Fighting in Hockey – North America vs. Europe

Featured Photo: AP Photo/Ludvig Thunman


You would think that fighting is a global occurrence in other professional hockey leagues around the world. Except the presence of fighting in hockey is found mostly in North American and Canadian professional leagues.

Going further, CBS  Sports columnist Gregg Doyel points out,  that when a player picks a fight  in a European league, the player in question is tossed from the game, and the opposing team receives a five minute power play as a result (Tucker). As I mentioned in the previous post, players are less likely to fight if more stringent guidelines are created, and it is clear that European hockey has these guidelines that ultimately lessen the amounts of fights.

However, this difference goes further than what the rules of the game allow or don’t allow. Scott Grossman and Terence Hines of Pace University, in the journal Perceptual and Motor, state a possible theory as to why fighting is more prevalent in North America than in Europe, most likely due to cultural differences. As the article states, as hockey became more popular in North America, fighting was played up by the media. Good hockey fights make great footage on the news, and are shown very regularly and at length.

There is some evidence to back up this theory. Scott Grossman and Terence Hines provide statistics and data from both leagues to show the distinct difference. They point out that in the 1995-1996 season, North American NHL players combined for a total of 38,622 penalty minutes, while their European counterparts in the NHL only committed 6,037 penalty minutes, less than 20% of the 44,659 penalty minutes racked up by NHL players. This statistic goes to show that those of European descent were less violent and vicious than those from Canada or the United States, and therefore less likely to get in a fight.

You can read more about the differences between North American and European hockey here, and notice that the author, a hockey player whose spent time in pro leagues in both Europe and North America, describes North American hockey as having more physicality than European hockey due in part to several rules present in European hockey (McKinven). This difference in physicality definitely accounts for the lack of fighting in Europe and the presence of fighting in North American, as more physical play leads to bigger hits, and bigger hits ultimately lead to more fights.

Previous Post: Role of Fighting in the Modern Day NHL

Next Post: The Origins of Hockey – A Brief History


Grossman, Scott and Hines, Terence. “National Hockey League Players from North America are More Violent Than Those From Europe”. Perceptual and Motor Skills Vol 83 (1996): 589-590. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

McKinven, Jamie. “Contrasting Styles: North American vs. European.” When in Doubt, Glass and Out. When in Doubt, Glass and Out. Nov. 6 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

Thunman, Ludvig. The Hockey House. 5 Jan. 2014. AP Photos. 9 Nov. 2015. <http://thehockeyhouse.net/sweden/sweden-vs-finland-world-junior-gold-medal-live-game-blog/>.

Tucker, Erika. “NHL Says No Appetite to Change Fighting Rules as Debate Rages on.” Global News. Shaw Media Inc., 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.

One thought on “Fighting in Hockey – North America vs. Europe

  1. Have there been any efforts in the American or Canadian leagues to increase regulations/ punishments to avoid the violence in the game? Or do we just accept it more as a part of our culture?

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