Fighting in Hockey: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Recently published research has confirmed something that spectators and players have been noticing for the last few years. There is simply less fighting in the NHL than there used to be. Although fighting has been a regulated part of the NHL since 1922, for every year since the 2010/2011 season, the number of fights has steadily dropped. That’s leading many
to question whether the dirtiest teams in the sport are going to need to change their playing styles. While there are good arguments on both sides of the fighting in hockey debate, the fact is that in-game fighting is seeing a sharp decrease, and it doesn’t look like that trend is likely to change anytime soon. The question is, what does that mean for the NHL’s dirtiest

The Dirtiest Teams in the NHL

The data published by Betway reveals that some teams in the NHL have a well-earned reputation for dirty playing. Leading those teams is the Boston Bruins, who have been involved in 371 fighting majors since the 2010/2011 season, including 21 instigator penalties in the same period. The Anaheim Ducks aren’t far behind either, with a slightly lower record of 363 fighting majors since 2010/2011, although they have received fewer instigator
penalties. The Columbus Blue Jackets, the Ottawa Senators, and the Philadelphia Flyers all feature heavily in the stats as well, with extremely high numbers of instigator penalties. Philadelphia players have spent an incredible 8,951 minutes sitting in the penalty box since 2010/2011, which feeds into the argument for getting rid of fighting entirely, especially when
you consider that those penalties all slow down the game.

The Cleanest Teams in the NHL

Not all hockey teams have a reputation for dirty play. The study reveals that over the same ten year period, the Carolina Hurricanes were only involved in 132 fighting majors, with their combined penalty box time equalling 6,091 minutes. The Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit
Red Wings, and the Arizona Coyotes all rank at the bottom of the league when it comes to dirty play, although it’s hard to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have only received one instigator penalty since the 2010/2011 season!

Will This Change Continue?

Although the dirtiest teams in the NHL continue to brawl on the ice, the fact is that overall, the number of fights has been dropping consistently over the last ten years. That’s leading many to ask questions about the future of fighting in the game. The arguments for getting rid of fighting in hockey are well-discussed, with player injury (particularly brain injuries), wasted
time, and detracting from the game all well-worn discussion points. Whether you love the fighting aspect of hockey or hate it, the fact remains that in the last ten years, there has been a 70% reduction in the number of fights on the ice. There were 1,274 fighting majors in the 2010/2011 season. In 2019/2020, that number was just 388.

The future of fighting in the NHL seems to be at a critical stage. The question for those teams with the dirtiest reputations is whether or not they can change their playing styles in the years to come. As fighting on the ice continues to be less common, those dirty teams may have to make big changes if they hope to maintain a presence in the NHL.

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