What we are watching right now is an extremely fast paced, high scoring, and highly skilled NHL.
Due to this, teams have to place a bigger emphasis on scoring, and skating ability, which has resulted in fewer enforcers being produced and a decline in fighting.
Another thing that has led to a decline in fighting are several rule changes over the years.
In 1971 the “Third Man In” Rule was instituted which ejected the first player to join a fight already in progress.
This would later make way for the rule that suspended anyone who left the bench to join a fight and it was not their shift.
In 1992 the “Instigator” Rule was instituted which added an additional two minute minor penalty to the player who started the fight.
Even in the AHL, starting in 2016-17, any player who has ten fighting majors in one season will be suspended one game, an additional game for each of his 11th, 12th, and 13th fights, and two games for his 14th fight.
Let’s take a look at how these rules along with the change in the way the game is played has impacted fighting in the NHL.
In 1834-84 there was a total of 802 fights, in 1991-92 there was a total of 930 fights.
Jumping to 2000-01, there were 684 fights, with 155 games with multiple fights; in 2001-02 there were 803 fights with 172 games with multiple fights.
Fast forward to 2008-09, still a solid amount of fights with 734.
However, with a sharp decline starting around the 2013 NHL Lockout, the 2013-2014 season only saw 469 fights, with only 78 games with multiple fights.
Year by year fighting continues to decline with the 2017-18 season only having 280 fights, and just 41 games with multiple fights.
So far this season the NHL is on pace for 230 fights, a 50 fight drop just from last season.
Although fighting is declining, one thing is not declining as correspondingly as people would expect, is concussions.
That is simply because fighting is said to cause roughly 5-10 percent of concussions in the NHL.
Other aspects of the game, that are much dirtier in my opinion, such as hitting from behind, hits to the head, and slew footing cause the majority of concussions.
At the rate that fighting is going in the NHL, I’m not sure how many more years after the next few will contain fighting.
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