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One of the biggest laments I hear from fans is the lack of fighting in the WHL these days. Long time fans have an especially hard time with lack of fighting because we were accustomed to seeing a lot of fighting back in the day. I used to actually recruit people to come to Tbirds games by telling them "Come to a game against Portland you'll be guaranteed at least a couple of fights and the possibility of a line brawl". Unfortunately, the game has changed and last season's "big" Portland v. Seattle showdown produced a whopping 4 fights back on January 23rd , a home loss to the Winterhawks.

So where has all the fighting gone?

Just 13 seasons ago the Tbirds logged 188 fights led by Chris Thompson who had 35 fights that season followed by Jason Beckett with 19 fights and 5 other players in double figures. Last season, the Tbirds found themselves in just 51 scraps and were led by the pugilistic excellence of Scott Ramsay with a lofty total of 12. Brenden Dillon checked in with 9, just barely missing double digits.

Seattle Thunderbirds fighting totals by year courtesy of

1997-98: 188

98-99: 134

99-2000: 114

2000-01: 119

01-02: 130

02-03: 103

03-04: 85

04-05: 73

05-06: 67

06-07: 47

07-08: 68

08-09: 75

09-10: 51

It's no secret that the league has made a concerted effort to cut down on fighting as they have increased the fines associated with "multiple fight" situations and instituted the absolutely ridiculous "helmet rule" last season only to watch fighters go "oops I knocked your helmet off and you knocked mine off before we started throwing punches… how convenient".

Even with the league wide drop in fighting, Seattle has fallen behind the average. Last season's 51 fights ranked them 20th in the league ahead of Tri-City (49) and Swift Current (46). League average was 74.27 fights and league leaders Prince George dropped the mitts 116 times. Any notion that fighting has a correlation to winning should be thrown right out the door as Seattle was terrible without fighting while the Cougars were terrible fighting all the time.

The real question is whether Seattle can get back to the 60's and 70's (or even 80's???) in number of fights and I think there is a good chance that they will.

Jacob Doty only played 5 games for the Birds last season but already has 3 fights this preseason. Mitch Elliot had only 3 fights last season but will likely have more with the increased playing time and Ramsay should be able to come close to equaling his 12 from a season ago and Chance Lund might best his 7 scraps from last season as well. Of the 51 fights last season all but 6 will "return".

While fighting doesn't seem to have a correlation to actual winning (see Seattle near the bottom and Prince George at the top), I don't think there is any question that a couple of good scraps can give your team a boost. It gets the home crowd more into the game and sometimes it can even give a team a boost on the road and on paper it looks like Seattle will have a small collection of some of the toughest guys in the league.

While it remains to be seen whether the scoring touch that Seattle has shown in the preseason will carry over into the regular season… it seems a pretty good bet that we should see a tougher Seattle team this winter that shouldn't have too much trouble eclipsing the total from last season.


Mr Tell13 said...

personally, I really don't mind a fight or two in a game but I think they lost their meaning in today's game. When do you see a fight sparking a come back and changing a tempo in a game anymore? I do think its partly because players AND coaches have a hard time picking their time to fight or their reasons. Case and point, Last year line brawl between SAS and PA in the playoffs. Totally useless and in my opinion hurt the team in the serie against Brandon.

Anonymous said...

"oops I knocked your helmet off and you knocked mine off before we started throwing punches… how convenient". LOL!

I'd noticed the dramatic drop in fights over the last decade plus, but had never looked for the actual numbers. Thanks for doing that! I was beginning to feel like I'd been telling embellished fables of times gone by but 188 vs 51? WOW!

I agree with Mr Tell. I think some of the fighting has lost its' meaning. Save a few purists, Ramsay, Donaghy, Bruton, LeBlanc and Cloud. The true enforcers who were/are (imo) excellent at picking their spots and letting the opposition know what will not be tolerated, are few and far between. I like that we've got some size this season, and there are guys on the roster who are willing to step up. I don't doubt for a second that we will see more fights this year. Hopefully with experience will come knowledge and we'll have a few more quality enforcers on the T-Birds.


PS: Note to the boys, Brad Ross is looking to fill his dance card.

Unknown said...

racere272I believe that the number of fights are down due to the instigator rule, Look at the number of fights the year before and after it was put in.

Anonymous said...

I agree Tyler, we will see a tougher team this year. I wonder how much of that will come just from an attitude change? If we all felt apathy last year, I can only imagine how the team felt. Even in the preseason you could feel a change in the boys. More confidence and they just seemed like they weren't going to take any crap off of anyone. Hope that continues throughout the season!


Kodi said...

Looks like ramsay is ready for the year

stbird said...

T-Birds Acquire Travis Toomey From Saskatoon

Well looks like we filled one of those 20 year old spots. Not sure if he is any good since we hardly ever play that team but he is another big guy 6'4" 210lbs.

Anonymous said...

Amen, amen, amen!

I'm actually surprised you haven't got any, "Do you like seeing 16 year old kids fighting?" comments, so far. Chris that was a hockey player! Seattle had such a great tradition of guys who played with passion, stuck up for their teammates and moved on to higher levels because of that attitude...Kordic, Duncan, Witt, Ewen, Kozowka, Wood, Ferone, Fitzgerald... the list goes on and on... Beside the WHL stepping in with the rule changes that absolutely took passion out of the game, I blame Constantine and Everett for winning in their first few seasons and other teams attempting to follow their model of not fighting..arghh!!

Dave in Poulsbo

Mr Tell13 said...

so Dave, you are actually saying that a player who won't fight is lacking passion in the game of hockey???????

Anonymous said...

Nope. My favorite player was Gretzky and some players don't have the skill to fill that role. But a player who won't stick up for his teammates or one who won't do a thing to rally a team that is going through the motions of a game (or season)...yes, that player lacks passion for the game.

Dave in Poulsbo

Anonymous said...

Can't really blame Constantine, if your best fighter was Mitch Love would you really be looking to fight the other team? Same with Sumner last year, sure Ramsay will fight but can he fight with the best in the league not a chance.... I would love to see multiple fight situations become back to the game. I'm just not sure I want to see Lockhart or Alos doing it unless matched up with another small forward. With the size of the team this year, the fights should go up. Lets just see if management is willing to open the wallet when it comes... I havent seen a real line brawl since DeSerres and Mucha in Portland, I can hardly remember the last one in Seattle.

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