TORONTO - The NHL's crackdown on head hits is likely reaching a receptive Canadian audience.
A majority of Canadians believe hits to the head in the NHL are intentional or avoidable, according to a Harris-Decima Canadian Press poll.
Nationally, 63 per cent of those polled believe such hits are intentional, while 26 per cent think such hits are unavoidable. A majority in all regions and among both men and women feel these hits are done on purpose.
Even avid hockey fans agree. Only 36 per cent think head shots are unavoidable in a fast paced game like hockey, as opposed to 59 per cent who believe they are unnecessary and usually done on purpose.
Doug Anderson, senior vice-president of Harris-Decima, believes the head injury to Penguins star Sidney Crosby continues to resonate.
"That was probably a pretty frequent reminder visually of exactly how some of these hits go," Anderson said. "To see the avid fan come down on the side of thinking that head hits are avoidable, I thought that was a pretty compelling message and made me think that the stuff that (NHL disciplinarian) Brendan Shanahan is doing this year probably resonates with the fans as well as the broader public that really aren't the audience for hockey anyway."
The telephone poll of just over 1,000 Canadians was done Sept. 8 and 12, before Shanahan delivered his first suspension.
Most of those polled would probably agree with the NHL's recent steady flow of suspensions, it would seem.
A majority—67 per cent among avid fans, 60 per cent among occasional followers and 54 per cent of those not really interested—thought NHL rules regarding hits to the head were too lenient.
On the issue of fighting in the NHL, a majority of Canadians believe it should be banned—63 per cent nationally as opposed to 32 per cent who don't believe in a fighting ban
Regionally, residents of Quebec are most likely to give fighting a thumb's down, while those in Alberta are the least likely to do so.
Women (70 per cent) are much more likely than men (55 per cent) to feel fighting should be banned from the NHL.
Among avid fans, only 45 per cent of those polled want fighting banned. In March that number was 40 per cent.
The poll margin of error is 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.