What Fighting In Hockey Teaches Our Kids: The Good & The Bad

Photo via TheProvidence.com

It was a few days before the NHL playoffs began. I was talking to my three boys about how exciting playoff hockey is. “All the players take it up a notch.” I said. “They skate harder. They shoot harder. They check harder.”

After watching the first few games of this season’s playoffs, I realized I missed one. “They punch harder.”

Is it me, or is there a lot more fighting in the playoffs this year? In years past, many teams wouldn’t even dress their “tough guy” (aka fighter) in the playoffs. Instead they’d opt for a player that gave them a better chance at scoring a tough goal.

After watching some of these games with my boys (ages 9, 6 & 4), I couldn’t help feeling a bit conflicted. I understand why fighting exists in hockey. And I’m not going to turn this post into a debate over whether or not fighting should be allowed. It’s been a part of the game since the beginning and I don’t think it’s ever going away. Unless Roger Goodell becomes the commissioner some day.

There’s a lot about fighting that I don’t want my boys to emulate. Mainly the pounding of their fists into another person’s face. But I gotta admit. There are some aspects of fighting in hockey that can teach positive lessons as well. That’s where my confliction comes from. I guess hockey fights are a lot like other lessons in life. It’s not a clear-cut, right or wrong thing. It’s up to us as parents to see and point out the teachable moments.

In my mind, here are the good and bad lessons hockey fights teach our kids:

The Good:

  • Promotes Team Loyalty and Brotherhood
    I’m not a big fan of two “goons” tapping each other on the shoulder and squaring off just for the hell of it. But, if a fight takes place because of one teammate sticking up for another, that’s kind of cool. It takes honor to have the backs of your brothers.
  • Shows How To Stick Up For Yourself
    Who doesn’t like to see a bully get what he has coming to him? In hockey, if one player is constantly getting hit and picked on, it’s OK to say, “Enough is enough!” and drop the gloves to show the other team he’s not going to take it any more.
  • Teaches You To Not Take Cheap Shots
    Hockey can be a frustrating game. When frustrations run high, it can be pretty tempting to run another player into the boards from behind or take some other dangerous, cheap shot with a stick. Fighting gives players an outlet, within the rules, to relieve their frustrations instead of committing a dirty play.

The Bad:

  • It’s OK to Settle Differences With Violence
    My wife and I have always taught our boys to solve conflicts with their words. Cheering on a hockey fight is basically like telling them that it’s OK to slug someone if you get mad at him.
  • If You Can’t Win, Fight
    Unfortunately a lot of the fights in this year’s playoffs have stemmed from a losing team taking their frustrations out at the end of games. That could lead to kids thinking that it’s OK to lose their temper and pound an opponent if they’re going to lose a game.
  • Not Exactly Good Sportsmanship
    One of the main lessons that I use sports to teach my kids is sportsmanship. I’m always telling them to treat their teammates and opponents with respect. If you score, don’t rub it in the other team’s face. Well, punching your opponent in the face, is kinda worse than rubbing a goal in his face.

So that’s my view of what fighting in hockey teaches our kids. What’s yours?
Give your take in the comments below, or connect on Twitter @SportsDadHub.

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Thanks for reading,
-Kevin