Is fighting Essential in NHL Hockey? Drew Miller throws Tyler Johnson with a Judo Throw Called Tai O Toshi

ArtOfGrappling comes from a nation where Hockey is not just a sport, it’s a religion.  It’s hard to compare it to anything else I’ve seen.   Maybe it’s like what sumo is to the Japanese, or likely more accurate, what baseball is to Americans.

90% of Canadians learn to skate as they learn to walk and you will rarely meet kids who are in grade-school who cannot.

For the uninitiated, hockey is a game where you score points by flicking a rubber disk, past a goaltender into a net.   This counts as 1 point/goal. The team with more goals at the end of the game wins.

There is a curious thing about hockey that you don’t see in other organized “ball and stick” sports: fighting.  Games will regularly break into all out brawls.

Now according to the “Authority on Hockey”, Don Cherry, “fighting is an essential part of hockey”.

Stanley Cup Finals - Pittsburgh Penguins v Detroit Red Wings - Game 2
This guy is apparently the Authority on Hockey. ..

I don’t understand why, or How Fighting is an Essential Part of Hockey, but this is something I hear regularly from people who actually follow professional hockey.  From an outsider, it doesn’t seem to help score goals.  Goals are how you win the game.  I mean, you don’t see MMA fighters suddenly break out sticks, balls and nets and spontaneously have a ball and stick game in the middle of their fight do you??

But, what the fuck do I know, I’m a lowly grappler that likes to see judo throws everywhere, and I say:

If fighting is an essential part of hockey, why don’t these guys train judo?

Look at those baggy jersey’s just begging to be tugged and chucked onto the ice!  Imagine how much momentum you could generate spinning your skates on the ice for a throw!

I mean, check this out:

Drew Miller of the Detroit Red Wings performs a nice judo throw known as Tai O Toshi on Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Drew Miller of the Detroit Red Wings performs a picture perfect judo throw known as Tai O Toshi on Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In the GIF above, you see Drew Miller grabbing head and right shoulder control of Tyler Johnson.

He rotates in a counterclockwise direction with his right skate stopping right in front of Johnson’s right skate.  As Miller turns he starts snaps his upper body downwards toward the ice and the momentum brings Millers back smack into the mat. IPPON!!

The throw is known as tai o toshi (and was executed beautifully).

Here is an example of Tai O Toshi in an elite level judo competition by Antoine Valois Fortier (Olympic Judo Bronze Medalist for Canada).  Can you see how similar this is to Miller’s near perfect technique?

Olympic Judo Bronze Medalist, Antoine Valois-Fortier executes a beautiful Tai O Toshi.

(Lesson on how to do Tai O Toshi by Olympian here)

FOR YOU HOCKEY GUYS: Is fighting an essential part of hockey?  If you say yes, why??

Do any hockey players train judo?



    1. That’s a really good article, Dustin, thanks for posting.

      The part about mutual respect between enforcers, and the mutual dislike of the “rats” (guys who headhunt goalies and talent) resonated with me.

      It’s also interesting how the current penalties, game misconducts etc. won’t deter a fourth liner from taking out a star player in the playoffs.

      Do you think there is any kind of penalty, whether it be monetary, legal etc. that would discourage “rats”? Because it seems like those are the guys who need ass-kickings.

      1. It’s kind of hard to really just call them out, since a lot of their shots are legal but cheap or they’re really just playing dirty behind the play where the refs may not be pay attention. The good thing is that every game is reviewed and a lot of cheap shots are hit by the NHLPA for fines or suspensions.

        However, I think on-ice integrity is really just where it’s at. Most of these guys are fighting as part of the game, and there’s no huge animosity behind it. Like Prust said, the other enforcer knows what’s going on, and will remember to pay it back. It’s just another aspect to the game. Rarely are there actually any lasting injuries from fights, that I’m aware of, in comparison to a lot of the other game.

        Refs also have their rules. When the fight goes to the ground they’re supposed to break it up, for safety. But otherwise, it’s generally safer to just let it play out. Fights aren’t leaving hockey any time soon, so it’s smart to find a way to use them as an edge.

        1. Crazy… I guess you learn something new everyday. I’m glad that the NHLPA reviews every game for cheap shots that the refs don’t catch.
          For someone who only follows combat sports, hockey fighting just seemed like odd, pointless, unskilled combat, but now knowing about these “rats” and their cheap shots it makes perfect sense.

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