Quick Hits: Is Fighting On Its Way Out Of The NHL?
Nicolas Deslauriers vs Austin Watson
Anaheim Ducks left wing Nicolas Deslauriers, right, fights with Nashville Predators left wing Austin Watson during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, CA., Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. Credit Chris Carlson, AP

As long as hockey has been a game, fighting has been apart of it. Regulated by the NHL in 1922, the league has seen thousands of fights — for better or worse — along with its fair share of dirty play mixed in, too.

Over the years some teams have developed a reputation for being dirty teams and right at the top are the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks. Since 2010/11, for example, the Bruins (371 fighting majors) and the Ducks (363 fighting majors), rank number one and two in terms of dropping the mitts.

Right near the top, includes the Ottawa Senators (323), Columbus Blue Jackets (316), and the team once known as the Broad Street Bullies for their rough game, the Philadelphia Flyers (309).

The game has certainly changed since the days of the Bullies. Back then the league would see fights on a nightly basis, but over the decades the NHL has evolved and changed as a game. The speed of the game, for one, has increased massively and players are faster than ever. As we’ve seen in the last decade-plus, “designated fighters” no longer seem to have a place on NHL benches. That’s in part to how fast the game has gotten as these enforcers aren’t exactly known for their ability to play a skilled game, or keep up with the league’s high flying superstars.

Total fight numbers have steadily declined as a result dipping 70 percent between 2010 and 2020 with less than 250 players scrapping in the latter season, compared to 348 in the former.

All of the relevant statistics point towards fighting going the way of the dodo bird. Junior leagues are now taking on some of that onus by adding stiffer penalties trying to protect their players from the inherent risks involved with fighting.

And those risks are plenty with evidence pointing towards concussions from repeated trauma to the head. Not only that, but we’ve heard some sad stories of former enforcers passing as indirect results from their careers as tough guys.

The speed of the game, however, still necessitates some need for fighting. Hockey is a fast game filled with big hits and lots of emotion that will surely lead to scraps every now and then.