SUN Hockey Pool

Alberta fans like it rough

DOUG MCINTYRE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

Avid hockey fans oppose any suggestion of banning fighting in hockey, especially in Alberta, where devotees back scrapping the most, a new poll shows.

Conducted last week, the Decima survey found a whopping 76% of diehard hockey fans oppose scrapping on-ice scraps, while 52% of occasional followers would give the idea the hook.

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."

Those two groups make up 52% of people surveyed.

In the heart of hockey-mad Alberta, fans such as Kim Thomas are among the most staunchly opposed.

"I sure don't have a problem with two guys going toe-to-toe to settle their differences," said Thomas, a fixture at Flames games since the team called the Corral its home barn.

"You see the people in the stands when a fight starts, they're up on their feet."

And it's exactly those spectators who might be ready to send NHL vice-president Colin Campbell to the penalty box for publicly musing last week about banning fisticuffs.

Such a move would amount to cross-checking the emotion and intensity out of the game, said Thomas.

"Sometimes a good scrap can turn a game around," he said, adding he wasn't surprised Alberta was the province most opposed to a fighting ban.

"But we're not rednecks here -- a lot of people here are from somewhere else," he chuckled.

Another long-time Flames season ticket holder, Ron Johnston, said fighting protects the skilled players in the NHL -- in other words, every Wayne Gretzky needs a Dave Semenko.

And booting fighting could lead to an uglier replacement, namely a lot of spear-carriers looking for a place to vent their on-ice emotions.

"The other thing it has to do with is the stick work," said Johnston.

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FIGHT FACTS

Highlights of Decima's hockey fight survey:

- Francophones were 8% more likely to support a ban on hockey fights.

- People from 18-24 were 15% more supportive of fights than respondents over 55.

- Tory supporters were 9% more likely to back fighting than Liberal party backers.

- Men were 15% more likely than women to oppose a ban.


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