Fighting and violence in hockey is going down, not up

Dave SchultzOne thing that annoys me is when people claims they hate hockey because it is getting more violent every year and there are more fights every year.

With a whole family that plays hockey that bothers me. Because it simply isn’t true. In fact, the opposite is true. The problem is ESPN and HP and Youtube that focus on nothing but hockey fights. When that’s all people see of hockey, they assume that’s all there is. HuffPost is TERRIBLE for doing this!

It really chapped my hide yesterday that I tried to make this point on HP yesterday, but for some reason, HP wouldn’t let me.

Here are the FACTS. In the 1970s, there was an average of more than 1 fight every hockey game (and yes, there actually are people who keep track of this stuff). This year, there is an average of 0.57 fights per game, so there is actually HALF as many fights in hockey today as there was 35 years ago.

A website called hockeyfights.com has actually been tracking fighting in hockey for 10 years. In the 2001-2002 season, there were 803 fights in the NHL, for an average of .65 fights a game. In 2003-2004, there were 789 fights, for an average of .64 fights per game. This year, the league is on pace for 693 fights, a decrease of 12 percent from seven years ago.

Moreover, the all-time single season leader in penalty minutes is Dave Schultz, part of the infamous Broad Street Bullies of Philadelphia. Schultz had 472 penalty minutes in 1974-75, which was really the low point for violence in the NHL. Since the 2000 season, the closest anyone has come to that is Peter Worrell, who had 354 penalty minutes in 2001-2002 … that puts him 21st all-time for most penalty minutes in a season. Last season, the league leader was Zenon Konopka of the New York Islanders, who had 265 penalty minutes, barely half what Dave Schultz accumulated in 1974-75.

Oglethorpe!

What this means is that the era of the goons is fading out. The rules have been changed to give more emphasis on speed and skill. Sure, there’s some tough guys in the league, and the fighting will always play a role (honestly, there is a strategy to it. Don’t touch our stars or else you’ll pay, basically.) There are just more fighting highlights on round-the-clock sports TV and Internet. And because people can’t figure out that “Slap Shot” was satire (not only satire, but 35-year-old satire.). And honestly, if you pay attention, you notice players rarely get hurt fighting. They usually scrap for half a minute, then one of them falls down and a referee steps in and stops it. Most of the time, it’s FUNNY. It’s like slapstick. Most players get hurt when they crash into the boards or they get hit by an errant stick or puck.

Garr. I don’t know why HuffPost wouldn’t let me make this point yesterday.

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4 Responses to Fighting and violence in hockey is going down, not up

  1. BassFace says:

    “Slap Shot” was one of my favorite movies in my adolescent years. It was (and still is) hilarious! Particularly that one sleazy player always talking about picking up “snatch”. 😉

    But on a more serious side, I wonder if that website you quoted has any stats on fighting in any minor-league hockey clubs… Jacksonville (FL) used to have a couple of minor-league hockey teams (the Lizard Kings &, later, Barracudas) but this being a football & NASCAR town they didn’t last very long. But I did go to a couple of games and I thought they were pretty cool, though one game I remember had an inordinate number of fights and that seemed to really turned on the crowd (what “crowd” there was at the game, that is…). Once the fighting was under control, the people here quickly lost interest & cleared out of the arena so that the place was nearly empty when the game concluded. It wasn’t NHL, but I did enjoy it.

    • Pepe Lepew says:

      I remember many years ago the hockey matches in Fresno starting out as a family affair, but then the bikers and skinheads kind of took over and ruined it for everyone else.

      • BassFace says:

        That’s kind of the way it is here in the South, Pepe. One thing that was really exciting was when I visited my brother (& his in-laws) in Tampa a few years ago and we caught a Tampa Bay Lightning game – might’s been the year they won the Stanley Cup (2005? or ’04?). Now, THAT was cool! No fights, either…

      • BassFace says:

        “That’s kind of the way it is here in the South”… to elaborate, not that there is any hockey per se being played locally (though there is a public ice-rink in Jacksonville – off US-1 just south of downtown – that has a “hockey night” each week/month so I could be wrong about that) but that the “redneck” aspect of any kind of local sports-competition (beer-league softball, golf etc.) is why I usually don’t participate in these things. I do enjoy cycling, though…

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