Why is fighting in high school hockey acceptable?

By Steve Wolfe
I have always wondered in amused silence as I watch Alaska high school hockey. When two hockey players get in an obvious fight, (this happens almost every game), one or both of them are put in the penalty box for two or three minutes. I have wondered amusement because, in all other high school sports, a similar incident would have resulted in both players being suspended from the game. And, according to Alaska School Activities Association rules, would be barred from playing in the next contest. 
In other words, for football it could be for as much two games; the same for basketball. Other sports are similar. In wrestling, (another aggressive sport), a wrestler would be suspended for not only that match, but all matches in that event (as many as eight). He or she would also be suspended for the next event, including tournaments, so that could include as many as eight matches the next week as well. Consequently, there is rarely a fight in wrestling — or in any of the other sports.
I wonder why hockey is treated so differently than other sports? It can’t be that such an aggressive sport necessitates such a lax treatment of fighting, because football and wrestling are also aggressive, combat sports. It must be due to hockey fan interest. After all, the joke among hockey fans is: “I was really disappointed. I went to the fights last Friday and a hockey game broke out.”
Perhaps if there were not so much fighting, fewer fans would attend hockey. If that is the case, in all fairness, ASAA and other rule-generating entities should relax the rules on fighting in other sports. 
For example, if a player gets in a fight in a football game, he should be suspended from the game with no substitute for three minutes. That would be comparable to hockey rules. There definitely would be more fights, but that would bring out more fans to watch the fights. A similar rule for basketball or volleyball would also bring out the fans. 
In wrestling, whoever “won the fight” on the mat would advance in the tournament. Think of the fans who would come to wrestling with that kind of rule change. Ultimate Fighting Championship is, at present, the most popular spectator sport in America. It is true that there may be some collateral damage to high school students in Alaska, but think of the money high schools would bring in from gate fees. ASAA would also benefit from the additional gate receipts at State Tournaments.
Of course, a simpler solution would be to adjust the hockey rules, as far as fighting, to conform to those of other Alaska high school sports. But it would take a lot of courage to do that — so it will never happen.

Steve Wolfe is a retired teacher of 30 years. He coached football and wrestling in Alaska during that time, and continues to coach. He is author of three best-selling Alaska books, “Call Me Coach,” “Call Us Champions” and “Call Us Olympians.”

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Posted by on Jan 23rd, 2013 and filed under Point of View. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

12 Responses for “Why is fighting in high school hockey acceptable?”

  1. Steven Nevak says:

    Dear sir,

    I have been playing and coaching hockey for 25 years now. Your article is misleading and factually incorrect. I moved to Homer 3 years ago and found home. Both my boys play hockey. I wish for them to continue to do so and play for Homer High. There is a culture in every great hockey town and it is starting here in Homer. Using your status as a “Best selling author” to stop this movement is disappointing to every hockey family here in our town and a little suspect. Congratulations on your wrestling awards, but please leave our sport alone. When Homer High starts next season, please actually attend a game. You stated fights happen every game, that means there would be suspensions and school discipline after every game. If thats not the case, you owe the players and staff an apology, also the people at ASAA for not doing their job.

  2. Sean Rafter says:

    I’m sorry I had to stop reading after you said “they only get a two or three minute penalty for fighting, which occurs in almost every game”. You obviously haven’t spent much time around high school hockey. First, you can’t get a three minute penalty. Second, I assure you an obvious fight DOES NOT occur in every game. Although there is definitely fighting in professional hockey, high school kids are not squaring up and dropping their gloves. I also assure you ASAA is not trying to support fighting in youth hockey to support a larger fan base. Please stick to writing articles you have some sort of knowledge on and do not try to slam a sport you clearly have no understanding or appreciation for. Three minute penalty……give me a break.

  3. John Butcher says:

    I actually feel dumber for reading this point of view… this is obviously the opinion of a man who has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. Fighting is absolutely against the rules in High School Hockey, always has been and always will be. Hockey is a very fast and physical sport, emotions run high and things occasionally get heated. I have seen fights in high school games and I have seen those players punished accordingly, including suspensions from school. To say fighting is accepted and overlooked is ridiculous. Congratulations on you’re wrestling Hall of Fame induction Mr. Wolfe, feel free to put on a unitard and do some grappling but please stay away from the hockey rink..

  4. Terry Greenwald says:

    Mr Wolfe needs to do one of two things, learn more about hockey or stop commenting on the game. He shows his lack of knowledge when he suggests the offending player is sent to the penalty box for a two or three minute penalty, there are no three minute penalties. There are “minor” penalties which are all 2 minutes and the players team plays short a man until the two minutes are up OR the opposing team scores a goal. There are also five minute “major” penalties, where the offending player is sent to the penalty box and is there until the full five minutes is up, no matter HOW MANY goals the opposing team scores during the five minutes. Fighting is NOT allowed in high school hockey and is usually assesed a 2 minute MINOR penalty if the player throwing punches does not remove his gloves, if he does “drop em” then he is nusually assesed a more severe penalty of the major variety or a game misconduct which means he is ejected from the game and I believe is ineligible for the following game. Hockey is played with heavily padded gloves for protection from the puck which often travels fast enough to break bones. Pushing and shoving is a part of the game and at times the shoving goes beyond shoving to something more resembling of punches.

    This said however, comparing football or wrestling to hockey is just crazy. PLayers in the other sports do NOT werra padded gloves, and there are penalties which are assesed FAR differently than in hockey. IT’s like comparing apples and tangerines, it doesn’t make sense, but at the VERY LEAST, if you are going to give an opinion on a sport, learn the rules first!

  5. Emily Hutchison says:

    Mr. Wolfe,

    I have attended numerous high school hockey games in the eight years I have lived in Homer. How many times have I witnessed a fight? NEVER. Makes me wonder which high school hockey games you are actually watching since you say a fight happens “almost every game”. If you would have done just a small amount of research Mr. Wolfe, you would know that according to USA Hockey rules, fighting is a major penalty plus a game misconduct. This is not a 2 or 3 minute penalty in the box as you state. It is an ejection from the game, a suspension from the next game, and a 5 minute penalty served by another player of the team. You may be the author of “three best-selling Alaska books”, but clearly you did not back up this writing with facts and research.

    Hockey is a wonderful sport. I know because I play. I also know that because of the Homer Hockey Association and the Kevin Bell Arena that many children, teens, and adults have learned fair play, respect, integrity, leadership, teamwork, and a spirit for the game. Please don’t degrade hockey Mr. Wolfe with your own personal agenda. You are more than welcome to come out to the rink to see for yourself the positive impact Homer Hockey has on this community. The schedule is at homerhockey.org.

  6. Tom Bowe says:

    As a player on a high school hockey team i have never witnessed a fight in the 3 years i have played, which is almost 80 games. As for the suspention rules they are the exact same for every asaa sport or activity you are ejected from the game imediately and must serve a 1 game, match ect. suspention if it happenes again you are removed from the game but since you are a reapeat offender you miss 3 games due to suspention.

    • Steve Wolfe says:

      Because of all of the comments that pointed out that I was in error in my observations, I apologize. It seems to me whether you deliberately hit someone with gloves on or off it still is a fight, but I applaud the rule that suspends the fighters for the game and the next. That seems equal to the other sports and that is fair. I have nothing against a good agressive game like hockey, I just want all high school athletes to be treated equally. Apparently from your comments they are.

      • Todd Reekie says:

        It seems to me that your ignorance of the sport of hockey is only surpassed by your ability to back peddle. Hockey is a sport of finesse, power, speed, and skill. You very clearly stated that every high school hockey game has a fight in it. And now that you have been called out on your inaccurate attack on a game that many people love and respect your excuse is that there may be a difference between throwing punches with gloves on or off? I know a little about hockey and not for one second do I believe that you have seen fighting in any high school hockey game that wasn’t met in a penalty more severe than two minutes. There is no three minute penalties in high school hockey. Thanks for attending high school hockey, and supporting it financially with your two dollar gate fee…

        Good luck Homer Mariners as you approach the semi finals of your Region Tournament. Fight if you must, but play your best.

  7. Tim Miller says:

    After reading Mr Wolfe’s arcticle I can only conclude:
    That he has never been to a high school hockey game,
    He has a new book coming out and is looking for publicity.
    Or cant stand the fact that hockey is getting more community support than the the sports he coaches…probably all of the above
    Fighting in high school hockey is not only against the rules it almost never happens…a ref will step in long before it gets to be a fight

  8. Chris Miller says:

    …and every high school wrestling match I’ve been there’s a herpes outbreak. Oh wait…I’ve never been to a high school wrestling match. Guess I don’t deserve to express my point of view.

    Homer has a great thing going. Keep up the good work HHA, you’re cranking out some talented hockey players.

  9. Rob Ahiers says:

    I can’t understand someone could make such a rediculous statement. The man is dillusional !

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