NHL is back!
With the NHL finally back in the process of patching together a season there will be articles, newscasts and radio shows dedicated to the talk of all things that make the game such an interesting team sport. I will start with fighting. Fighting in the game of hockey has a place according to some and others believe it doesn’t. Whatever side of the fence you sit on when it comes to fists flying and the NHL; it is simply part of the game and the stats don’t lie.
Imagine this brother hood of players in a union that have stood together for almost 113 days fighting on a united front (for the most part) against a labor lockout. Now imagine this same brother hood of NHLPA that have stood for so long fighting for their right to work, and in that very work environment there is a clause that allows them to bare knuckle fight. BARE KNUCKLE FIGHT! With labor disputes all over the world every day; it is hard to imagine that two members of the same union may one day throw away the civilized intent of working together and throw fists?! Barbaric! Only in sport such a thing would occur.
So does the brother hood of NHLPA members soften up on each other after such a uniting experience of sitting on the sidelines fighting for their jobs? Statistical information should provide some light on this.
The Stats (all stats from http://www.hockeyfights.com)
2004-2005 was the first year the Stanley Cup was not awarded to a team. It was a year of hanging tough and together as the NHLPA fought for a CBA during the 2005 NHL lockout. So did the players find a brotherhood of respect and mutual caring among the membership after sitting out for the 2005 season? The result; fighting majors for the following year dropped by a significant percentage.
In 2003-2004 the NHL played 1230 games. In those 1230 games 789 fights occurred.
In 2005-2006 upon the return to NHL hockey 1230 games played. In those 1230 games 466 fights occurred.
Brotherly love prevailed and percentage of games with a fight dropped 12.4%
Now keeping with a statistical look at fighting and the “New NHL” as many referred to the league after the 2005 lockout. Rule changes, scheduling changes, less room for players who fight in the game etc. Thus the comparison to “The New NHL” and that of the league pre-lockout had many questioning less hitting, more hitting, concussion occurrence and the like. Forget all that for a moment and talk fighting. Because when you look at the stats, fighting is happening and over 300 players in the NHLPA participate in the action. No matter the concussion rate, the amount of ice time for enforcers or speed of the game fights per game continued to climb after the first full season post lockout 2005.
Take a look at a few more numbers so we can compare the brotherly love factor at the end of this shortened season. A quick look at this great chart from www.hockeyfights.com and you can see that last year was the first year that the percentage of games with a fight had dropped to the lowest in almost 10 years. Fighting was down last year. Will that trend continue into a shortened season? That is the question that purists and statistical junkies will want to look at in a few months time. Those stats will provide the basis for the comparison at the end of this season.
Shortened Season and Shorter fuses?
With a shortened season that will see teams like Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators or New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers play each other seven times in a few short months could lead to some short fuses. Will this mean a higher percentage of games with fights? The argument might be the players will have more to play for in the way of quick playoff positioning and less about gains made through bare knuckle fighting. No matter the amount of fighting that may or may not occur in a shortened season, the fact will remain; the NHL is a physical sport and you never know when a fight will break out.
Share your thoughts with me on twitter and throw me a line on Facebook explaining to me your thoughts on the gloves being dropped. More fighting this year or just an average year of throwing knuckles?!