A recent Harris Decima Poll has certainly added some much needed clarity to the issue of fighting in hockey, specifically which groups are in favour and which groups would like to see it removed from the game.
The Harris Decima poll in question offered up these interesting gems:
- Overall, 54% of respondents said they thought fighting should be banned from the NHL, while 40% said it should not be banned.
- However, those who follow the game very closely hold a very different view. Among
these respondents, 68% believe that fighting should stay in the NHL, while 31% prefer
too see it banned.
That's some great data, but the real nugget that's missing is how many Canadians comprise each of these segments?
I asked Harris Decima for it and they very kindly and quickly got it to me (Thanks Harris Decima! Even though I work with two of your competing firms, if I ever have research needs you're the first firm I'll call).
Here's that key data:
- Follow hockey very closely: 12%
- Follow somewhat closely: 26%
- Not very closely: 61%
Now, I'm somewhat surprised that only 38% of Canadians follow hockey closely or somewhat closely and only 12% follow the game very closely. But moving past that for a moment, and without getting into the semantics of how a person self-identifies into one of these groups, in terms of for/against fighting that breaks down to:
- 8% of Canadians follow hockey very closely and want fighting to remain in the game
- 4% of Canadians follow hockey very closely and want fighting removed from the game
- 14% of Canadians follow hockey somewhat closely and want fighting to remain in the game
- 12% of Canadians follow hockey somewhat closely and want fighting removed
- 18% of Canadians do not follow hockey and want fighting to remain in the game
- 38% of Canadians do not follow hockey and want fighting removed
Looking at this data, it's interesting that less than 1% of Canadians that follow very or somewhat closely said "don't know/no answer" compared to 5% among those that don't follow the game closely and those who are furthest from being fans are the most in favour of banning fighting.
It also strikes me that if I'm the NHL looking to grow revenues, the next obvious question is: what can be done to convert 61% of Canadians into more engaged hockey followers.
If it involves banning fighting (and here we have absolutely no data, just pure conjecture) the math isn't in favour of the hardcore hockey fan that likes fighting. Every 10% from the non-follower audience that's converted is the equivalent of 50% of the hardcore followers and 25% of the middle tier.
Personally, I'm on the fence on this one. Rather than outright banning fighting, I'd like to see the NHL continue to move towards reducing the number of fights in the game.
- Apply the instigator rule and toss out any player that initiates a fight after a clean hit. This is becoming more and more prevalent and really needs to be removed from the game;
- Make fighting a 10 minute major; and
- Use match penalties and intent to injure penalties to remove some of the worst stick work, cheap plays, head shots and hits from behind.
As always, the Barilkosphere has generated lots of must read content on the topic of banning fighting. The Godfather PPP has an epic post (with tremendous commentary) here; Down Goes Brown has his always incisive thoughts here and here; and Cox Bloc weighs in over here.