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THE CODE – The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retribution in Ice Hockey


Ninh explains … The code. The sport of ice hockey, is the only sport
on the planet that tolerates fighting and retribution, even though their rules prohibit
doing so. Referees will penalise players for breaking
the rules, but sometimes, the players take matters into their own hands. There are unwritten rules that govern how
players should behave that you won’t find in any rulebook. And there are even specific players on hockey
teams whose sole job it is to police the game accordingly. These are the enforcers, otherwise known as
goons, tough guys, fighters or cops. And whilst it’s their sole job to police
the game, the code applies to every player on the ice. These unwritten rules are based on mutual
respect for your opponent and protecting your teammates. This is the code. The first rule of the code, is that they do
not talk about the code. Whilst these rules exists amongst players,
there is no official record of the rules of the code (except for this video), and you
won’t find these in any official rulebook. The NHL or IIHF will always officially decline
to comment about any code. This is because they don’t want to officially
admit that the sport they govern isn’t completely under their control. The players police the game as much as the
referees do. And sometimes, they police it a little too
much. Rule 2 – If you do something bad … expect
to pay the price. Let’s say that you spitefully whack someone
with your stick, and for some reason, the referees and linesmen completely missed it. No penalty is called and you seemingly get
away with it. I guarantee that the other team saw it … and
they’ll be gunning for you to avenge your crimes. There is now a giant bullseye on your back,
with members of the opposing team looking to return the favour, one way or another. And if you manage to avoid punishment until
the end of the game, just wait until you play them again. I guarantee they won’t have forgotten. Your crime is not transient and they won’t
stop headhunting you until you have paid the price. Rule 3 – You do not target stars. The best players on most teams are the star
players that score goals and assists. There is an unwritten gentleman’s agreement
that stipulates that “if you don’t hit our star players, we won’t hit yours”. Let the stars score goals and let everyone
else do their respective jobs. Should you unfairly target a star player,
expect swift retribution as per rule 2. Rule 4 – Ignore rule 3 if that star breaks
rule 2. Sidney Crosby, a generational player that
can score goals at will and will one day be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. A talent so immense that doesn’t need to
dive, take cheap shots, or hit anybody when they’re down. But he does it anyway. This is totally unacceptable. Once you are a star player that resorts to
these tactics, rule 3 no longer applies and you’ll have a bullseye on your back, just
like everyone else. And if you are playing Sidney Crosby, be sure
to give him a few extra whacks. It’s nothing short of what he deserves. Rule 5 – No sucker punches. There is a proper decorum to challenge someone
to a fight. However, sucker punching someone, i.e. punching
them when they’re down or not looking is an unacceptable way of doing so. This is cowardly and blindsiding someone like
this will result in the opposing team taking note. Expect swift retribution as per rule 2. Lots of it. Rule 6 – Pick on someone your own size … or
bigger. Unless they instigate it, it is not acceptable
to pick on someone who is significantly smaller than you, especially if they’re skill players
that don’t fight. The rule is simple: pick on someone the same
size or bigger. Constantly picking on a smaller opponent will
result in someone significantly bigger coming after you. Rule 7 – Verbally or physically agree. To challenge someone to a fight, it’s important
to stand square on to your opponent. Gesture with the hands, the helmet, or start
shaking off the gloves. Dropping the stick is a clear indication that
you want to throw down. It’s fair to bait them physically, or verbally,
but if you’re wearing a cage or full visor, it’s proper etiquette to remove that prior
to fighting your opponent. Fighting with a half visor maybe be morally
acceptable in some (but not all) leagues. Rule 8 – Don’t back down. When challenged to a fight, especially if
you have been guilty of a crime committed on the ice, it is seen as cowardly if you
do not accept the challenge. Backing down is not cool. You will not receive any brownie points with
your teammates, and expect some form of retribution sometime during the game. Legal or not. Rule 9 – You do not turtle. Once you have engaged in a fight, it is not
acceptable to turtle, i.e. curl up in a ball to avoid punches. This is seen as cowardly. You have accepted the challenge to fight,
and fight you must. Rule 10 – it is acceptable to pre-meditate
fights. It is deemed courteous to politely ask a player
if he wants to fight. Exhibit A: Georges Laraque. This is the gentlemanly way of instigating
a fight and a fine example of good code etiquette. If a pre-meditated challenge is accepted,
the gloves must come off and helmet visors removed before you fight. Respected enforcers will actually remove their
helmets completely and roll up their sleeves. This is to protect their opponents’ hands,
as well as their own. This the ultimate mark of respect. Rule 11 – You do not punch somebody lying
down. Once the fight has reached the ground, and
one or both combatants have hit the ice, you must stop immediately. They are in a defenceless position and it
is dishonourable to hit someone when they’re down, especially if they cannot defend themselves. The punishment (and retaliation) for breaking
this rule is severe. Rule 12 – You do not fight goalies … unless
you are a goalie or they instigate it. Goalies, like stars, have a job to do. And it doesn’t involve fighting. Unless they challenge you and it’s obvious
that they’re doing so, leave them well alone. That said, it is acceptable for both goalies
to fight each other, even if no incident has happened between them. Rule 13 – Brawling is fair game. It is perfectly acceptable to retaliate to
multiple infractions made by both sides. If every player steps in at once, it’s fair
game to challenge someone completely unrelated to the original infraction, and fight with
them. This is to prevent the opposing player from
applying damage to your teammates, and to temporarily eliminate them from the game by
getting them (and yourself) sent to the penalty box. Rule 14 – Be wary of pests. A pest is a player whose sole job it is to
antagonise and annoy you and your teammates, in order to draw penalties. They will resort to anything from verbal abuse,
to underhand tactics, to licking your face. They will most likely challenge you to a fight
and then proceed to run away, leaving you with an instigator penalty. Be cautious when you challenge them to a fight
… because that’s exactly what they want. Rule 15 – The golden rule – you stand up
for your teammates, whether it’s your job or not. Whether you are an enforcer, or not, if you
are on the ice and foul play happens, you are expected to stand up for your teammates. Regardless of size, weight or star power. These players will stand up for you, through
thick and thin, and it is seen as cowardly to not return the favour. Teammates will notice if you don’t have
their back, so be wary – because one day, it might be you that needs the help. The most interesting thing is that the code
is open to interpretation. No two players have the exact same interpretation
of the code. But in general, these are the rules that ice
hockey players live and die by, even if they’re not written down. When regular rules aren’t enforced properly,
the code dictates how justice is served. In conclusion, there are some amazingly talented
players in the sport of ice hockey. And there are people who’s job it is to
protect them. These men and women have given up being stars
themselves, taken low pay cheques, significantly shorted their own careers, and risk their
lives and future health – all to protect their teammates, when the rules of the game fail
to do so. These are noble warriors who fight with honour,
and within the unwritten rules of the game. They deserve our absolute respect. Because they are the enforcers … of the code. Ninh Ly – www.ninh.co.uk – @NinhLyUK

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