Fight stirs buzz as NHL’s num­bers drop

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS - Kevin Allen

Fight­ing in the NHL has de­clined dra­mat­i­cally in re­cent sea­sons.

Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics on Hock­eyfights.com, only 18.9 per­cent of games this sea­son have had a fight­ing ma­jor on the score­sheet. In 2017-18, 17.9 per­cent of games had fights.

Com­pare that to five sea­sons ago (2013-14) when 29.8 per­cent of games had fights or 10 sea­sons ago (2008-09) when it was at 41.4. With the All-Star break two weeks away, the Sen­a­tors’ Ben Harpur leads the league with five fights go­ing into Wed­nes­day.

But if you are think­ing that fight­ing in the NHL is be­com­ing ex­tinct, you might want to look at Tues­day’s Ryan Reaves vs. Adam McQuaid fight.

One com­menter un­der the YouTube video of the bat­tle re­ferred to it as “May­weather vs. Mc­Gre­gor of the NHL.”

The bout had more in­tense punches, over a shorter span, than you usu­ally see. Nei­ther player backed down, though Reaves over­whelmed McQuaid with a flurry of punches in the end.

“That was a heavy­weight bat­tle,” MSG broad­caster Sam Rosen said as the fight broke up.

Golden Knights for­ward Reaves is 6-1, 225 pounds and has 845 penalty min­utes in his reg­u­lar-sea­son ca­reer. Rangers de­fense­man McQuaid is 6-4, 210 pounds with 667 ca­reer penalty min­utes.

One com­menter offered that Reaves is “creep­ing” into the “all-time tough­est fighters con­ver­sa­tion.”

But from the broader per­spec­tive, this fight could be the cen­ter­piece of the de­bate about fight­ing in the NHL. There is a group of fans, ev­i­denced by 161 com­ments, that en­joyed that scrap as an ath­letic event.

On the other side, there are a grow­ing num­ber of hockey in­sid­ers that would view the in­ten­sity of this fight as the rea­son fight­ing should be banned as part of the con­tin­u­ing drive to pre­vent brain in­juries.

Even though fight­ing is on a sharp de­cline, this de­bate is far from set­tled in the NHL.

ERIC JAMI­SON/AP

Golden Knights right wing Ryan Reaves and Rangers de­fense­man Adam McQuaid fought dur­ing the third pe­riod Tues­day.

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