Ice Hockey 1.01: Unique Customs (Part 2)


Many of us would have had the experience of travelling abroad and feeling the unsettling nature of culture shock as everything in the place we have entered makes absolutely no sense to us but, nevertheless, is perfectly normal for those living there.


In my efforts to explain the game of ice hockey to those around me, I sometimes run into this same problem. Those that are the subjects of my long-winded explanations and forced viewings of the sport are often left confused and disorientated by the spectacle.


There is a long list of customs and quirks that make hockey unique in the world of sport and as such, this is the second column in a two-part series explaining the what and why around some of the more confusing and fascinating aspects of the sport.


Violence in Hockey


One of the most well-known aspects of ice hockey is physicality, physical confrontation and outright violence.


There are few sports in the world, bar mixed martial arts and boxing, that tolerate fighting to the extent that ice hockey does. Fighting in hockey has a long history, and is a draw card to many fans. But, don’t be concerned, it is not without its own etiquette.


The start of a fight in hockey is quite unique as, in most cases, fights are usually verbally agreed upon between participants on the ice before engaging in any physical violence. Although this is somewhat to do with courtesy, the main reason for this step is to avoid receiving an ‘instigator penalty’. This would be on top of the automatic five minutes ‘major-penalty’ players receive for fighting.


Players can be ejected from the game if they engage in three fights during a single game, leave the bench to join a fight, receive two ‘instigator penalties’, or use weapons (ice skates or hockey sticks) during a fight.



Once a fight is agreed upon, or has began spontaneously in retaliation to an incident, players will drop their sticks and gloves to the ground and engage in a round of punches. Players will normally use one hand to grab the opposing player’s hockey jersey to keep balance and the other to throw punches. The balance aspect of the fight is incredibly important as brawling while ice skating is not an easy thing to do. The NHL actually has a rule, nicknamed the ‘Rob Ray Rule’, about requiring players to fasten their jersey to their hockey pants to prevent removal during a fight. This came about after a hockey player in the 1990s removed his jersey and pads during a fight and gave himself an unfair advantage as his opponent, who was still fully clothed, had nothing with which to balance himself.


The referees will do several things during the game in regard to fights. Firstly, they attempt to diffuse tense situations between players in order to avoid as many fights as possible. Once a fight does break out, the referees will do two things; clear the ice around the fight from dropped sticks and gloves and decide which referee will handle which player once the fight comes to some sort of conclusion (either when a player falls to the ice or the players lock up due to exhaustion).


After the fight is over, each player involved will receive a ‘major penalty’ and be sent to the penalty box for five minutes. This is normally referred to as ‘five for fighting’.


Here is a recent example in a game between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers. The Rangers were looking for retaliation in relation to an incident that occurred in a game a few days prior with the same two teams.




Winter classic


Since 2008, this yearly tradition and a homage to hockey’s simple roots called the NHL Winter Classic is a regular-season game played outdoors in the cold in either a baseball or American football stadium.


Although this tradition is a more recent invention compared to others in the world of hockey, it is, nonetheless, a spectacle and a much-anticipated event on the NHL calendar.


(NHL Winter Classic 2008) Source: Wikicommons


The game is held on or around New Year’s Day and played all around North America. The teams competing in the game wear throwback jerseys and often have to play in adverse weather conditions such as snow, rain, and wind.


Crowds for this event, depending on the stadium’s capacity, can be up to 100,000 people for the single game, around four to five times the number of people a regular game of hockey would see.


Although this game doesn’t have any particularly deep meaning, such as AFL’s Dreamtime at the G or the ANZAC Day game, it’s an incredibly fun event that brings out the childhood memories of playing hockey with your friends outside and marries that with a way to remember the history and roots of this great sport.




The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in 2021. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order HERE



To return to our Footy Almanac home page click HERE.



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.



Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?

And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help things keep ticking over please consider making your own contribution.




Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE.


One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE.


Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE.



  1. Daryl Schramm says

    A very enlightening series. Keep ’em coming please.

Leave a Comment