Why Tie Domi Is More Likely To Fight You, According To Science
Spoiler: The size of a player’s head matters.
It was Dec. 26, 1987. Maurice was sitting on his parents’ patio during a dark and snowy night in St. Catharines, Ontario. The only thing that gave him comfort was the company he kept and the dim light above his head.
As he sat in the darkness, Maurice spoke with his General Motors employed father, Yvon; a tall and handsome fellow slowly starting to drift into his middle-aged years.
With Christmas dinner in the rearview mirror and each a cold beer in his hand, the two talked about something they both truly enjoyed — hockey.
On that very night, they had just finished watching the Montreal Canadiens take on their arch-rival Toronto Maple Leafs.
Yvon’s favourite tough guy, Chris ‘Knuckles’ Nilan, had a “fight for the ages” with noted tough guy and the former longtime protector of Wayne Gretzky, Dave Semenko.
As they continued to talk, Maurice’s Uncle Clem and Yvon’s brother-in-law and fellow GM employee pulled into the driveway.
Clem, wearing a Montreal Canadiens toque, jumped out of his car and hollered in a soft and charming voice, “Hey how ‘bout Knuckles? He still has it in him,” Clem continued as he walked up the driveway. “He can really throw a punch! Told you he could, Yvon!”
“No kidding,” Yvon said sarcastically. “With a face like his, you’d expect nothing less!”
Clem quickly shouted, half out of breath, “Boy, those baby faced Maple Leaf sons of bitches couldn’t possibly do that!” Thinking of what Yvon said, “You see one of those guys at the legion and you know you don’t want to pick a fight with him.”
Maurice and Yvon both nodded in agreement.
“Y’know, Clem, I’ve never played hockey, but I’ve watched it all my life,” Yvon said in a serious manner, closing his hands together. “The thing I notice is the bigger the guy’s face is, the more violent of a player he is. If a guy looks like a softy, he usually is.”
“D’you figure, Yvon?” Clem said in a mocking manner.
“He does have a point, Uncle Clem,” Maurice said with a big grin on his face. “Just look at Don Cherry and Gretzky. Cherry looks like he’d knock your teeth out if you looked at his star player the wrong way. Gretzky… not so much.”
Yvon, waving his hands as he rushed to get his point out. “Clem, you may think I’m wrong now. That’s okay. But I guarantee you, somewhere down the road,” He started to get a big grin on his face. “Someone is going to prove that I’m right and you’re wrong. Just you watch!”
“That’ll be a cold day in hell,” Clem said without hesitation.
Nearly 30 years later, hell has frozen over and Yvon’s opinion has been proven to be the thesis, and later on, the conclusion of an academic study which determines that “the facial structure is a reliable cue of aggressive behaviour.” So if he looks like he could rock ’em and sock ’em, the majority of the time, he could.
The study found the facial width-to-height ratio had an influence on the aggression of said individual. According to the study, the bigger the ratio, the more violent these individuals were.
The authors of the study say in “big brain words” that they find that the male’s height and weight also play a role in their behaviour as well. As humans do have instincts, it is said that the taller and more physically strong the specimen is, the more likely they are to engage in aggressive activities such as throwing down on Jerry Springer or dropping the mitts on the ice. Whereas, the smaller and weaker specimen looks to avoid aggressive activity.
Common sense, for the lucky individuals that have it, would say to the human with the small face who thinks he’s Larry Holmes, “Bahd, ya might not wants to mess with that big fella over there. Just walk by and everything will be just fine!”
The dude with the big face, on the other hand, might think differently. “He looked at me the wrong way. I oughta make him pay! It’s time he. Gets. These. Hands”
That makes a lot of sense when it comes to the so-called “tough guy” in hockey. Their faces are technically big in size and stature. Their bodies, tall and strong for each of their respective eras. They certainly never lacked confidence in their ability to defend themselves and their teammates. They had the psyche of a sheriff on the ice. They upheld “the code” and kept everyone in their place. “Loved by many and feared by most” is how their teammates and coaches would describe them.
John Ferguson Sr. had a big noggin on his head, and he was a career-long enforcer in the NHL. racking up 1,214 penalty minutes over eight seasons. It was the same thing with Bob Probert, one of the most notable enforcers in hockey’s storied history. Probert accrued a whopping 3,300 penalty minutes in the sixteen years he played in the NHL. That is enough for 660 fights. Tie Domi, he certainly passes the test. 3,515 minutes in the sin bin! Don’t mess with that Tie guy. The three players above have over 8029 PIM combined. As Don Les Cherry would say on the Coach’s Corner, “Not too shabby!”
The smaller players, role players or superstars, never really are ones to drop the mitts or lay out the big hits. Their skill and agility are what keeps most of these players going down a different path. One that would lead to them putting a puck in the back of the net, setting up a player or making a solid defensive play.
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That being said, it’s important to mention that these studies were not done solely on hockey players, but on regular everyday individuals. Meaning that, like any academic study, there are cracks in the system. Things that defy logic. Much like Nick Foles beating Tom Brady to win the Super Bowl.
Sometimes the little guys can pack a good punch or in Brad Marchand’s case, a good lick. Small players like Theo Fleury can easily laugh at the study’s conclusion. Fleury, small in every which way, fought, hit, scored, and on top of that, was fast and agile. He may have been called a rat from time-to-time, but Fleury proved that it wasn’t always the size of the dog in the fight that mattered. Sometimes it was the size of the fight in the dog. Which, in terms of this study, defies logic.
On a grander scope, scholars and academics support the key findings of it, which do make sense. If Steve-O looks like a jackass, that’s because he is a jackass. Just as simple saying Dustin Byfuglien looks aggressive, that’s because he is aggressive!
To Clem, the thought of these findings was the damndest thing (Although he remembered his buddy who was once a scout for the Hartford Whalers telling him that he use to take in such things as face sizes when grading a player.)
“That son of a bitch, Yvon, proved me wrong again,” he said with a bittersweet smile. Looking at Yvon’s picture and remembering the old days and the good times they shared with each other sitting on the front porch during the hot summer days drinking beer and talking about hockey.
Christian Holmes is a writer and “hype master” for Grandstand Central, as well as an editor for Last Word On Hockey. He regularly spits fire in his own column, Holmesy’s Fightin’ Words. Not to mention, his Twitter is “lit” as the kids say. You can follow him here.
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