Bench-clearing brawl

Bench-clearing brawl

A bench-clearing brawl, sometimes known as a basebrawl, is a form of ritualistic fighting that occurs in sports, most notably baseball and ice hockey, in which both teams leave their dugouts, bullpens, or benches and charge the playing area in order to fight one another.


In baseball, brawls are usually the result of escalating infractions, often stemming from being hit by pitch, or an altercation between a baserunner and infielder stemming from excessive contact in an attempted tag out. They are also known to occur when a batter charges the mound. However, few bench-clearing brawls result in serious injury. In most cases, no punches are thrown, and the action is limited to pushing and shoving. Since a bench-clearing brawl by definition involves everyone on both teams, it is exceedingly rare for all participants to be ejected, even though the pitcher or batter responsible for the precipitating event are often ejected.

Unlike most other team sports, in which teams usually have an equivalent number of players on the field at any given time, in baseball the hitting team is at a numerical disadvantage, with a maximum of 5 players and 2 base coaches on the field at any time, compared to the fielding team's 9 players. For this reason, leaving the dugout to join a fight is generally considered acceptable in that it results in numerical equivalence on the field, and a fairer fight.

Ice hockey

As in baseball, hockey brawls usually result from escalating infractions; in this case, dangerous hits, excessive post-whistle roughness, taking shots after the whistle, attacking the goaltender, and accumulated hatred from fierce competition in a game with a significant amount of condoned inter-player violence, all contribute to bench-clearing brawls. In the National Hockey League, the penalties include a 10-game suspension and a fine of $10,000 [ [ "Rule 72 – Leaving the Players’ or Penalty Bench] in the NHL Rulebook] for the first player to leave their bench (in addition to in-game penalties). The international IIHF rules prescribe a double minor penalty plus a game misconduct penalty for the first player to leave the bench during an altercation and a misconduct penalty for other such players; [ [ IIHF Rule Book 2006–2010] , Rule 564 – Players Leaving the Benches During an Altercation, p. 101] a player who leaves the penalty bench during an altercation is assessed a minor penalty plus a game misconduct penalty. [ [ IIHF Rule Book 2006–2010] , Rule 563 – Players Leaving the Penalty Bench, p. 99] (In addition to these penalties for leaving the bench, all players engaging in a fight may be penalized. [ [ IIHF Rule Book 2006–2010] , Rule 528 – Fisticuffs or Roughing, p. 73] ) This has had the effect of all but eliminating bench-emptiers from high-level competition, though they do crop up more frequently in very low-level leagues, where lowest-common denominator behavior is more of a draw.

One of the more notable incidents was the Punch-up in Piestany, a game between Canada and the Soviet Union during the 1987 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. The game was chippy (i.e. more rough and dangerous than is generally accepted), and late in the second period, a fight broke out, causing both teams to leave the benches for almost 20 minutes. The lights were turned out, but to no avail, and the game was eventually suspended. Both teams were disqualified from the tournament, costing Canada a potential medal.

Other sports

Bench-clearing brawls have also been known to occur in other sports, and officials in those sports have been cracking down on such brawls. The National Basketball Association in recent years changed the penalty for leaving the bench in a fight from $500 to a one-game suspension.

ee also

*Fighting in ice hockey
*Violence in sports


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