The Goon Patrol: Rating Hockey's Fighters
The Elo algorithm, which adjusts a team's or player's record based on the strength of competition, is used to rank everything from chess players to BCS college-football teams. Now it can also be used to determine who are the best—wait for it—hockey fighters.
These days, fans who cherish a little pugilism with their hockey can go online and watch video of the fights and vote for who won and lost each one, or if it ended in a tie. By using these fans' decisions to drive the Elo algorithm, which was developed by Hungarian physicist Arpad Elo 50 years ago, we can see who the best hockey fighters truly are—and eliminate anyone who embellishes their record by never mixing it up with a top heavyweight.
There are no surprises at the top of our ranking list: Georges Laraque, who most recently played for the Montreal Canadiens and just had his contract bought out by the club, had a 19-fight unbeaten streak over two seasons, according to the fans' voting, and has beaten No. 2 Derek Boogaard, of the Minnesota Wild, four times. The algorithm really helps the Pittsburgh Penguins' Eric Godard, who has a .500 record in his fights but tends to fight only the toughest players in the league.
The system also identifies the best infrequent or up-and-coming fighters: Zdeno Chára of the Boston Bruins and Minnesota's John Scott (both undefeated), and 5-foot-11 Rick Rypien of the Vancouver Canucks, who uses technical skills to best much larger fighters.
The Gloves Come Off
Here are the NHL's top fighters since the 2005-06 season, with the Elo algorithm used to adjust players' records, according to fans' votes on Hockeyfights.com.
PLAYER, CURRENT/LATEST TEAM WINS LOSSES TIES
Georges Laraque Canadiens 32 5 6
Derek Boogaard Wild 35 11 4
D.J. King Blues 17 2 4
Donald Brashear Rangers 31 15 7
Brian McGrattan Flames 25 18 6
Wade Belak Predators 20 12 9
Colton Orr Maple Leafs 38 25 10
Raitis Ivanans Kings 25 13 10