Friday, 13 January 2012

A Momentum Shift?

It has been a very good week for anyone who wants to see an end to fighting in the NHL.  As noted in my previous blog, last Thursday Brian Burke galvanized opinion on the role of the enforcer, with most media outlets disagreeing with Burke’s opinions and stating that it’s time for the league to ban fighting.  The same day, by complete coincidence, Jim Devellano the Red Wings’ senior vice president, said on a podcast, “I would eliminate it immediately. I can do without it. I don’t need it.”

Devellano’s anti-fighting comments were a small part of the overall interview but you can check out the podcast here and the discussion about fighting starts at approximately the 20:20 mark.   Devellano is widely known as a progressive NHL executive and is perhaps the only one who will actually, publically and unequivocally, state that fighting has no place in the game.   He knows that his stance is not popular.  “If you interviewed all of the teams, I’m in the minority among my peers,” Devellano said.  He was convinced that the enforcer was not needed with Scotty Bowman took over the team as coach” in 1993-94 and concentrated on skill players.  Bowman didn’t care for having a “5 minute-a-game player” and the Detroit teams under him took less penalties and enjoyed success as a result.   Devellano also disagrees that all hell will break loose if fighting is banned, saying that the league and referees can police the game.

Besides comments from these two team executives a study of NHL fighting has been released over the past few days.   Several hockey news sites picked up on the study and have their own take on its meaning – check out the links at the end of this blog.   In summary; the good news is that fighting is down by 25% in the current season.   If you review the data it shows that the NHL is on pace for 418 games with fights this season (33.97% of all games) and that there has been a steady decline over the past 3 years.

The importance of fighting to the outcome of NHL games has long been debated.  Another study, by the Canadian company PowerScout Hockey, reported on their analysis of 1,563 NHL fights between October 2009 and Dec. 21, 2011, to determine fighting's impact.

"Ultimately our focus is on what happens in the game that contributes to winning," PowerScout CEO Mark Appleby said. "Fighting was an interesting piece of research that we looked at and determined, 'OK, it doesn't really have an impact on winning.'"    Most hockey people think a fight changes momentum of a game, and Appleby said research showed that it does after 75% of all fights, but the boost is short-lived.   "You can't predict which way it's going to happen," Appleby said. "And it doesn't increase goal scoring significantly."

Overall a very good week.  Burke’s press conference made the anti-fighting discussion a lot more public, Devellano adding his reasoned and personal opinion on the subject and studies showing that fighting doesn’t make a difference and is on the decline.

Because it’s not part of the game.

1 comment:

  1. I applaud your efforts. I started a similar facebook page: Hockeyfansforprogress. Please like my page and share it with others that might be interested. The thugs have taken over the sport of hockey and it's time to "fight back".