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The Impact of the New Fighting Rule in the ECHL

ALLEN, Texas – I get a lot of questions about the big change in the number of fighting majors the Allen Americans have taken this season compared to prior seasons.
Here are the number of fighting majors taken by Allen since 2016-17:
2016-17: 76
2017-18: 55
2018-19: 42
2019-20: 4 (through 18 games)
At the current pace, Allen would finish this season with 16 fights. You would expect if Jake Doty, who has been loaned to the AHL (Ontario) since the beginning of the season, was in Allen the numbers would be much higher.
– There is no doubt fighting is slowly disappearing from all levels of hockey. The number of fights are less than half of what they were just 10 years ago. Here is a look at the ECHL numbers:
– Close to 25% of the ECHL season is in the books and the number of fighting penalties are down dramatically. When the ECHL changed the rules for 2019-20 to add suspensions for more than 10 fights by a player, it was predictable it would have an impact on the number of fights.
As a reminder, here is the rule:
ECHL Rule 23.7 – Suspensions – Fisticuffs Category:

When players reach 10 fighting majors they will be suspended for one game. Each subsequent fighting major will be a one-game suspension. When a player reaches 14 fighting majors the suspension becomes two games.

Breaking Down the Data

Fighting majors through November 24th:
2018: 269
2019: 187
Five players are tied for most fights with four:
Matt Boudens – Fort Wayne Komets
Taylor Crunk – Rapid City Rush
Travis Howe – Greenville Swamp Rabbits
Patrick McGrath – Utah Grizzlies
Ben Wilson – Kalamazoo Wings
Teams with most fights:
17 – Jacksonville Icemen
14 – Fort Wayne Komets
13 – Kalamazoo Wings
12 – Cincinnati Cyclones
– This is just an anecdote, but I was talking to an off-ice official recently who shared that he overheard a referee telling a player in the penalty box he was giving him a roughing penalty to help him out.
It made me wonder if the number of roughing penalties this season have increased as the number of fighting penalties have decreased. I contacted The Sin Bin’s statistician, Joe Alsman, who is the self-described keeper of obscure data, to get the answer. Sure enough, roughing penalties are up this season. It seems as if both the players and referees are trying not to cross the line from roughing to fighting. While the number of fighting penalties are down by 82 (269 to 187) this season, the number of roughing penalties are up 46 (273 from 227).
– While the new ECHL rule on suspensions has certainly had some impact on the number of fights, the downward trend in fighting at all levels of hockey has been going on for many years. As the game has gotten faster, there is no longer a role for players who just fight. In the ECHL, where only 10 forwards typically dress for a game, players that fight also must be able to play a regular shift. The concern about head injuries/concussions has also had an impact on players willingness to drop the gloves.
– While the number of fights is on the decline, the role of toughness and physicality is still part of the fabric of hockey.
Here is a story from the Boston Herald that talks about how fighting and physicality has changed: https://www.bostonherald.com/2019/04/07/fighting-physicalitys-place-in-hockey-is-changing/
– Here is another good read on the subject that says in part:

“Hockey, in one sense the most gladiator-like of all major sports, is changing. Long an integral and celebrated part of hockey, fighting is rapidly diminishing on the rinks of North America as injuries, rule changes, and cultural shifts around player welfare make the spectacle of settling scores by fist increasingly an anachronism.”


Did You Know?

It is likely Allen will finish the 2019-20 season with fewer fights as a team than a single player had in past seasons. Here is a list of the players with the most fights each year since the start of the Allen Americans franchise.
2018-19: Jake Doty (13 fights)
2017-18: Josh Thrower (10 fights)
2016-17: Derek Mathers (29 fights)
2015-16: Dyson Stevenson (16 fights)
2014-15: Garrett Clarke (16 fights)
2013-14: Garrett Klotz (20 fights)
2012-13: Garrett Clarke (12 fights)
2011-12: Brett Clouthier (13 fights)
2010-11: Liam Huculak (15 fights)
2009-10: Liam Huculak (16 fights)

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    Barry Janssen covers the Allen Americans for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @allenamericans1.

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