So Much for Being the Majority
For years now, I've argued that a silent majority of Canadians would prefer to take fighting out of hockey.
Well, that bubble burst today, didn't it? At least to some degree.
A new Harris-Decima poll suggests a slim majority of Canadians believe fighting should be taken out of hockey. These kinds of polls depend on what precisely the question asked was, to some degree, and certainly not all those who responded are diehard NHL fans.
But at the very least, even the fight fans would have to acknowledge that they're not quite the overwhelming majority they claim to be.
Interestingly, on the weekend NHL commissioner Gary Bettman argued that his league's fans love fighting and want it to stay. This poll, however, suggests that even in hockey-mad Canada, keeping fighting in the game might actually be costing the NHL, and hockey in general, fans and paying customers.
Some of this, of course, is a reaction to the death of Don Sanderson. Well, what's wrong with that? in life and society, it's usually a drastic event that draws people's attention to a problem, and in this case, Sanderson's death surely put to rest for good the old saw that nobody ever gets hurt in a hockey fight.
In a Globe and Mail report today, former Leaf captain Rick Vaive was quoted as saying tough new sanctions against fighting are needed, and on the FAN 590, former coaching great Scotty Bowman echoed Vaive's thoughts and suggested its time to get rid of designated enforcers who can only play a few minutes a game.
The tide does seem to be rising against fighting, but it may be a momentary thing. What seems logical, however, is that the NHL general managers need to take more than a cursory look at the issue at their March meetings.
I've long argued that we already know how well hockey sells, or doesn't sell, with fighting as part of the package.
What we don't know is how well it would sell without fighting, and the NHL has never had the courage to try and find out.
This poll suggests they might be missing out on customers. It took the NHL lockout to get these people to change the game, and now you have to wonder if a deteriorating economy and plummeting NHL ratings might finally force the league to take a new harder line on dropping the gloves.