Monday, 19 March 2012

Observations On A Single Game

On February 27th I posted the article Additional Statistics on the Impact of Fighting.  It contained stats that showed when fighting was reduced, non-fighting PIMs were also reduced.  It also showed that teams who fought the most were also assessed more non-fighting PIMs.  A clear trend based on the past 12 seasons of NHL play.  And then a game comes along that adds considerable weight to my argument that enforcers contribute to the violence and cheap shots, not control it.

The Rangers and Devils played this evening, March 19th, and started the game with 6 players in 3 separate fights.  The New Jersey Devils started the game with Eric Boulton, Cam Janssen and Ryan Carter for their starting line-up.  That would be #s 1, 2 and 4 in fighting majors for the team.  The Rangers countered with their top 3 fighters (42 fights between them) in Michael Rupp, Brandon Prust and Stu Bickel.   Both teams showed a lot of discipline in waiting until the 3 second mark to drop the gloves.  On February 7th when these teams met, they had 2 fights break out at the 2 second mark (Janssen and Boulton taking on Rupp and Prust).

In any other professional sport this kind of display would be regarded as a disaster and a black mark on the league.  It would be followed up with a press release from the league office commenting on how disappointed they are in the participants of this action and substantial fines and suspensions would be handed out.  It’s unlikely that we will hear anything from the NHL.  It’s just business as usual.

My post on the study of non-fighting PIMs and fighting stated that enforcers were more likely to be responsible for cheap shots versus policing the game.  So let’s take closer look and see if this game supports that theory, or did all the roster enforcement clean it up after the 3 second mark.

  • At 9:01 of the 1st Parise gets a high stick to the face, courtesy of the enforcer Prust.  I guess he forgot that he’s on the roster to make sure that no one takes cheap shots…like high sticks to the face.
  • Still in the 1st period, at 12:45, Salvador dumps the puck into the Rangers zone from the point and takes a hit as he does so.  The Ranger player hitting him was Rupp, who immediately afterwards puts both his gloves into Salvador’s face and gives him a shove, drawing a roughing penalty.  When I played hockey that was pretty much disrespectful.  But Rupp is policing the game so I guess it was a pre-emptive strike.
  • With 2 minutes left to play in the opening period, Boulton gets called for an obvious trip on Rupp.  That’s how you clean up the game – by knocking the players down and wiping the ice with them.
  • At the 7 minute mark of the second, Boulton continues to demonstrate how to keep the rats from taking over the game by hitting Fedotenko from behind and getting a boarding penalty.
  • With 1:27 left in the second, Dubinsky (4th in fighting on the Rangers) decides to help out his fellow policemen and knocks Ponikarovsky into the boards from behind.
  • That was just the penalties called, and does not include the hit by Dubinsky to the head of Volchenkov.  So I need someone who “really understands hockey” to explain this whole enforcement thing to me again.  Perhaps someone from the NHL or NHLPA, who has played competitive hockey unlike me, can tell me how these fighters are cleaning up the game.  Maybe this is a bad example but it sure appeared to me that these players are not taking care of the rats – they are the rats.  I think the enforcers need to have some kind of Internal Affairs department to investigate and clean up the police squad.
If you allow unnecessary violence in the game then the violence will increase.  You can’t allow undisciplined players to continue flaunting the rules – and fighting is against the rules – by tolerating the behavior and having penalties that teams won’t take seriously.  Fighting is not keeping the game clean, it’s only putting black marks all over the image of hockey and the NHL.


  1. I've often wondered - why is it that Olympic hockey tournaments can do just fine without fighting? I keep hearing the same old arguments for why fighting needs to stay in the league, but the success of such tournaments seems to disprove those theories, unless I'm missing something. Curious as to your thoughts.


  2. I think that the Olympic hockey comparison is an excellent argument for why fighting is not needed. Sure the special status of the Olympics, held every 4 years, means that you will attract an audience. But the play is fast paced, hard hitting and exciting and that certainly explains the consistently high ratings it receives. Players will tell you that winning a gold medal is every bit as fulfilling as winning a Stanley Cup. You see the same thing with the World Junior Hockey Championships each year. You end up with pure hockey with the focus on skilled players and all of that with no fighting.

    Pro-fighting fans will tell you that you can't compare NHL play to the Olympics because it is only a short tournament, the pressure is different and there is not the same level of rivalry involved. The counter argument is that in a short tournament with so much at stake the pressure is extremely high. And all of these players know each other from WJHC each year or years of playing against each other in the NHL, so the competitive motivation certainly exists. As for rivalries, just ask the U.S. team if they have trouble getting up for a game against the Canadians. Or the Swedes against the Finns.

    Just look at the Stanley Cup Playoffs. When winning really, really matters - fighting virtually disappears. They involve pressure filled games, intense rivalries and hard-hitting action but fights are rare.

  3. sigh

    go watch field hockey or international hockey only if you desire this form of the game

    it's part of the game and many actually like it too

    to say this argument is boring and off is putting it lightly

    and the international games are minus the fighting bc the talent level is unbelievably high and the game is of course different among many many other factors

  4. International play also has much less legal checking as well. The focus is different than from NHL style hockey. And I think the writer is confusing goons with enforcers.