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Fighting as a Profit-Maximizing Strategy: The American Hockey League

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This chapter tests the argument that fighting in minor league hockey is a profit-maximizing strategy, using the American Hockey League (AHL) as an example. It could be that hockey players in the AHL have differing motivations for aggressive play than players in the senior NHL. Players in the AHL earn much lower salaries than their NHL cousins, so being promoted to the NHL results in significant financial rewards. Some AHL players might use an aggressive style of play as the ticket to the NHL, believing that there is a role in the NHL for tough players to protect the more skilled players from intimidation by other teams. Alternatively, fighting in the AHL could be the result of owners and management encouraging aggressive, physical play to attract fans to games. This chapter attempts to determine why fighting is more commonplace in the AHL than the NHL using an econometric model.

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... If anything, ticket demand in the NHL has increased over time, suggesting that the introduction of mandatory helmets has not made the sport less attractive to fans. Rockerbie (2012Rockerbie ( , 2016Rockerbie ( , 2017) fails to find a significant (positive) impact of fighting on ticket sales and Haisken-DeNew and Vorrell (2008) find substantial returns not only to goal scoring, but also to fighting ability only for the first half of their observation period (the late 1990s), but not for the second half (the first years after the turn of the millennium). Taken together, these findings suggest that fans do not have a pronounced preference for violent play (any longer). ...
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... If anything, ticket demand in the NHL has increased over time, suggesting that the introduction of mandatory helmets has not made the sport less attractive to fans. Rockerbie (2012Rockerbie ( , 2016Rockerbie ( , 2017) fails to find a significant (positive) impact of fighting on ticket sales and Haisken-DeNew and Vorrell (2008) find substantial returns not only to goal scoring, but also to fighting ability only for the first half of their observation period (the late 1990s), but not for the second half (the first years after the turn of the millennium). Taken together, these findings suggest that fans do not have a pronounced preference for violent play (any longer). ...
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