by Dr Victoria Silverwood, Lecturer in Criminology at Birmingham City University

Although ice hockey remains a marginal sport in the UK, it is gaining popularity with over 20 professional teams and hundreds of recreational and junior teams covering the United Kingdom.

Ice hockey is unique among sports for its legitimisation of the bare-knuckle fist fight within the team sport.  While players are penalised for fighting in the sport, in the two professional UK leagues EIHL and EPL, it is penalised by the small punishment of five minutes in the penalty box and as such is tacitly permitted within the sport.

As an increased awareness of sports concussions and their links with long-term injuries such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, ALS (Motor Neurone Disease in UK), and increased suicide ideation in those suffering long-term symptoms of concussion, has come about, there has been a shift in societal acceptance of the violent nature of this role and class action lawsuits have begun in North America from players who believe they were misinformed of the dangers of body contact in hockey.

As a result of this, the top leagues in North America, NHL and AHL have begun to crack down on fighting in the sport.  This has led to an increase in physically tough players keen to play in the UK and the last two seasons have seen a wealth of players moving countries and signing contracts in the UK.  Nottingham Panthers, Cardiff Devils, Braehead Clan and Belfast Giants are all renowned for their tough playing style and willing combatants.

Dr Victoria Silverwood discusses her research into ice hockey violence in ‘Ice Guardians’, a Canadian feature-length documentary film receiving it’s UK premiere at the Raindance Film Festival this week. View the ‘Ice Guardians’ trailer here –

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