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Other than the hometown hero scoring a goal, there are few sweeter moments in professional ice hockey than hearing the announcer say the words, “Five minutes for fighting.” Penalties, after all, are as much a part of hockey as shots and saves. And the best penalties are the ones that fire up the crowd, not just land the perpetrator in the “sin bin.”
5 Charging and Boarding
A sure-fire way to get the crowd going is to level an opponent with a bone-crushing body check. On the other hand, a sure-fire way to get penalized in the process is to either leave your skates to make the hit — charging — or to drive your opponent into the boards from behind — boarding. In today’s safety-conscious NHL, either one is guaranteed to earn a two-minute break as well as rocking the rink.
4 Cross-Checking and Slashing
The skater who wants to get an “ooh” or “ah” from the crowd can always try some handy stickwork. An obvious two-handed cross-check or slash is going to get a gasp from the crowd — and a whistle from the ref. Sure, hitting an opponent with your stick isn’t as respected as hitting him with your hip, but there’s something vicariously thrilling about seeing someone try to get away with so obvious a penalty as a good two-handed whack on the arm.
If a player wants to hurt his own team almost as much as his opponent, he can go for a good old-fashioned misconduct. The longest penalty in hockey, a 10-minute misconduct can be called for anything from an out-of-control fight to saying the wrong word to the right referee. But spending a sixth of a 60-minute game in the penalty box isn’t always the brightest idea, even if it’s both rare and the result of a crowd-pleasing play.
Fighting’s little cousin, roughing, is a two-minute minor instead of a five-minute major, since it is usually called for pushing and shoving rather than actual fisticuffs. Roughing gets the crowd on its feet … but usually in hopes of a fight that might not be coming. While fans can usually respect an honest heavyweight, an agitator who get his two minutes when he face-washes an opponent then skates away might annoy even his hometown fans.
The old saying goes, “I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out.” Despite the National Hockey League’s attempts to curb brawling, there are still enforcers at the end of teams’ benches and the occasional highlight-reel five-a-side slugfest. Although naysayers think punching has no place in the game alongside graceful skating and a twisted wrister from the slot, fighting is second only to scoring when it comes to getting the crowd standing and cheering.