all you would have received 11minutes in penalties plus 2 Game Misconducts.  The opponent that you fought would receive a Major penalty plus a Game Misconduct for fighting.

EXAMPLE 2: You have just jumped over the boards on a stoppage of play and you line up across from an opposition player.  You and the opponent both agree to fight and you do so before the puck is dropped.  Both you and your opponent would receive all of the penalties that you received in Example 1 except the Instigator penalty would not be assessed as you were both willing combatants.

EXAMPLE 3:  You have just jumped over the boards on a stoppage of play and you line up across from an opposition player. The opposing player instigates a fight with you and you oblige.  Both you and your opponent would receive a Major penalty plus a Game Misconduct.  Your opponent would receive the Minor penalty for being the instigator in this situation.

REASON:  You must remember that in example 1 and 2 you came onto the ice for the purpose of fighting and as such you would receive the automatic Double Minor plus a Game Misconduct.  It is for this reason that you will rarely see players fight before the puck is dropped.  By waiting those extra couple of seconds you can save yourself a few games of watching from the stands.

Fighting Summary

Fighting is a way that players can police themselves on the ice and in essence it keeps the game of hockey under control by not allowing the ‘cowards’ or ‘cheap shot players’ to hurt their opposition.  It is a fundamental part of the game of hockey that keeps the players abiding by the unwritten rule of “if you hurt one of my players with an illegal move, you will receive your own punishment”.

Although this may be true, minor hockey does not want to see fighting because they fear that it may scare potential or future hockey players from entering the game.  Therefore, they have implemented the above rules to try and deter fighting from the game of hockey as much as possible.  Not every one may agree with these rules but they do their job in keeping the number of fights at the minor hockey level low.

The fact of the matter is that you will see more injuries from slashes and high sticks than you will from two players fighting.  In large part, this is because in a hockey fight most of the punches don’t make contact with the opponent at the minor hockey level as the players are not stable enough on their skates to stay standing, which causes them to fall to the ice quickly.