Fighting in ice hockey by enforcers is an established, if unofficial, part of the sport (especially in North America, where the penalty rules are more permissive); the general procedure in a one-on-one fight is to let it pan out and then send both players to the penalty box with five-minute major penalties. Bench-clearing brawls are more serious, and prohibited.

As in baseball, hockey brawls usually result from escalating infractions; in this case, dangerous hits, excessive post-whistle roughness, taking shots after the whistle, attacking the goaltender, and accumulated hatred from fierce competition in a game with a significant amount of condoned inter-player violence, all contribute to bench-clearing brawls.

In the National Hockey League the penalties include, in addition to in-game penalties, an automatic 10-game suspension and a fine of $10,000[1] for the first player to leave his bench or the penalty box to participate in a brawl; for the second player to leave his bench or the penalty box, the penalties include, in addition to in-game penalties, an automatic five-game suspension and a fine of $5,000.

The International Ice Hockey Federation rules prescribe a double minor penalty plus a game misconduct penalty for the first player to leave the bench during an altercation and a misconduct penalty for other such players;[2] a player who leaves the penalty box during an altercation is assessed a minor penalty plus a game misconduct penalty.[3] In addition to these penalties for leaving the bench, all players engaging in a fight may be penalized.[4]

These rules have had the effect of all but eliminating bench-emptiers from high-level competition, though they do crop up more frequently in lower-level leagues, where lowest-common denominator behavior is more of a draw.

One of the more notable incidents was the Punch-up in Piestany, a game between Canada and the Soviet Union during the 1987 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. The game was more rough and dangerous than is generally accepted, with 6:07 left in the second period, a wild fight broke out between Pavel Kostichkin and Theoren Fleury, causing both teams to leave the benches for 20 minutes. The officials ordered that the arena lights be turned out, but to no avail, and the IIHF eventually declared the game null and void. Both teams were ejected from the tournament, costing Canada a potential gold medal, and the Canadian team, disgusted at what they perceived to be a conspiracy against them, chose to leave rather than stay for the end-of-tournament festivities, from which the Soviet team were banned.


  1. Rule 72 – Leaving the Players’ or Penalty Bench in the NHL Rulebook
  2. IIHF Rule Book 2006–2010, Rule 564 – Players Leaving the Benches During an Altercation, p. 101
  3. IIHF Rule Book 2006–2010, Rule 563 – Players Leaving the Penalty Bench, p. 99
  4. IIHF Rule Book 2006–2010, Rule 528 – Fisticuffs or Roughing, p. 73
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