By Ken Reed
Back in 2006-07, 384 NHL games featured at least one fighting major, which was 31.2% of all games.
During the 2018-19 season, there were fewer than 200 games with a fighting major, the first time in the modern era the total had dropped that low.
There are several reasons for the decline in fighting:
1) Rule changes have pushed the NHL into an offensive era, requiring rosters filled with fast, skilled hockey players. Teams simply can’t afford to carry a couple goons on their rosters anymore whose best skill is bare-knuckle fighting.
2) The crackdown on fighting in junior hockey has created a culture in which fights are just a very small part of the game at that level. A couple years ago, the Ontario Hockey League dropped the number of fights allowed before a player is suspended from 10 to three. As a result, fights dropped by 48% in the OHL in 2016-17, the year following the rule change.
3) There is an increased awareness and understanding of concussions and CTE in hockey. More and more players understand that repetitive blows to the head could result in negative long-term health consequences.
“The NHL can no longer sell hate and violence and get away with it,” says Daniel Carcillo, once one of the league’s most prolific fighters.
“I don’t see this trend reversing, and it’s a good thing that young men don’t have to play hockey with a pre-requirement being that you may have to bare-knuckle box.”
Carcillo is now a leading advocate for player health awareness in the NHL.
Many, including League of Fans, are calling for a complete ban on fighting in the NHL and at all levels of hockey.
“A fighting ban is still an appropriate goal,” says Chris Nowinski of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, “but based on the choices they’ve made, I suspect the NHL would prefer to continue to have the threat of fighting as a way to appeal to a subset of fans.”
If so, let’s hope the NHL’s thinking evolves when it comes to that type of mindset.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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