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Hockey School
the professorFighting

Why they fight: Players fight for three main reasons: To spark their team, protect skill players, or as retaliation for cheap shots or flagrant fouls. Occasionally, a lesser-skilled player will attempt to pull a better player into a fight to get him off the ice and give his team an advantage.

How they start: Sometimes, fights break out spontaneously. But more often than not, a player will invite an opponent to exchange fisticuffs in the hopes of giving his team a lift. A challenge can be issued verbally, by grabbing a player's shoulder or slashing his stick. When the sticks and gloves are dropped, the fight is on.

The written rules: Players who fight receive offsetting five-minute major penalties. More flagrant fouls can result in a 10-minute misconduct or game misconduct, akin to an ejection. Fighting is down from years past, partly because of the third-man in and instigator rules. The third-man in rule, meant to eliminate bench-clearing brawls, ejects a player who joins a fight in progress. The instigator rule gives a player an additional two-minute penalty for starting a fight, plus a 10-minute misconduct. A second offense in the same game results in ejection.

The unwritten rules: There are innumerable rules of etiquette, but here are some of the more prevalent: a.) Fighters fight fighters. You can intimidate a smaller player who doesn't fight, but don't fight him unless he comes after you. Also, players who wear face shields should not fight. b.) Show respect. Win the fight, but don't embarrass your opponent because the next time the roles could be reversed. c.) Don’t “turtle.” If you're going to talk, back up your words with your fists unless you are ordered by your coach to draw an opponent into a penalty to help your team. d.) Fight clean. Biting and eye-gouging are strictly frowned upon. e.) The fight is over when it's over. If a guy is hurt or down on the ice, let him be. If a fighter is at a disadvantage, i.e., his sweater is over his head or he doesn’t have his gloves off, ease off.

Why there is less fighting in the playoffs: Nobody wants to put his team at a disadvantage with so much at stake. But if a game gets out of hand, fights can become commonplace, usually out of frustration or in an attempt to set a tone for the next game.

When they’re over: Officials usually stand aside and let the combatants go at each other until one clearly gets the better of the other or one goes down. At that point, the fighters are separated and led to the penalty box or dressing room.

Enforcers in the Stanley Cup final: Lightning – RW Andre Roy (6-3, 221), LW Chris Dingman (6-4, 235); Flames – LW Chris Simon (6-3, 232), LW Ville Nieminen (6-1, 208).

Game 2 bouts and what precipitated them: a.) Calgary's Andrew Ference vs. Tampa Bay’s Cory Stillman – Retaliation for Stillman's elbow to Marcus Nilson’s head in the late stages of Game 1. b.) Calgary’s Chris Simon vs. Tampa Bay's Andre Roy – Simon believed that Roy intentionally tripped Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Andrew Ference of the Calgary Flames and Cory Stillman of the Tampa Bay Lightning fight in the third period in game two of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.

– Compiled by Tim Sullivan

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