NHL hockey fights don't make economic sense, says study

A recently published report by an Alberta economics professor says hockey fights don't help attendance or revenues.

Alberta economics professor says fans less tolerant of brawling than they were in the 1980s

University of Lethbridge economics professor, Duane Rockerbie, has been studying the effect that fighting in the NHL has on attendance and ticket sales. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

There's a new argument in the fight against fighting in the NHL.

And it's not about health and safety, or even about setting a good example.

A study out of Alberta that was recently published in the online journal Applied Economics says violence on the ice isn't good for the bottom line.

"Fighting leads to more players in the penalty box and can reduce the performance of the team," said Duane Rockerbie, a professor of economics at the University of Lethbridge.

And Canadian fans, he noted, don't like that.

By crunching data from 13 NHL seasons, Rockerbie found that fighting actually reduced attendance and revenue for Canadian clubs.

Even when factoring in external influences like aggressive marketing and new arenas, Rockerbie says Canadian hockey fans would rather watch players show off their skills than satisfy a lust for blood.

The study looked at hockey brawls in the NHL over 13 seasons. (The Associated Press)

Fighting on decline

Rockerbie says hockey brawls reached their peak in the early 1980s but have been on the decline ever since.

"The incidence of fighting now is about one-third of what what is was in the NHL at that time."

He suspects that's partially due to fan preferences, but also the economics of the game.

With multi-million-dollar salaries on the line, general managers can't afford any unnecessary concussions.

"There isn't a lot of room any more for players who specialize in violence and fighting."

  • How do you feel when you see NHL players get in fights? Leave you thoughts in the comments section.


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