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Article Title

THE NHL AND COVID: ANALYSIS OF HOME ADVANTAGE AND REFEREE BIAS DURING A PLAYOFF “BUBBLE”

Abstract

Tyler Gouge and Luke Stephens

University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri

PURPOSE: The purpose of this retrospective research study is to determine if home advantage (HA) and referee bias (RB) are true phenomenon in the National Hockey League (NHL). In the 2019-2020 season playoffs, games were played at neutral sites with no fans present due to safety protocols in place due to the pandemic. The goal of this study is to compare data from the 20182019 and 2019-2020 playoffs to determine if HA and RB had an effect on win percentage, goals for and against, shots on goal and against, and the number of penalty minutes. METHODS: Data was retrospectively collected from public databases and was stratified by home and away team designation, by season and playoff round of completion and included game outcome, goals for and against, shots for and against, and penalty minutes. Data was obtained from the same public database for both years (hockey-reference.com and NHL.com). Data was analyzed within SPSS (version 26). RESULTS: See table 1 for details. Home win percentage decreased by 9.8% in the 2019-2020 NHL playoffs compared with the year immediately prior. Also observed was a decrease in home team scoring (-6.1%) and shots on goal (-1.2%) with an increase in home penalty minutes (+6.3%). CONCLUSION: The observed decrease in home win percentage, goals scored and shots on goal are consistent with a decrease in HA. The observed increased in home penalty minutes and decrease in away penalty minutes are consistent with a decrease in RB. These data were not statistically significant, but does indicate a considerable trend towards the hypothesis that HA and RB are negatively influenced by the change in location of games and loss of fan presence in the 2019-2020 NHL playoff season.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This study had no funding.

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