Book Review - The Code: The Unwritten Rules Of Fighting And Retaliation In The NHL by Ross Bernstein
I like hockey, and I like the fights. I make no apologies for that. But I also know that fighting isn't normally done just for the sake of punching out someone. There's an unwritten set of rules that dictate how and when fights start. To find out a bit more about that, I got the book The Code: The Unwritten Rules Of Fighting And Retaliation In The NHL by Ross Bernstein from the library. Although it's a bit scattered and unfocused at times, it does a good job in explaining the basics behind how a team's "tough guy" does his job on the ice. And yes, it *is* a recognized role with a code that dictates who gets hit when, and why it happens.
Section 1 - The History of Fighting in the NHL: A Look Back at the History of Fighting and Violence in Professional Hockey
Section 2 - Defining the Code: Why Is There Fighting in Pro Hockey?; What Prompts Dropping the Gloves?; What Are the Rules of Engagement anfter the Gloves Come Off?; How Does the Code Work?; The Code and the Special Games
Section 3 - The Enforcer and His Impact on the Game: Big Hitters Mean Big Business; On Playing Hurt; On Respect and Toughness; Fear; Friendly Fire; Life Off the Ice
Section 4 - How League Rules and Officials Affect Fighting: The Instigator Rule; Divers; On Bench-Clearing Brawls; Facial Protection; The Official's Influence
Section 5 - After the Game and Beyond the Pros - How Fighting Affects the Rest of Us: Junior Hockey; Southern Cookin'; To Fight or Not to Fight; The Effects of Fighting on Youth
Section 6 - The Lockout and Its Aftermath: On the Events That Led Up to the 2004 NHL Lockout and Its Aftermath
Appendix - Neal Sheeny on the Aftermath of the Rules Changes
To the average hockey fan, this will be an eye-opener. In the "olden days" of hockey, fighting was often nothing more than mayhem to take out top players, pay back real or imagined offenses, or just to draw more fans. But as the game evolved, the role of the enforcer actually became a way to keep the peace on the ice. If someone took a shot at a team's top player, their enforcer would let that person know that any more liberties taken on the ice would be paid back in same. This normally kept things under control and gave the top skaters room to work on the ice. If the harassment continued, it would lead to a fight and that would settle things. Of course, there are exceptions to the code and some players chose not to play by "the rules." But by and large, most players view this code as an accepted part of the game that actually benefits everyone. Conflicts are settled between two matched enforcers instead of having tensions escalate and involve the entire team.
One thing I learned from the book is that the instigator rule is viewed by many as causing *more* chippiness rather than less. It allows skaters to take cheap shots at other players, knowing that if an enforcer comes after them and drops the gloves, he'll end up getting an extra two minutes on top of the five minutes for fighting.
Bernstein includes a *lot* of quotes and sidebars from various players and enforcers over the years. While they add some color to the material, it seems to detract a bit from the core material as not all of them are specific to the point being discussed on those pages. I also don't know how much of a hockey expert Bernstein actually is, as there were a few errors that even a casual fan should have known, like the actual penalties for fighting (there isn't an automatic ten minute misconduct added onto a fighting major). The research or proof-reading could have been better...
Overall, The Code is an interesting read for a hockey fan who wants to understand a bit more about the role of the enforcer in the game. I don't know that I would actually buy the book, but as a library read, it was fine.
Obtained From: Library