It’s less a debate than it is a complaint because some things will never change. Fighting is penalized with only a five-minute penalty to both combatants and the game moves on. Fans in the arena stand and cheer, as if captives to the primal release of energy, while fans on social media decry hockey’s dark arts. Some teams benefit from dropping the gloves, including and perhaps most surprisingly the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ closest rivals and traditional brawlers, the Philadelphia Flyers do not.
No, really. The Penguins increase their winning percentage to an elite level when they fight, and the Flyers lose more games than they win. Go figure.
A new study from OnlineGambling.ca looked at the last seven NHL seasons. Fighting has dramatically declined by 77%, from 0.65 fights per game at its peak in 2001-02 to just 0.15 in 2019-20. Fighting majors increased last season up to 0.22 fights per game, the highest since 2017-18.
Perhaps players were as irritable over politics on Facebook as the rest of us? Regardless of the motivations, it’s an interesting study by gamblers looking for an edge, so you know they did their homework.
Over the last five seasons, the Anaheim Ducks, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning have been the most punchy teams. When fights broke out, the Anaheim Ducks (0.35 fights per game), Florida Panthers (0.32), and Ottawa Senators (0.31) ranked as the top three most “active” teams in recent seasons.
Only one player had more than six fights in 2021. The Ottawa Senators led the league with 23 fights in 56 games. The Tampa Bay Lightning (23), New York Rangers (22), Anaheim Ducks (20), and Florida Panthers (18).
Obviously, not all of those squads have been successful. And not all of those teams were built for fighting, specifically the New York Rangers who were a soft team that was often roughed up.
For the teams on the bottom of the standings, often losing precipitated the fights. So, there’s no correlation between fighting and winning. However, Tampa Bay and Florida didn’t give an inch.
Hockey Fighting Affecting Results
Stats showed the New Jersey Devils, Arizona Coyotes, and Winnipeg Jets substantially increased their chances of winning by dropping the gloves. Get this: The New Jersey Devils won 51.3% of the games in which they fought. That’s significantly better than the 37% they won when they didn’t.
Perhaps the Dougie Hamilton signing wasn’t the best choice for the Devils?
The Arizona Coyotes had a similar jump in winning percentage when the boys threw knuckles. They won 51.2%, compared to just 40% when they didn’t scrap. And the Winnipeg Jets won a whopping 64.1% of games when they fought, and won just 53.8% when they didn’t.
Maybe Phil Kessel will start throwing?
The Lightning’s already high winning percentage (62%) was such that fighting didn’t have a significant impact either way.
The Penguins are known for Mike Sullivan’s mantra, “just play.” The Penguins are also known for their anti-fighting stance and the Penguins fans are perhaps the most boisterous anti-foil fans.
However, the Penguins won 66.6% of their games in 2020-21 when they fought. They won 58.3% otherwise.
What do you think Pens fans–want to see Brian Boyle toss a few punches?
Pittsburgh Penguins Rivals & Fighting:
According to the folks at OnlineGambling.ca, here are the Metro Division teams and their results when fighting. If I told you the Flyers would lose games when they drop the mitts, would you have believed me?
The Columbus Blue Jackets drop was surprising, as was the slight drop in Washington Capitals winning percentage.
|Team||Win % With Fighting||Win % Without Fighting|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||38.3||51.8|
|New Jersey Devils||51.3||37.2|
|New York Islanders||49.8||52.2|
|New York Rangers||43.7||47.2|