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The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL Hardcover – September 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Triumph Books; 1ST edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572437561
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572437562
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Hockey is and always has been a sport steeped in a culture of violence. Players have learned, however, to navigate the escalating levels of physical contact by adhering to an honor system known simply as "the Code." As mysterious as it is sacred, the Code is an unwritten set of rules—the bible of hockey sportsmanship, if you will—that has been handed down from generation to generation. Although the Code has been around since the game’s inception in Canada, it remains a taboo subject, so much so that many players are simply unwilling to talk about it publicly—until now, that is.

Author Ross Bernstein spent two years researching and conducting extensive interviews with a broad spectrum of players, and he was able to get them to talk freely about their most intimate feelings about fighting and retaliation. What he learned and shares in this book is truly fascinating. While some players relished opportunities to drop the gloves and others simply dreaded it, they all had one thing in common: they did it when they had to in order to protect themselves as well as their teammates. The Code features extensive quotes that detail everything from the legal and cultural issues between the North American players and their foreign counterparts to how the players are able to turn it off when they leave the arena and go home to their kids. Most importantly, this book reveals what really goes on between the players while the fights are on.

Hockey’s rules of engagement can be summarized in three categories: protection, intimidation, and retaliation. If one player challenges another player, that second player must answer the call and "show up" or else face the humiliation of being considered dirty, or even a coward. Worse yet, if that player refuses to right what was wronged and defend his actions, he risks having that incident escalate to a higher level, involving additional teammates. That is when the enforcers come off the bench to keep the peace, and that is also usually when the crowd goes wild. By the time two heavyweights drop the gloves, there may have been up to a dozen events between several different players that led up to that fight. That is all a part of the intricate matrix that makes up the Code. And this book will help to demystify that matrix for you.

The Code is completely up to date with the new league-wide rules changes, which were implemented following the NHL lockout of 2005, when the rules of engagement completely changed. This first-of-its-kind project provides an incredible window into an extremely controversial subject matter that always evokes passion. It’s a must-read for all puckheads!

About the Author

Ross Bernstein is the bestselling author of 40 sports books and has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio programs. His work has been featured on CNN, ESPN, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. As a sought-after motivational speaker, he speaks to corporations and groups across the country about the inspirational legacy of the late Herb Brooks, Hall of Fame coach of the fabled 1980 gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic "Miracle on Ice" hockey team. He lives in Eagan, Minnesota. Marty McSorley is a former National Hockey League player. He is famous for swinging his stick and hitting another player in a game, which resulted in his suspension for the remainder of his hockey career. Tony Twist is a former National Hockey League player who was known as an enforcer.


More About the Author

Ross Bernstein is the best-selling author of more than 40 sports books and has appeared on thousands of local and national television and radio programs over his career, including CNN, NPR and ESPN, as well as on the covers of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today. As a sought after motivational keynote speaker, Ross speaks to corporations and groups around the country about the inspirational legacy of his late friend and mentor, Herb Brooks, the coach of the fabled gold medal winning 1980 "Miracle on Ice" hockey team. Ross, who had actually been working with Brooks on writing a series of motivational/self-help books at the time of his tragic passing in 2003, honors the legacy of his friend and mentor through a program based on the topics of Passions and Legacies entitled: "When it Comes to Team-Building, Leadership & Motivation, Do you Believe in Miracles?" Putting many of the life-lessons and ideologies he learned from the fiery coach into a practical business application, Ross' interactive, entertaining and thought-provoking presentation aims to inspire others to follow their dreams and maybe, just maybe, even create their own miracles. Ross and his wife have one daughter and currently reside in the Twin Cities, MN.

Customer Reviews

You're kicked out of the game; that's why they call it a game misconduct.
hockey102
He relies TOO much on quote after quote...and they are multiple paragraphs in length.
B. Trusinsky
Just the usual suspects saying all of the expected things: Instigator rule bad.
Jonathan K. Probber

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Dad x3 on March 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a long-time hockey enthusiast and proponent of fighting in the NHL, I thought this book would be a great read. It is, for the most part, very educational, explaining a lot of the history of fighting and feuds in the NHL, describing the infamous, unwritten Code and what it means to the players and coaches, and also detailing how various rule and cultural changes have revised the game to its current state. (Although we can probably stop calling it the "unwritten Code" now that, ya know, there's this book.)

Unfortunately, it's NOT a great read, and many of the reviews here at Amazon are spot-on. The book is amateurish and mediocre, strictly for the hardcore enthusiast or someone who desperately seeks to absorb everything to know about hockey and needs this book as a primer to understand fighting in the NHL. Bernstein's words only account for about 30% of the overall manuscript. The rest is clips and quotes from NHL players and coaches, mostly Tony Twist, Marty McSorely, and Paul Stewart.

Most quotes read like this: "Blah blah positive comment about fighting in hockey. Blah blah some anecdote about respect. Blah blah one time I did this, and here's why I beat this guy's face. Blah blah that's what the code means to me."

That's great, and I get the point. But do we need 119 quotes that all sound alike?

Bernstein also includes more cliche than should be allowable by law. He's in LOVE with using "quotes" to make references to things where no quotes are necessary, often being those afore-mentioned cliches.

What's lamentable is that there are numerous black and white photos peppered throughout the book. That's right... good ol' grayscale.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want to know why fighting in hockey is not only accepted, but necessary, or if you want some privy information from some of the game's top heavyweights, then read this book. But don't spend your money for it.

There are numerous errors of fact throughout this book. One is tempted to give Bernstein the benefit of the doubt, and think it's merely a keystroke, like when he reports the standard size of an NHL rink as 100' X 85'. Later he does list the correct dimensions of 200' X 85, so an early typo is forgiveable.
By the time I was reading how Mike Vernon led his team to two consecutive Stanley Cups from 1996-1998 though, I knew they weren't typos. Mike Vernon wasn't the starting goaltender for the Detroit Redwings in `96-97 regular season, but he did build his stock up enough in the playoffs to get a fat contract from San Jose the following year, when Chris Osgood (and Kevin Hodson) backstopped the Wings to the Cup in '97-98.

It is impossible to type "Ontario" though when you mean "Alberta". Bernstein refers to the rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton as "the battle of Ontario", and I know he knows the difference, because he later refers to it as "the battle of Alberta". After a while of reading other completely irresponsible factual mistakes, the book would seem to be much less credible. The only thing that salvages it is that quite a bit of the text is verbatim interviews with former and current players, referees and other hockey personalities.

Here are some other items that will make a hockey fan furrow their brow -
Listing Mario Lemieux as at least 6'5", 230. He did end his career at 230, but came into the NHL at 18 years old weighing much less and standing 6'4" tall.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TND on January 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
being new hockey fans it has often been confusing as to why some penalties are called and some things aren't. Hearing long time fans complaining about calls that seem obvious. why is fighting allowed in hockey but not other team sports. This book does an excellent job of explaining how hockey has evolved and the reasons behind a lot of the actions on the ice. Definately opens up another line of thinking and allows you to have a better perspective of the game from the players point of view.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Cobb on April 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a 25+ year hockey veteran, this book taught me a lot about the game behind the game. The commentary by many ex-players had me laughing out loud and my wife looking at me funny. I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks hockey is a brutal or barbaric sport since it definitely teaches the reader lessons on what provokes enforcers in the NHL.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Edmund Dantes on May 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'm a casual hockey fan who never understood the whys and wherefores of fighting in the NHL, I was keen to learn something about fighting.

The first few chapters explain much of the unwritten "code" which I found very informative. However, beyond that, there was no coherent theme to the book.

On one hand most of the quotations from players harp on "respect" and how fighting ensures that if someone takes a cheapshot, he'll "have to pay" by fighting. Then later on in the book, it's pointed out that 90% of the fights have nothing to do with retaliation or retribution for a cheapshot or "lack of respect". Most fights are about bullying (aka intimidation), the losing side trying to "stir things up" to shift momentum, or two goons fighting each other since they are expected to fight each other. Sometimes it's a young kid who wants to fight an established goon just to make a name for himself.

The author goes to great lengths to make the argument that fighting "keeps the game clean" and then proceeds to describe the stick-swinging, elbowing and thuggery that went on unbridled when fighting was in its heyday. He then talks about a rise in cheapshots and stickwork once fighting was reigned in, and in another paragraph mentions that the NHL game today (where fighting is far more restricted than ever before) is the cleanest it's ever been.

Other reviewers have made the points about excessive use of clichés and quotations as well as the factual errors in the book, so I won't repeat them.

I still enjoyed the book and would recommend it to any hockey fan.
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