Donald Brashear, for example, currently polices the ice for Alexander Ovechkin's Washington Capitals. Brashear scored five goals in 80 games in 2007-08, and will earn US$1.2-million in 2008-09. The veteran bruiser fought 12 times last season and, according to fan voting on Web sites dedicated to NHL fights, Brashear emerged victorious in more than 60% of his bouts.
"This is where some of the interesting [statistical] effects kicked in," Haisken-DeNew said. "Because if you look at simply having a fight - versus actually winning a fight - you find that a player's wage bonus doubles."
Translation: a reigning heavyweight champion, like a Brashear, earns a "wage bonus" of US$18,135 for every knockout. The financial bonus for the unlucky soul who skates to the penalty box with a fat lip is US$10,120. The academic dug deeper using data spanning the 1996-2007 seasons and made another empirical discovery that could warm Don Cherry's oldtime-hockey-loving heart: the more a team fights, the better its chances are of making the playoffs.
"Teams that use violence effectively do better in the standings," Haisken-DeNew said. "Violence doesn't help you win the Stanley Cup, but it helps you to get there."
Detroit was the least penalized club in the NHL, registered the fewest fighting majors in 2007-08, and still finished first overall before going on to capture the Stanley Cup. Anaheim was the most combative and penalized team the year before, and they won the championship.
"The predictions won't be right every single time, but they will be right on average over time," Haisken-DeNew says.