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People who are hockey fans are often asked by non-hockey fans ‘why is ice hockey so violent? So what do you tell them?

From an outsider’s point of view, it’s easy to see why people might consider that hockey is a violent sport. But it’s not the only one – there are plenty of other sports that have more than the odd fight on the pitch. Both types of rugby, Aussie Rules, Gaelic, and American football all have their fair share of bust-ups going on. But these sports are more obviously physical than ice hockey – in a sense the aim of these sports is to grapple for the ball bodily.

However, with hockey, there’s no need for physicality – at least in theory. The sticks could do all the contact work and ideally, players wouldn’t feel the need to barge one another and start fights on the ice. You’d think that hockey would be more like other non-contact team sports like cricket or, indeed, soccer, where actual physical fights are few and far between.

This is how the person who doesn’t know much about ice hockey sees it. But in fact, we fans all know that ice hockey is very physically demanding and yet it also requires skill and finesse, and given the fact that you’re playing on ice, there are always going to be some moments when you’re a little bit out of control. Big hits are part of what makes the game as exciting as it is, and with big hits the odd brawl is almost inevitable.

Until you start to watch ice hockey matches, it’s hard to understand how tiring and difficult the sport is, but the players have a code – or unspoken or unwritten laws of the game – that they generally adhere to. This includes stuff like keeping the puck and your stick low – as long as the opposition do – and not using cheap shots to settle things. And of course, the cardinal rule is to not mess with the other team’s goalie!

For people who think that ice hockey is a violent sport just for the sake of it, the best way to show them it isn’t is to get them to watch a few games with you, so you can explain why the violence comes about when it does. If they think hockey’s boring and you want to get them into it, it’s always good to have a bet on the game you’re watching, as that can help spectators really get behind their team. At 32red, as well as a huge selection of casino games, there’s a sports book where you’ll find odds on the NHL 2013/14 season matches. As the site offers to put an extra $32 into a new player’s account for every $10 they open it with, you can have a few bets for free too.

It won’t take too many matches for a new spectator to ice hockey to realise that yes, it can be a violent game, but it’s not just gratuitous violence.