Deadspin’s Adam Gretz yesterday published his argument that the hockey enforcer is “the most useless role in sports,” including a statistical analysis that shows the presence of enforcers on the ice or bench in modern NHL games does nothing to deter injuries. It’s well worth reading, though like most arguments against fighting in hockey, its lack of understanding for the sport’s nuances suggests Gretz has never actually played–something I may or may not be completely wrong about.
The math is enlightening, certainly, but the thesis ignores recent historical development. It’s the NHL who diminished the role of the enforcer, and made their players less safe by removing the opportunity for them to police themselves. I would be very interested to see the same mathematical analysis on the NHL game before the “third-man-in” and “instigator” rules effectively took away the ability of an enforcer to protect his team-mates without hurting his team. Maybe there was no statistical basis for this idea either, but I’m betting it would show. Continue Reading