Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

First weekend fighting down in WHL, up in QMJHLReading over Neate's post with some OHL data about the dropping number of fights got me thinking about the effects of new regulations in the WHL, and the same rules proceeding as always in the QMJHL.

Since 1998, the "Q" has historically had less fighting than the other two leagues. Back in the spring, I looked at the declining rates in fighting majors in junior hockey in each league, and the "Q" averaged 1.08 per game over the last 15 seasons, while the OHL has had 1.12 and the WHL at 1.25, clocking in the highest rate.

Not to get super numerical here, but I think it's fair to say that regulations are impacting the way the game is played to some degree. Probably for the better. The WHL's rule change this season seeks to ban fights "in which players drop their gloves right after face-offs in obvious pre-meditation. Any players involved in such fights will immediately be ejected from the game."

Meanwhile, the OHL has instituted a cap on fights, 10 apiece, before suspensions start being doled out starting at two games. The heart behind the rule is sound, although I'm not too sure about the execution. Later in the season we'll get into situations where players have 8 or 9 fights, so possibly a younger, less developed skull will be privy to taking a few swings to save a teammate a suspension.

I'd like to see more of a crackdown on 16-and-17-year old players fighting, but I think the OHL is going in the right direction in looking to make the game about the skill and not about artificial toughness.

To some data: Opening weekend fights in each league, dating back to 2010:

QMJHL Games Fights Fights/GP
2010 18 18 1.00
2011 17 8 0.47
2012 18 12 0.67

OHL Games Fights Fights/GP
2010 20 37 1.85
2011 22 28 1.27
2012 20 15 0.75

WHL Games Fights Fights/GP
2010 21 31 1.48
2011 18 21 1.17
2012 22 22 1.00

The "Q", since it has fewer fights in general, is probably the most affected by sample size. Neate this morning did point out the one 11-fight game in 2011 between Oshawa and Peterborough.

Nevertheless, when you look at full CHL data, you can see a more discernible drop:

CHL Games Fights Fights/GP
2010 59 86 1.46
2011 57 57 1.00
2012 60 49 0.82

For those math majors, that's an 18.3 per cent drop between opening weekend 2011 and opening weekend 2012. It's also a more dramatic 33.8 per cent drop between all the games totalled up in 2010 and 2011. Even if you take out the one 11-fight contest, you're looking at a 28.9 per cent decline.

So what does this mean going ahead? Neate brought up the possibility of fights increasing as rivals face each other on their third or fourth time. Well, in the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons, there were more fights in opening weekend than there were in the season as a whole, the exception being the very tame beginning of the last QMJHL season:

Full season Opening weekend
CHL 2011 0.92 1.00
WHL 2011 1.01 1.17
OHL 2011 0.94 1.27
QMJHL 2011 0.79 0.47
CHL 2010 0.97 1.29
WHL 2010 1.13 1.48
OHL 2010 0.97 1.37
QMJHL 2010 0.78 1.00

We were bound to see record-low fight rates this season anyway. In 2008-2009, the QMJHL only had a fight every second game, and I think we could be very close to approaching that reality across the board.

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