Canadians and professional hockey fans continue to believe that the game would be better off if head shots were abolished, but a disagreement on the issue of fights remains, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

The online survey of a representative sample of 2,005 Canadian adults also shows that Canadians and professional hockey fans are more satisfied with the efforts of the National Hockey League (NHL) to look after the safety of players than they were seven months ago.

Injuries and Violence

As was the case in the survey on hockey conducted in March 2011, a large proportion of Canadians (90%) continue to believe that hockey is a sport that carries a significant risk of head injuries—more than boxing (88%), football (78%), mixed martial arts (53%) or rugby (55%). One third of all respondents (33%)—and practically half of hockey fans (48%)—say they know someone who has sustained a concussion or serious head injury as a result of playing hockey.

More than half of Canadians (56%, -4 since March) think that professional hockey has become a more violent sport over the past five years. Among hockey fans, the proportion of respondents who believe the sport has become more violent has dropped from 48 per cent to 38 per cent. In addition, fewer Canadians are not considering to encourage their kids to avoid playing hockey (31%, -3), willing to watch fewer hockey games than they currently do (27%, -7) and to refrain from buying products from companies that sponsor professional hockey (22%, -7).

The decrease in the level of violence-related animosity towards the sport is accompanied by a noticeable shift in the way Canadians and hockey fans look at the NHL. In March, only 34 per cent of Canadians and 42 per cent of hockey fans rated the NHL’s efforts in looking after the safety of its players as “very good” or “good.” This month, 42 per cent of Canadians (+8) and 68 per cent of fans (+24) are satisfied with the league’s actions on this matter.

Head Shots and Fights

As was observed in the March 2011 survey—conducted in the aftermath of the incident involving professional hockey players Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty—a large proportion of Canadians (80%, -1) and hockey fans (83%, -7) believe the game would be better off if head shots were banned. However, there is still no consensus on the topic of on-ice fighting, with 43 per cent of Canadians (+2) saying the game would be better off, but half of hockey fans (49%, =) saying the game would be worse off.

Analysis

As the NHL season begins with a new Canadian team in Winnipeg, respondents across the country are maintaining their tough stance on head shots. Both Canadian and hockey fans believe that the game would be better off if this practice were completely banned. Fights, however, remain a contentious topic. Canadians at large see no place for it in the game, while half of fans continue to believe that the game would be worse off without them.

The one indicator that changed dramatically since March is the way respondents perceive the actions of the NHL. The appointment of Brendan Shanahan as the league’s head disciplinarian has had a positive effect on perceptions, and an impressive 24-point increase in the proportion of fans who rate the NHL’s efforts to look after the safety of players as “very good” or “good.”

Our March 2011 survey on professional hockey can be found here.

CONTACT:

Jaideep Mukerji, Vice President, Angus Reid Public Opinion
+514 409 0462
jaideep.mukerji@angus-reid.com

Methodology: From October 19 to October 21, 2011, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 2,005 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding..