Is the NHL Fighting for Attention?
Following an incredibly stupid and totally avoidable lockout, the National Hockey League has taken a few extraordinary steps to regain favor with alienated fans.
For example, the league office bought full-page ads in over 40 newspapers, apologizing for the late start to the season. Teams are offering discount deals on tickets and food. Portions of some game proceeds are being donated to charities. Still, are actions like these enough to appease the anger that was aroused by the extended absence of hockey?
Maybe not. Maybe something more dynamic had to be added.
Could it be that -- consciously or not -- it was time for hockey fights to take center stage?
A quick perusal of data at HockeyFights.com indicates that fighting frequency is up during the first days of the shortened season. The number of games with fights currently stands at 48.57% -- almost half -- which is the highest figure since at least the 2000-2001 season. In fact, the only season approaching that number was in 2001-2002 with a total of 42.20%. Keep in mind those numbers were compiled over the course of full schedules.
Now, take a closer look at the stats to date for this season, particularly these log entries:
|Date||Game||Fighters||Time of Fight|
|21 Jan||Lightning at Islanders||BJ Crombeen v Matt Martin||0:01 in the 1st period|
|21 Jan||Lightning at Islanders||Pierre-Cedric LaBrie v Joe Finley||0:01 in the 1st period|
|20 Jan||Penguins at Rangers||Tanner Glass v Arron Asham||0:02 in the 1st period|
|21 Jan||Red Wings at Blue Jackets||Jordan Tootoo v Jared Boll||0:03 in the 1st period|
And there were also five more bouts that occurred within approximately three minutes or less of the puck dropping.
Keep in mind that these happened during the first three days of the season. No exhibition games preceded them. A united players association had just finished going toe-to-toe with Gary Bettman's Evil Empire and came away with as decent a deal as could be expected. These guys just didn't have enogh time to accelerate enough rage to boil over into brawls at the start of a game.
So what's going on here? Did some of these guys get stuck with bar bills? Were sisters being dated?
Or is there a tacit understanding among players themselves as well as within the NHL brass that this is a tried-and-true strategy that can quickly serve to once again fill more seats in arenas and attract a broader spectrum of viewers?
There could be more innocuous reasons. Perhaps some of these guys are using the first few games to secure their roles with the teams as they didn't have an exhibition season to do it. Perhaps some want to serve early notice that there's a new sheriff in town so steer clear of the team's stars.
The NHL is back. In every respect. And they want everyone to know it. One way or another.