Over the course of the last nine seasons the Detroit Red Wings have been at the bottom of the league when it comes to fighting majors in every season but one.
That doesn’t mean the team’s general manager, Ken Holland, is against fighting.
“I’m not against fighting. We prioritize that on our fourth line, we wanted hockey players versus one-dimensional players,” said Holland in a story now up on NBC SportsWorld. “Fighting is in the game. I grew up in an era as a minor league goaltender where, in the Western Hockey League with the Medicine Hat Tigers, where there was lots of fighting.
“I don’t have anything against fighting, I just want the guys that fight on my team, to be able to play. If you can fight, and you can’t play, we don’t have room for you.”
Under Holland’s leadership, Detroit has made 17 straight playoff appearances and won the Stanley Cup three times.
“You’ve got to play,” said Holland. “The game is fast. Nobody wants to take penalties. It’s a hard league to score in. You hope to get a few goals out of your fourth line. You hope they can eat some minutes off your top forwards just to rest them.”
Following the 2004-05 season the league’s fighting rate was nearly cut in half in 2005-06 — 466 in 1,230 games, or 0.38 per game — before rising back to 734 fights during the 2008-09 season (0.6 per game).
Numbers have been on the downturn since.
There were 469 bouts last season, a rate of 0.38 per game. Those numbers have decreased this season as fights happened every 0.34 games through play Tuesday (stats courtesy HockeyFights.com).
“It appears those, what I call them, one dimensional players that all they can really do is fight, those types of players now are … becoming past-tense,” added Holland.
Through 32 games this season, Detroit has three fights and sits at the bottom of the league in fighting majors.