The first round of the NHL playoffs has ended and the lower seeded team won half of the eight series. The higher seeded team won only 11 out of 27 games on their home ice compared to 14 of 21 games as the visiting team in this year’s NHL playoffs. The higher seeded team has been 26% less likely to win a game on their home ice compared to an away game. It appears, throughout the first round of the playoffs, that there is a home ice disadvantage in professional hockey.
In the previous six seasons there has been a smaller home ice advantage in first round playoff series compared to the regular season. Between 2006 and 2011 the higher seeded team:
- Won 57.5% of first round playoff games on their home ice
- Won 54.6% of first-round playoff games on the road
If one examines the regular season games between teams that will eventually meet in the first round of the playoffs, between the 2005-2006 and 2010-2011 seasons, the higher seeded team:
- Won 64.1% of regular season games on their home ice
- Won 43.2% of regular season games on the road
In other words a home ice advantage of 17.9% in the regular season is reduced to 2.9% once the playoffs begin.
Why did favored home teams lose so many of their first round games in the 2012 NHL playoffs? The higher seeded teams actually had a home ice disadvantage against their lower seeded opponents during the 2011-2012 regular season. The higher seeded team won 53% of away games and only 44% of home games against their first-round playoff opponents during the regular season. This 9% disadvantage to playing on a team’s home ice was even larger in the playoffs.
This year’s NHL playoffs have shown that a home ice advantage either doesn’t exist or is much less important than the advantage that home teams have in the playoffs in other professional team sports.