The NHL: How It Differs From Other Major Sports Leagues

When you think about the major sports leagues in the US—baseball, football, and basketball—you can typically find some similarities between them all. Sure all the games are played differently, but the general idea and rules of the leagues are similar in scope.

But then comes hockey. In the US, hockey may not be the most popular sports league, as baseball and football hold these ranks, but it still is a popular sporting option. However, when it comes to trying to compare the National Hockey League to those of baseball, football, and basketball, you’re going to find a slew of differences.


Hockey players get injured just as much, if not more, than athletes in other sports, but the way the injuries are handled is different in the NHL than other leagues. For example, if a baseball player is placed on the disabled list, the injury becomes common knowledge, such as an ankle injury, an elbow injury, etc. The same goes for football. If a player is injured, sports media reports on the specific injury that is keeping them out of the game. It doesn’t work this way in hockey.

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Instead, injuries are only reported in one of two ways: a lower-body injury or an upper-body injury. That’s it. If one of your players sits out of a game because they sprained their ankle, you won’t know that. You’ll only know that he is suffering from a lower-body injury. Sure you can make your speculations, but you’ll never know the truth.

No definitive reason is truly given as to why it is handled this way, but people have suspected that it’s kept secret to keep the player from getting re-injured. For example, if a player on an opposing team knows that another player has just come back after a knee injury, he may be compelled to aim for that player’s knee to re-injure him. Sounds awful, but it’s quite possibly true.

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The NHL: How It Differs From Other Major Sports Leagues


Hockey is one of the most violent games out there. It’s not because hockey players are meaner or more aggressive than other athletes; it’s simply because it’s part of the game. If two players get into an altercation in a baseball, basketball, or football game, the refs immediately step in to intervene and calm the situation. Depending on the severity, players in the fight may be ejected from the game and even receive suspensions. In hockey, fighting is a part of the game. When two players fight, refs allow the fight to go on until one player ends up on the ground or until blood is visible. After the fight, both players are penalized for two to five minutes (five only if there’s blood), and then they’re allowed back in the game.

Drug Policy

The NHL doesn’t provide leniency when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, which is probably why you don’t hear about many NHL players being suspended for using these substances the same way you hear about baseball and football players. In the MLB, players who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs are suspended, but there’s no written rule as to how long. In the NFL, players who test positive are supposed to be suspended without pay for four games, but the policy isn’t exactly held up. In the NHL, the policy is laid out in detail. On the first offense, players will be suspended for 20 games without pay and forced to attend a drug rehabilitation program. On the second offense, players are suspended for 60 games without pay. On the third offense, the player is suspended indefinitely. Maybe if the other leagues acquired detailed drug policies like the NHL, these athletes would stop using them.

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