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Ice Hockey Fighting Rules

What is fight? What are the consequences of participating in one? Get ready to learn about fights and the rules of fighting in ice hockey.


We've already learned about penalties in ice hockey. Recall, that each penalty results in a player or multiple players leaving the ice to sit in the penalty box.

Hockey Penalty Box

Players are only allowed to return the ice when the duration of the penalty expires.

In this tutorial, we will learn the rules of fighting and the consequences of players participating in one.


Fighting in ice hockey can have serious consequences for players and teams. However, fans and officials encourage it, so that players can settle disputes. The rules and consequences of participating in a fight are highly technical and can result in serious penalties, fines, and suspensions.

Fight Procedure

A fight in ice hockey is an altercation usually between two players on the ice.

REMEMBER: Fights can can sometimes escalate into an all out brawls involving the entire team. We'll cover both cases in this tutorial.

When a fight begins on the ice, all remaining players must leave the ice and go to the player benches. The referees will position themselves in the referee's crease.

Players are not allowed to remove their helmets prior to the fight. If they do they will be given a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. It is not a penalty if player's helmets fall off during the fight.

All fights end when any player falls to the ground on the ice.

Fighting Penalties

When referees assign penalties for fighting they will classify each player as:

Players can be categorized as both. This procedure is used to assign penalties, fines, and suspensions.

The Aggressor

The aggressor in a fight is a player who wins the fight. The aggressor may continue to fight, even after the other fighter gives up. The aggressor always receives a major penalty and a game misconduct penalty.

The Instigator

The instigator in a fight is a player instigates the fight. Here are some examples of the instigator during a fight:

  • He throws the first punch
  • He uses verbal language to incite another player

The instigator in a fight receives a minor penalty, major penalty, and misconduct penalty.

Summary of Fighting Penalties (NHL)

  • Any player who participates in a fight will receive a major penalty.
  • A minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct is given if players remove their helmets or jerseys
  • A match penalty is given if players are taped up at the hands and draw blood

Misconduct Penalty (Fighting NHL)

Fighting off the playing surface (or with another player who is off the playing surface)

Game Misconduct Penalty (Fighting NHL)

Fighting off the playing surface

Major Penalty + Misconduct Penalty (Fighting NHL)

The following are situations where a player will receive both a major penalty and a misconduct penalty for fighting:

  • The player fights after it the fight is over
  • The player is the aggressor
  • The player is an instigator for the second time in the game
  • The player is the instigator in the final five minutes of a game
  • The player is has been an instigator three times or more in the same season

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