Why is hockey so violent?

If you’re a hockey fan, and you’ve ever entered into a conversation with someone who knows little or nothing about the sport – I’ll bet you’ve been asked the question; why is hockey so violent?

It’s understandable why this is so perplexing to the outside world. After all, other sports which are well-known for their fights on the pitch such as American football, both types of rugby, Gaelic and Aussie Rules etc., are more obviously physical in the sense that the aim of the sport is to grapple – at least a little or a lot in some sports.

This is not the case in hockey. In an ideal world, there would be no real need for physical contact in hockey; the sticks could do the work and the players wouldn’t barge into each other and fights on the ice would be far rarer as they are in other non-contact field based tam sports such as cricket, or even soccer where brawls are fairly rare and contact is designed to be fairly minimal.

But of course – these are the views of people who know little about our sport. The fact is that ice hockey demands a huge amount of physical effort combined with finesses – all in a sport where, at least for some of the time, you’re at least a little out of control. Therefore, big hits are part of the game and the brawls that ensure are, to some extent at least, inevitable.

Few people who don’t play realize just how difficult and tiring a sport this is – but the players don’t really need the refs to defend them; they understand the code or what we might call the ‘unwritten laws’ of the game. These include things like keeping your stick and the puck low (unless the opposition don’t abide by this) and never settling anything through cheap shots – and of course NEVER messing with the opposing team’s goalie!

The reputation of our sport, though, doesn’t help sponsorship in many cases. In Europe, sports which are deemed more respectable attract a huge amount of funding indirectly from those who play Europe’s favourite lottery with over 40% of the cash coming back into good causes including sports development. In North America, it’s far more of a commercial thing with certain macho brands wanting to align with our sport – but this simultaneously precludes others, of course!


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