Back in July of 2009, Gabriel Desjardins at PuckProspectus tried to identify whether or not winning a hockey fight could be the impetus behind a boost in team scoring. He found virtually nothing.
More than four years later, I’ve found a much more significant set of data. The numbers may surprise you.
I used a slightly different approach from Desjardins, mostly because I really wanted to target the league’s fighting-specialists who are mythologized as on-ice intimidators and certifiable momentum changers by guys like Don Cherry and the Hockey Night in Canada crew.
Sixty-five fighters logged four or more fights last year. I took each player and looked at his 2012-2013 fighting record as decided by the public at HockeyFights.com. The site does generate hundreds of votes per fight, and theoretically can serve as a decent representation of the much-larger hockey-fan base.
I pooled all of the fights won by each of the fighters, then noted whether his respective team scored or conceded the following goal. There were a handful of instances where a fight occurred and neither team scored for the rest of the game — as such, these instances aren’t included in the data.
How did they fare in the one-hundred and seventy-seven fights collected?
So, just to be clear here: if you’re an enforcer / fighting-specialist and beat the living hell out of some poor guy in a hockey game last year, there was a better than 54% chance your team was going to concede the next goal.
Colton Orr, Mike Brown, Jared Boll, Brandon Prust — a bunch of guys who fought last year, and a bunch of guys who saw the opposition go on to score the next goal more often than not.
Everyone’s favorite top-six power-forwards Milan Lucic and Chris Stewart won a combined seven fights in more or less bloodbath-fashion last year. Never once did the Bruins or the Blues, respectively, score the next goal.
Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of how little something like fighting should have on future outcomes can see that this 54%-to-46% data set is nothing more than getting lucky (or, unlucky) on a series of coin-flips. Realistically, the number should be just about 50%-50%. The methodology in this study is questionable, too. My guess is that an even-more rigourous aproach, with score-effect adjustments and the lot, will turn up what everyone expects: there’s truly nothing to see, because fighting is irrelevant to future performance.
But if you’re Nick Kypreos and still under the impression that fighting can impact games (and, more specifically, goal-scoring), there’s your answer. It absolutely can. For the other team. And the goal for all fighting-types should be the same from here forward. Start a fight, but take a dive. Lose at all costs. If you’re a gritty, heart-and-soul guy looking to sacrifice your well-being for the success of your hockey team, wear a flurry of rights on your face. Do it, and you’ll have a 4% better chance at scoring the next goal. Also, enjoy the concussion that comes as a proximate result. Those can end well.
For the sickly-types interested in the inputs for the above, I’ve opened a Google spreadsheet with all of your favorite fighters and included it below.