Fighting: Just like Chess

So how do we figure out who the best fighter in the NHL is?  First, we need to know who won every fight that takes place in the league.  Hockey-fights.com is an absolutely indispensable resource in this regard - its users vote on who won and lost every fight.  But it's not enough - a heavyweight who fights only in his weight class might have a .500 record despite being one of the better fighters in the league.

As usual, chess has the answer we're looking for: the ELO rating system, which handicaps players based on their past performance.  Using ELO, the loser of a bout between top-ranked fighters will be penalized far less than if he lost to an unknown or a poor fighter.  Here are the rankings for serious fighters using all fights during the 2006-07 through 2008-09 season:

 

Player Ft In Wt Fights W L T GP Fights/82
Georges Laraque 6 3 253 30 24 3 3 177 13.9
D.J. King 6 3 229 22 16 2 4 89 20.3
Derek Boogaard 6 8 257 29 21 6 2 133 17.9
Donald Brashear 6 3 234 37 23 9 5 220 13.8
Wade Belak 6 5 225 28 17 7 4 165 13.9
Milan Lucic 6 3 228 24 18 4 2 149 13.2
Aaron Downey 6 1 215 15 9 1 5 81 15.2
Raitis Ivanans 6 4 256 39 21 11 7 215 14.9
Colton Orr 6 3 222 52 31 16 5 209 20.4
Eric Godard 6 4 214 44 20 15 9 164 22.0

 

No matter how you slice the data, Laraque was going to be #1.  His 24-3-3 record against no-one but tough guys is unmatched.  

And what about the less-frequent fighters?

 

Player Ft In Wt Fights W L T GP Fights/82
Zdeno Chara 6 9 255 7 5 0 2 237 2.4
Sheldon Souray 6 4 233 8 7 0 1 188 3.5
Gary Roberts 6 2 215 6 5 1 0 137 3.6
Kevin Bieksa 6 0 205 15 13 1 1 187 6.6
Craig Rivet 6 2 210 13 10 0 3 209 5.1

 

This group definitely includes some solid fighters who've made the highlight of the night with their fists.  Just missing the top five were Robyn Regehr and Rick Rypien, who fight less often but have had good success against serious fighters.

And who have been the worst fighters in the league?  Presumably, legitimately bad fighters will stay away from fights!  But among those who do fight repeatedly, Corey Perry (0 wins in 7 fights), Greg Campbell (1-16), Brendan Witt (1-9), Alex Burrows (0-15) and Tom Kostopoulos (1-23) stand out as particularly poor.  Those decisions come from Hockeyfights.com users - if you watch the fight videos yourself, your mileage may vary.

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