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Fighting frequency way up in shortened season

Mar 7, 2013, 9:51 AM EDT

Matt Beleskey #39 of the Anaheim Ducks and Ryane Clowe #29 of the San Jose Sharks fight in the first period at Honda Center on February 4, 2013 in Anaheim, California.
(February 3, 2013 - Source: Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

If you feel like players have been dropping the gloves a lot more this season; you’re right.

Through Feb. 25, there have been 0.55 fights per game, which is up from 0.44 in 2011-12, according to ESPN The Magazine.

To look at it another way, if picked a game at random and watched it all the way through, there would be a 41.4% that you’d see a scrap. That’s the highest it’s been since 2001-02.

San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe, who has 70 penalty minutes in 20 games this season, thinks this spike in aggression can be traced back in the lockout.

“After the first few games, when players were getting their stamina back, the games got tight and physical,” he said. “You’re so energized and hyped up to be playing again.”

Fighting tends to decline towards the end of the season, but it’s hard to gauge if the shortened campaign will be any different.

“When you get to the last 10 games of the season, discipline becomes paramount,” said Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “But you’ll still see fights if there are races down the stretch and teams are looking for any edge.”

With the season only lasting 48 games, there isn’t as much time for teams to separate themselves from the pack, and that might lead to a very tight race between a lot of teams for playoff spots until the very last day.

  1. chicagobtech - Mar 7, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    Let’s see…
    82 games per team.
    30 teams in the League.
    Doing the math, not forgetting to divide by two, come out to 1,230 games in the NHL regular season.
    At 0.44 fights per game, that’s a hair over 541 fights last season.

    48 games this season for each team.
    The math tells me the season will have 720 games.
    At 0.55 fights per game, it’s projecting out to be 396 fights this season.

    Frequency is up 25% halfway through the season, but the number of fights based on that frequence is down 27%. Let’s see how everything wraps up once the campaign is over.

  2. f2maestro - Mar 7, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    I personally love fighting in the NHL so I am not complaining about the increase. There’s two factors I see that could be influencing this trend; Lack of Inter conference play and playing more games more often as a result of the condensed/shortened season.

    • ironyisadeadscene - Mar 7, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      Also more playing time for 4th lines in this compact schedule

  3. boltsfan777 - Mar 7, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    My thought has been that some of it has been just personal economics. Many of the fights I’ve seen occur in the very early minutes of the game, sometimes occurring even after light or no contact. For many players, physical toughness is more than half of their game, so especially in the shortened season, they have to show they can change the momentum of the game early and often, if they expect to keep their roster spot. They also get tired of being healthy scratches, which I suppose could get them jacked up when they get a chance.

  4. lonespeed - Mar 7, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    I generally find fighting in the NHL annoying, especially when they fight just to be fighting. I do appreciate the occassional retaliation for getting too physical with a star or making a dirty hit, but even that sometimes is a reach.

    The playoffs are a perfect example. Usually when there is a fight in the playoffs it is warranted, but fighting in the playoffs for the most part doesn’t happen. That alone tells me the act in general isn’t really necessary. But that being said, when it is necessary I do think they should be allowed to go at it. So I appreciate fighting in the playoffs because it obviously is the real deal.

  5. h0ckeycoach - Mar 7, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    Enough with the fighting, NHL. Punches to the head can cause serious injury. Why tolerate this? Show the fans you care more about player safety than TV ratings. What about mandatory visors? What did you say? NHL: ratings will go down if everyone has to wear a visor because fighting will be on the decline.

    Of course! And why don’t you want to move Phoenix out of AZ? NHL: because if we do, then the salary cap cieling will increase if they’re to a better market.

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