NHL Fighting Debate: Ridiculous Study Released

NHL fighting debate has been a highly discussed topic over the last decade, as we’ve seen the disappearance of enforcers, which has ultimately led to fewer fights year after year. Tolerance for fighting in hockey tends to range from each side of the spectrum. Some are completely against it, then on the other side of the spectrum are older hockey minds who believe there is a place for it. Hockey fans tend to range completely across that spectrum making the NHL Fighting debate one of the more controversial topics in the league.

The majority of long-time hockey fans will tell you there’s a time and place for fighting in hockey. These fans have accepted that staged fights, that had been occurring for years were unnecessary in our game. The true hockey fan has been willing to be flexible and bend to appease those who do not agree in the NHL fighting debate. Unfortunately, the majority of dis-engaged or dis-interested fans are the same people boasting a loud voice against fighting. Even including the die-hard fan who’s 100% against fighting, there’s no flexibility in their opinions. There’s a strange phenomena in modern society, where groups of people feel they need to impose their opinions as the correct or majority opinion. It doesn’t matter that people can share different opinions with them, because “they know what’s right for the greater good”.

Fighting in hockey has only existed since the start of time. It’s an adrenaline filled sport that’s extremely competitive and aggressive. It’s baffling to this writer personally, because any person who has actually played the sport at a competitive level, understands how intense the game can be, and fights are absolutely inevitable. There will never be a day when fighting disappears in hockey. As long as the game continues to stay physically intense with hitting, the NHL fighting debate isn’t likely to go anywhere.

Released in an article by CBC news, recently published in the online Journal Applied Economic in Alberta suggesting “violence on the ice isn’t good for the bottom line”. Have a good chuckle reading it below with analysis beneath statements. Truly noticeable when a study is done by someone with zero knowledge of what they’re studying.

Economics Study: NHL Fighting Debate

via CBC,

A study out of Alberta that was recently published in the online journal Applied Economics says violence on the ice isn’t good for the bottom line.

“Fighting leads to more players in the penalty box and can reduce the performance of the team,” said Duane Rockerbie, a professor of economics at the University of Lethbridge.

It’s pathetic that people will use this study in their argument against fighting. It’s clear economic professor Duane Rockerbie has absolutely no knowledge on the sport.

via CBC,

“Fighting leads to more players in the penalty box”

Really?! Thanks Tips. How could we forget about coincidental 5 minute majors that do little to effect the game.

“and can reduce the performance of the team”

How?! Most of the regular fighters are not scoring producers.. in fact they’re usually among the lowest scorers. Sometimes better players fight, but again 5 minute coincidental majors does nothing to effect a team’s performance.

via CBC,

“And Canadian fans, he noted, don’t like that.”

Attended many hockey games in my lifetime living in Canada, and even to this day, the next most exciting thing other than a goal to get the crowd excited, is a fight. You don’t have to like fighting in hockey. You’re free to share that opinion. But not everyone feels that way.

It’s not like we’re talking about a visor or concussion issue that evolved eventually into the game, that needed to be addressed. We’re talking about a necessary result caused by intense physical play that has been there since the beginning of time with hockey.

via CBC,

“By crunching data from 13 NHL seasons, Rockerbie found that fighting actually reduced attendance and revenue for Canadian clubs.”

There’s no effective way to measure the link between fighting and attendance/revenue. Are we polling random subjects in society and asking them “has fighting prevented you from bringing your children to a hockey game?”. The above statement is completely nonsensical because there’s no way to accurately measure the variables.

via CBC,

“Even when factoring in external influences like aggressive marketing and new arenas, Rockerbie says Canadian hockey fans would rather watch players show off their skills than satisfy a lust for blood.”

Believe it or not, fans have felt this way since the beginning of time. It’s a sport where the object is to put the puck into the net. Of course that takes precedence over all else. Fans obviously prefer the skill, but it doesn’t have any correlation to one’s opinion on fighting. It’s like asking would you rather be given a free $20 or $100 bill. We value both, but one obviously holds more weight. It doesn’t make the lesser worthless or unnecessary.

via CBC,

Rockerbie says hockey brawls reached their peak in the early 1980s but have been on the decline ever since.

“The incidence of fighting now is about one-third of what what is was in the NHL at that time.”

He suspects that’s partially due to fan preferences, but also the economics of the game.

With multi-million-dollar salaries on the line, general managers can’t afford any unnecessary concussions.

Classic case of someone who doesn’t know the sport. Here, Rockerbie blames economic factors for the decline, claiming GM’s can’t afford any unnecessary concussions when they’re dealing with multi-million dollar contracts.

We know why the enforcer role disappeared and why fighting has gone down. The fourth line enforcer was replaced with more skill and speed. The game has gotten much faster and teams need to feature four lines of speed and skill to stay competitive.

Oct 17, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Joe Vitale (14) and Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller (86) fight during the second period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

It has ZERO to do with player’s contracts and the link to concussions. Concussions in fights are rare, plain and simple. They have been known to occur, but if you were to pull up all concussions in the NHL and their causes, fighting would take up a very small fraction. We’re seeing concussions almost on a nightly basis, more often than not due to hits.

Let’s not forget that the push to eliminate fighting for our sport gained its most steam in 2009 when we tragically lost 21-year-old Don Sanderson to a head injury caused from the fall in a fight. Sanderson played for Whitby in the senior men’s league in Ontario. It was certainly a devastating loss for family and friends, and the entire hockey community in general.

This writer means no disrespect with the following statement regarding the above sensitive topic. It’s impossible to speculate what this young man would have wanted without knowing him. But he did like to engage in that physical side of the game. Would that young man have wanted this to be the end result? Would he want folks using his tragic death as fuel to support their push to eliminate fighting. It seems a little disrespectful to me.


Like everyone who plays hockey, you know what you’re signing up for. Fighting is avoidable in hockey. Players can go their entire careers without dropping their gloves, it’s not difficult. Some guys choose to engage in the fighting side, that’s their choice, that’s what they signed up for. Fluke injuries in hockey occur all the time. Just ask this writer, who took a butt-end to the rib cage in a full speed head-on collision and spent a week in the hospital with a lacerated liver. Freak accidents, while truly unfortunate, occur all the time in sports. If the injury isn’t going to occur in a fight, it’ll occur another way. You can’t eliminate the intensity and adrenaline incorporated with our violent physical sport.

via CBC,

“There isn’t a lot of room any more for players who specialize in violence and fighting.”

FALSE. The designated fighter is all but disappeared, but almost all teams have at least one of these guys, that apparently there isn’t room for anymore. The following list is players who “specialize in violence” and offer more, whether it be offensively or defensively.

AnaheimCorey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf
ArizonaSteve Downie
BostonZac Rinaldo, Adam McQuaid
BuffaloMarcus Foligno
CalgaryLance Bouma
ChicagoAndrew Shaw
ColoradoCody McLeod
ColumbusScott Hartnell, Jared Boll, David Clarkson
DallasAntoine Roussel
EdmontonMatt Hendricks
Los AngelesDustin Brown, Kyle Clifford
MontrealZack Kassian (currently not playing)
NashvilleShea Weber
New JerseyTuomo Ruutu, Jordin Tootoo
NY IslandersMatt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck
NY RangersTanner Glass
OttawaMark Borowiecki, Chris Neil
PhiladelphiaWayne Simmonds, Luke Schenn, Radko Gudas
St.LouisDavid Backes, Steve Ott, Ryan Reaves
TorontoLeo Komarov, Dion Phaneuf
VancouverBrandon Prust, Derek Dorsett
WashingtonTom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Orpik
WinnipegDustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd

How many of the above players would still be as effective hockey players without their physical style? The statement that violence doesn’t have a place in hockey anymore holds as little validity as the entire study that was clearly conducted with little knowledge or understanding of the game. The only thing we should take from this story is that an economics department in Alberta is wasting either donated or tax-payers money to conduct nonsensical experiments that ultimately helps prove nothing based on whatever the result may be. There’s no way to properly target the appropriate target audience, or to have the ability to gauge results on the type of questions they were seeking answers to.

There’s a lot of voices out there completely against fighting, but how many of those voices hold true weight? Which fans opinion deserves more merit, the die-hard fan who watches every game, or the occasional fan, who thinks their opinion is just as valid in an argument. Think of it this way, if you need a quality opinion on stocks, who are you going to ask? A stock broker, or the stranger who’s slightly invested in stocks? Obviously you’re trusting a more professional opinion. So why is it that the louder voice in hockey for fighting is the stranger, opposed to the stock broker?  And why is it that those who are for fighting, have been forced to bend and accept a middle-ground eliminating staged fights, while those against fighting offer no middle ground?