In the next few years, the NHL will have to take a major decision as the number of fights on the ice continues to drop to record lows.
Since hockey’s inception, fighting has taken place on the ice.
Although it has been questioned in recent years as to its role in sport, the in-game fight is still a major part of professional football in North America.
Over those 99 years, certain teams developed a bad reputation, primarily for their dirty playing and subsequent fights.
Fans regularly name the Boston Bruins and Anaheim Ducks as the dirtiest teams of the modern age. The Boston Bruins, who are 11/1 in NHL Lines to win Stanley Cup 2021, are also frequently referred to by the Anaheim Ducks.
Are these reputations well-deserved? Yes, in short.
No team in the NHL has had more fighting than the Bruins. They have 371 majors for fights since the 2010/11 season.
Boston was also the leader in the NHL in initiator penalties over that period. It has been charged with 21 fights in the past 10 NHL seasons.
Since 2010/11, the Ducks were charged with 363 major fighting offenses – the second highest in the NHL public betting money.
Anaheim is not the most aggressive team – or at least, it’s not the case officially. They have only received nine initiator penalties over the past 10 years, which puts them among the NHL bottom half.
The Ottawa Senators have been involved in several fights. They are also the Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers. These teams, respectively, had 323, 309, and 316 major fighting incidents since 2010/11.
The Flyers, as well as the Senators, started several fights. Ottawa had 18 and Philly 15 during that period.
Since 2010/11, the New York Islanders (NYI) and Florida Panthers (15 FLP) have been given 19 and 15 initiator penalties respectively.
The dirty play of Philadelphia is not limited to fighting. Since 2010, the team has spent 8,951 penalty minutes, more than any other.
The Carolina Hurricanes have been involved in the least number of fights with only 132 major fighting incidents since 2010/11.
Carolina is also the team that spends the least amount of time in penalty boxes in the NHL. They have received only 6,091 minutes in penalty boxes over the past 10 seasons.
In that time, the Detroit Red Wings received only one more fighting major than the Hurricanes and spent the least amount of time in the box.
The Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes, and Los Angeles Kings are also among the cleanest teams. They rank at the bottom of the league for fighting minors as well as penalty minutes.
No team in the NHL has been charged for initiating fewer fights in the last 10 years than Toronto Maple Leaf’s.
These stats may confirm or dispel fans’ fears about which teams are the dirtiest in the NHL. But there is an even bigger question at hand for the future of hockey: Does fighting still have a place in this game?
The debate has raged for years, as opponents claim that it is dangerous, especially to the brain, wastes valuable time, and takes away from more skilled aspects of the game.
Supporters of fighting in the NHL say it deters other dirty plays by giving players the ability to self-police and protects star players.
Many fans believe fighting is more exciting than hockey. Some even attend games hoping to see a fight break out.
No matter what your opinions on this issue are, statistics show that fighting will continue to be a problem in the sport of hockey.
In the 2010/11 campaign, on average, more than two fights were fought every game – that’s 0.52 per match.
This figure has dropped from 0.18 in 2019/20 to only 0.18.
The NHL’s overall fighting has dropped by 70% over the past 10 years. From 1,274 major fights in 2010/11, there are only 388 fighting majors in 2019/20.
In 2018, the 2018/19 campaign was the first in recent history to see fewer than 200 matches with a major fight. The 2019/20 season will follow suit.
This also means that players get into fewer fights.
A joint record of 348 players fought at least once during 2010/11. In 2010, fewer than 25 players fought.
According to all relevant statistics, fighting is decreasing in the NHL. This trend is not expected to change any time soon.
It is unclear what this will mean for the future league.
While some will argue fighting is safer at lower levels, others may say it’s the best of both. Fans still get a thrill, and players stay safe.
If fighting is eventually banned in the NHL, Bruins, Ducks and other violent teams will face a period of uncertainty where their play style may have to be changed.
No matter what happens, the problem cannot be overlooked for long.
As the NHL approaches a major crossroads in its history, it is important to consider how this decision will affect hockey for all time.