A majority of NHL fans in the U.S. say banning fighting wouldn’t impact the way they watch the game, according to a survey conducted by Yahoo Sports and YouGov.
The survey results showed banning fighting would have no impact on 51 percent of fans’ (57 percent of women, 47 percent of men) viewing habits. In fact, 24 percent they’d watch the NHL more if fights were banned. There were hockey traditionalists among the polling, as 25 percent said they’d watch less if a ban occurred. The split indicated the age gap.
“Among age groups, 29 percent of fans ages 18-to-34 said they would be more likely to watch games if fighting was banned, vs. 21 percent of fans ages 35-to-45 and 20 percent of fans 55-and-older.”
According to new Yahoo Sports/YouGov poll, 51% of U.S.-based NHL fans say a formal ban on fighting would have no impact on their viewership pic.twitter.com/PH9oH7NKdf
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) December 13, 2016
In the Yahoo Sports data, 27 percent of those polled against fighting said they’d like to see it gone to prevent player injuries, 22 percent listed “no reason” as the cause, and 16 percent stated fighting in the game “served no purpose.”
The role of enforcer has dramatically shifted from decade-to-decade, with the modern NHL valuing skill and speed over grit and throwing knuckles. With the change, fighting has consistently decreased over the past decade.
Per HockeyFights.com data, since 2009-2010, the percentage of games featuring fights has dropped from more than 40 percent, all the way to just 23 percent in 2015-16. The current number dwarfs the league’s peak in 1987-88, when there were 1.31 fights per game, with over 1100 fights in a single season. Variables such as the instigator rule and more importantly, worries of permanent brain injuries, have made fights rare and uncommon compared to year’s past.
Seeing occasional rough stuff following a big hit or scrum can be entertaining, but the real-life health repercussions have fans growing increasingly apprehensive about its value. The game in its current form is extraordinarily entertaining with the lack of fighting playing a big reason into why. As the season’s go on, it’s fair to assume fighting will eventually be phased out. As the poll suggests, a majority of fans would be OK with that decision.