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Hello and welcome to our seventh Employment Law Snippet article. As usual, this article aims to explore and discuss how a quirky, unusual topic might affect employees and employers alike.

This week we will be looking at NHL ice hockey! Stay with me now and let me explain. Over the last two weeks, I’ve been in Canada and, as you can imagine, the trip was full of driving through national parks, spotting multiple moose and recovering from lengthy walks in minus temperatures and snow with much coffee and maple syrup! One of the many highlights of the trip? Watching an NHL ice hockey game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Detroit Red Wings. I still have the chant ‘let’s go oilers’ going round my head! This was my second live NHL ice hockey game after watching my favourite team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, two years ago.

But, let’s hold on a second, what could NHL ice hockey possibly have to do with employment law? Well, as it turns out, quite a few parallels can be drawn.

Firstly, there is the potential team rivalry issue between colleagues. Back here in the UK, this is more likely focused on football rather than NHL ice hockey but let’s stick with the theme. Let’s say that Ross and Joey support the Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers respectively and, throughout the year, they trade friendly banter with each other. All is well. Now, let’s say that their teams are due to play each other in the Stanley Cup Final (i.e. the final match which decides the winner of the NHL for that year) and they refuse to work with each other following nasty comments from one to the other. This would be a situation in which, dependent on the nature of the comments, disciplinary action could be warranted against at least one of them. Think that sounds pretty daft? I’ve heard much dafter, legitimate reasons for disciplinary processes!

For more on sports team rivalries in the workplace, see our blog: “Can an employee be dismissed for supporting a certain sports team?” here. (And, yes, the image for that blog IS the Pittsburgh Penguins mascot!)

Secondly, there are several NHL ice hockey fouls that have parallels in the workplace. For those who have seen parts of NHL ice hockey games, it may be a slight surprise that there are punishable fouls as, at an initial glance, it appears to be a free-for-all. Alas, however, similar to rugby, there are quite a few ways to foul a player despite the contact-heavy nature of the sport. The most relevant ice hockey rules to the workplace include:

Roughing – The act of intentionally ‘roughing up’ another player – i.e. hitting them into the barriers when there is no puck in sight! This would be broadly equivalent to a colleague using overly harsh or offensive language to another colleague when softer, friendlier words would be appropriate.

Hooking – The act of stopping another player’s run by dragging them back with a hockey stick. This is similar to a situation where one colleague tries to undermine another colleague by spreading mistruths or false rumours about them in order to hurt their reputation.

Interference – Occurs when a player intentionally blocks another player (well away from the puck) or deliberately knocks their stick out of their hand (or prevents them from picking up a dropped stick from the ice). This would be similar to an individual being accused of misconduct and then not being allowed to put forward their own version of events within a fair disciplinary process (i.e. being blocked from safely recovering their clean record).

Naturally, the above summarises several situations in which employees can be blocked or prevented from working to their full potential, in the same way as fouls in sport seek to punish actions which prevent players from making fair progress.

And, now, if you will excuse me, it is time for me to take my NHL branded reusable mug to a suitable coffee shop and see if they will insert copious amounts of maple syrup into my drink of choice…

My thanks for reading our seventh weekly Employment Law Snippet article.