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Hockey fans want fighting to remain in the game

The Decima survey found that a huge majority of people who call themselves avid fans - a whopping 76 per cent - oppose eliminating fights from NHL games. Senior league officials have begun examining the possibility, but Decima's CEO says the idea is a non-starter among loyal fans.

"The issue of what to do about fighting in hockey is really not that controversial among hard-core fans of the game," said Bruce Anderson.

"The more you like and follow hockey, the more content you are with the way in which fighting is currently regulated."

Twenty-four per cent of Canadians are self-described avid hockey fans, 28 per cent say they're occasional fans, and 47 per cent express no interest in the game, Decima said.

Barely one-fifth of avid fans - 22 per cent - said they would support a total ban on fighting.

Those who follow the game occasionally are split more evenly, with 43 per cent saying they would support a ban and 52 per cent saying they would oppose it.

Only respondents who said they don't follow hockey expressed support for a ban, by a margin of 52 per cent to 30.

Anderson warned that the NHL shouldn't conclude from the numbers that eliminating fighting is the solution to expanding the league's fan base.

He said the numbers offer no such evidence - it's simply possible that people unfamiliar with the game are not even aware that rules to limit fighting and completely prohibit bench-clearing brawls already exist.

"The NHL needs to look at these numbers and understand the difference between fan opinion and public opinion," Anderson said.

"Fan opinion is decidedly of the view that current regulations are working well enough. . . And even though it's easy to find outrage over certain incidents from time to time, even public opinion is divided among those people who don't pay much attention to the game."

The poll was conducted last week, just after NHL vice president Colin Campbell said he was willing to discuss a ban on fisticuffs.

"No one is saying we should get rid of fighting," Campbell told Hockey Night in Canada. "I'm just saying we should ask the question, because before everyone was afraid to ask the question.

"We have a competition committee that will discuss this, and at the end of the day they will make a recommendation to the board of governors."

The poll also found that:

-Supporters of the Conservative party were nine percentage points more likely to support fighting than Liberals.

-Francophones were eight per cent more supportive of a fighting ban than anglophones.

-Younger people (aged 18 to 24) say they enjoy fighting 15 percentage points more than people aged over 55.

-Men are 15 per cent more likely than women to oppose a ban.

-Alberta is the province most opposed to a ban.

The Decima poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted between March 30 and April 2, and has a 3.1 per cent margin of error.



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