Canadians, Hockey Fans Want to Ban Head Shots from the Game

A large proportion of Canadians and fans of professional hockey believe it is time to ban head shots from the game, a new Vision Critical / Angus Reid poll conducted for Maclean’s has found.

Version française (PDF)

The online survey of a representative sample of 1,021 Canadian adults also outlines some striking differences in the way the general population and hard-core hockey fans feel about the possibility of authorities investigating on-ice incidents.

Injuries and Violence

Nine-in-ten Canadians (90%) identify hockey as a sport that carries a significant risk of head injuries—more than boxing (83%), football (71%) or mixed martial arts (53%). One third of all respondents (33%)—and almost half of self-described professional hockey fans—know a person who has sustained a concussion or serious head injury as a result of playing hockey.

Three-in-five Canadians (60%) believe that professional hockey has become a more violent sport over the past five years, a view shared by almost half (48%) of hockey fans. About a third of Canadians would actually consider encouraging their kids to avoid playing hockey (34%), watching fewer hockey games than they currently do (34%) and refraining from buying products from companies that sponsor professional hockey (29%).

Both Canadians (56%) and hockey fans (57%) rate the NHL’s efforts in looking after the safety of players as “bad” or “very bad.”

The Chara Hit

Respondents of this survey were shown a video of the recent incident involving professional hockey players Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty.

After watching the video, two-thirds of Canadians (66%) and hockey fans (69%) thought that the NHL’s decision to not suspend Chara was too lenient. While a majority of Canadians (68%) and hockey fans (56%) agree with Air Canada threatening to withdraw its sponsorship from the NHL unless the league addresses concerns about head shots, the two groups did not agree on the issue of a police investigation into the matter. More than half of Canadians (52%) agree with looking into possible assault charges against Chara, while three-in-five hockey fans (61%) disagree with this course of action.

Head Shots and Fights

The appetite for cracking down on head shots is equally high among Canadians and hockey fans, with 81 per cent of all respondents—and 83 per cent of hockey fans—believing that the game would be better off. However, the disagreement is palpable on the issue of on-ice fights. Two-in-five Canadians (41%) believe in banning fighting, while half of hockey fans (49%) believe the game would be worse off.


In a poll conducted after Chris Simon’s stick attack in 2007, 48 per cent of Canadians said that hockey was becoming a more violent sport. That perception has increased by 12 points in four years. Indubitably, the Chara hit on Pacioretty, and the ongoing discussion about the health of Sidney Crosby, have brought the issue of head injuries and concussions to the forefront.

Canadians think hockey carries the most risk of concussions than any other sport tested, including boxing. A large proportion of Canadians know someone who has suffered a head injury playing hockey. Even hard-core hockey fans rate the NHL’s efforts to protect players as insufficient, and—after watching the video—a majority feel Chara got off easy.

There are two issues where the average Canadian is at odds with the hard core hockey fan: the intervention of authorities to settle issues that occur on the ice and the future of fights in professional hockey. However, on the topic that has dominated the sport for the past few years the message is clear: respondents and hockey fans alike would like to see head shots banished from the professional game.

Full tables for this survey are available here.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

Methodology: From March 9 to March 11, 2011, Vision Critical / Angus Reid conducted an online survey among 1,021 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

Tags assigned to this article:
HockeyNational Hockey League (NHL)SportsViolence