Understanding the Enforcer Code in Hockey: Grumpy’s View

Okay, let’s get this straight; Grumpy’s World is not a Sports Blog. However, an incident from a weekend NHL hockey game between Pittsburgh and Boston has got his juices flowing – again.


Neale Knees Marchand in the Head and Sean Thorton Slew Foots and Knocks Out Brooks Orpik with Sucker Punches

You can watch the mayhem here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuVq-TZ7AJM

WARNING: It ain’t pretty.

After viewing the video consider this quote: “Aww, don’t worry Doc. If that happens, I can always come back as a forward!” Harold Snepsts said this after being advised by a doctor to wear a helmet to avoid brain damage. Or from the Mr. Hockey himself:

“You can always get someone to do your thinking for you.”

The great Gordie Howe suggested this after being asked why players always wear a cup, but not always a helmet. imagesCAQJ18MD It seems as if there is more news about the violence in hockey than there is about the game itself. But, Grumpy does understand the concept of the hockey fight. Back in the day, he too, “put on the foil!”

You see, Old Grumpy had two “near” hockey fights in his career. Once, he and a buddy decided to stage a fight in house league hockey. He and the buddy had practiced the fight all week – using oven mitts as boxing gloves. The only problem was that as soon as young Grumps dropped his gloves in the “real” game his buddy skated away. Grumpy sat in the sin bin only to watch his buddy scoring a power play goal.

The second fight involved a game versus the Kitchener Ranger Juveniles way back in 1969. This big dude cross checks half pint Grumps in the face and after seeing red, Grumps drops-his-gloves for the second time. Guess what? The guy skates away smiling as the enraged Grumpy is led to the box spewing expletive-deletives.

Thank goodness Grumpy grew up to be a lover not a fighter. As you can see, his career in fisticuffs at the rink was going nowhere. I guess Grumpy had a two fight minimum. He was kind of like Wayne Gretzky – without all of the skill.

“Sometimes people ask, ‘Are hockey fights real?’ I say, ‘If they weren’t, I’d get in more of them.'” —Wayne Gretzky

Grumpy, agrees 100%! He has the oven mitts to prove it.

Seriously though, anyone knows if they’ve played the game that the intensity of the action, the hard contact and the competitive urge can breed emotions that can make you want to go berserk and drop those gloves and just “GO!”. As the teenage hockey playing boys who frequent Grumpy Villa claim, “There’s nothing like a good tilly.”

All of this brings Grumps to the topic of this blog – THE CODE IN HOCKEY VIOLENCE – which is sort of the Marcus of Queensbury Rules for hockey fights. You’ve all heard about this but no one seems to know what it exactly is.

The ever belligerent Brian Burke gave us a hint about THE CODE when he said: “I will personally challenge anyone who wants to get rid of fighting to a fight.”

Ah, maybe the truth about the code is that there is NO code!

But, in the interest of the professional development of you and yours as hockey fans, Grumpy has searched and research this notion of THE CODE.

The first thing you should know is that THE CODE has evolved and been passed on from old time hockey. Conn Smythe said it best when he remarked, “If you can’t beat ’em in the alley, you can’t beat ’em on the ice.” Conn Smythe himself had this to say about King Clancy: “Clancy scored hockey by the number of fights. If you lost seven to one, but won five fights, he figured you won the game.”

You see where Grumpy is going with this. The ever knowledgeable WIKIPEDIA summarizes some of the code this way.

SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fighting_in_ice_hockey

“The most important aspect of fighting etiquette is that opposing enforcers must agree to a fight, usually via a verbal or physical exchange on the ice. This agreement helps both players avoid being given an instigator penalty, and helps keep unwilling participants out of fights.

There is a high degree of respect among enforcers as well; they will respect a rival who declines a fight because he is playing with injuries, a frequent occurrence, because enforcers consider winning a fight with an injured opponent to be an empty victory. This is also known as granting a “free pass”.

AAAAAAAhockeyfightLong-standing rivalries result in numerous rematches, especially if one of the enforcers has to decline an invitation to fight during a given game. This is one of the reasons that enforcers may fight at the beginning of a game, when nothing obvious has happened to agitate the opponents.

On the other hand, it is bad etiquette to try to initiate a fight with an enforcer who is near the end of his shift, since the more rested player will have an obvious advantage.

Fighting tactics are governed by several actual rules and enforcers also adopt informal tactics particular to their style and personality. One tactic adopted by players is known as “going for it”, in which the player puts his head down and just throws as many punches as he can, as fast as he can. In the process, that player takes as many punches as he delivers, although some of them are to the hard forehead.

Fighters usually must keep one hand on their opponent’s jersey since the ice surface makes maintaining balance very difficult. For this reason, the majority of a hockey fight consists of the players holding on with one hand and punching with the other. Enforcers such as Darren McCarty advocated letting the opposing enforcer get a few punches in before putting in maximum effort, and assert that fighting is as much about knowing how to take a punch as it is about delivering punches.

Other examples include Gordie Howe’s tactic of holding the sweater of his opponent right around the armpit of his preferred punching arm so as to impede his movement. Bob Probert, of the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, was known to allow his opponents to punch until they showed signs of tiring, at which time he would take over and usually dominate the fight.

Some consider long-time Buffalo Sabres enforcer Rob Ray to be the reason that hockey jerseys are now equipped with tie-down straps (“fight straps”) that prevent their removal; he would always remove his jersey during fights so his opponents would have nothing to grab on to. This is commonly referred to as the “Rob Ray Rule”.”

But the best description of THE CODE that Grumpy could find came from an article by humourist Sean Mc Indoe in the National Post (Nov. 23rd, 2010). http://sports.nationalpost.com/2010/11/23/the-nhls-fighting-code-exposed/

Here are a few more humorous samples:

Removal of equipment If, in the moments immediately preceding a fight, an opposing player:

• Removes his gloves: You must do the same

• Removes his helmet and visor: You should do the same

• Removes his elbow pad: You may do the same if you choose to

• Removes his shirt and pants: You should consider the possibility that you are not actually in a fight and have instead accidentally wandered into Patrick Kane’s limousine

When the fight is over An altercation is considered over as soon as any of the following occur:

• The linesmen make their first effort to intervene

• One or both players goes/go to the ice

• The opponent’s trainer asks if you could hold off hitting him for a few seconds while they get him on to the stretcher

• The Minnesota Wild fan gets a hand free and starts dialling his lawyer on his cell phone

• Pretty much as soon as it begins, if you are Matt Carkner and the other guy is Colton Orr

But, if there is indeed a CODE, Grumpy has yet to understand it – given the Neale knee to Marchand’s head and Thorton’s beat down on Brooks Orpick.

Maybe the Code really is:

Do on to others so that they won’t do on to you first.

An eye for an eye and mouthful of teeth for a tooth.

The Discussion/Concussion Rule: Only discuss after you concuss.

The “Punch Bug” Rule: Now applies to Zambonis as well as VW Beetles. “Punch Bug!” I saw it first! SMACK BAM POW

And, the name of the game is to maim.

Grumpy asks, “WHERE IS THE RESPECT IN THE GAME!” Is everyone auditioning for “Rock-Em, Sock-Em” 2014?

Please go and discuss this among yourselves. Or if that doesn’t work, just tune into 590 THE FAN talk-radio from Toronto because they talk about this all the time –24/7/365. Doesn’t it seem as if Gary Bettman is trying to deal with some perceived marketing threat from the MMA or UFC?

Grumpy isn't the only one who keeps finding himself locked out.

Grumpy isn’t the only one who keeps finding himself locked out.

GARY B: “We need more bloodshed and stretchers in the game. Someone call Showdown Joe – STAT!”

If so this is so, Grumpy believes that the only Code we’ll see in hockey from here on in will be CODE RED!


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