Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

NHL fighting shows bias

By Malen Blackmon
Sports Editor

Former National Hockey League player and head coach Barry Melrose said the passion found in hockey fights is what makes the sport special, according to ESPN. However, that is not true.

The passion found in all professional sports is special. Fans of basketball and football could argue the coverage that surrounds those two sports creates a more universal passion that makes them different.

Rather, the rules the NHL has in place for fighting are what set the sport apart.

Fighting has been a part of professional hockey for almost a century, according to Business Insider.

But the NHL rarely hands out suspensions or six-digit fines like the NBA or NFL do.

According to the NBA Rulebook, if a player leaves their bench during a harmless pushing match between others on the court, they will receive a suspension or a fine. If they even look at another player the wrong way, the referee can use their discretion to throw them out of the game without warning.

According to Business Insider, former NHL official Kerry Fraser said, “The emotion of a hockey game and hockey player at times is unlike any other sport.” Former NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said fighting acts as a thermostat for the sport, according to Business Insider. It could prevent future injuries, he said.

Football is a sport driven by emotion. Players run 40 yards in four seconds and collide into each other, sometimes hitting the opposing player hard enough they have to leave the game.

Some NFL and NBA fans consider fighting barbaric. I enjoy watching mixed martial arts and boxing title matches, so I do not mind seeing scuffles in professional sports. My problem is with the lack of balance across America’s professional team sports and what the public deems acceptable in each one.

Race plays a key role in NBA and NFL rules, but not in the NHL’s. According to, a website that compiles NHL demographics, 93% of NHL players identify as white. According to GlobalSports Matters, an Arizona State University publication, at least 70% of athletes in the NFL and NBA are African American.

A simple bar fight between two white guys is less likely to result in bystanders calling the police than one between two black guys. The public just accepts the former more widely.

In the NHL, fans will sometimes witness premeditated fights. Players go into the game knowing they are going to take their shot at someone when they get the chance. Their punishment is five minutes in the penalty box.

Some people think NBA and NFL players are scared to fight during games. They might get in each other’s faces, but rarely escalate any further. Fans call them soft and say hockey players are tougher. But no one considers that an inevitable, lengthy suspension and a six-figure fine is at stake for professional basketball and football players.

At times, the NBA and NFL restrictions are unfair, but I enjoy the level of focus the rules put on the game. The leagues make it clear – they are there to compete, not fight. Parents take their children to games hoping for a good experience. They do not want to have to shield them from on-court or on-field violence.

Maybe fighting in the NHL does keep fans and viewers interested. Maybe it will take someone dying of head trauma on the ice to bring change.

There are two possible solutions: create tougher penalties for fighting in the NHL or lessen the penalties in the NBA and NFL. Create balance among our professional sports, because right now, it seems these rules have been implemented on the basis of race or ethnicity.

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