Home field advantage

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a database of every NLL game played between 1987 and 2011 (now 2012). When I started looking over the data, the thing that jumped out at me the most was when I looked at individual game score records such as highest scoring games (total score), lowest scoring games, biggest goal differential, that sort of thing. I looked at the top ten of each, and three of them had a very obvious pattern. At first blush, one of these didn’t seem to match the other two, but I’ll get to that later.

The first two that I saw were these:

  • Of the top ten games with the biggest goal differential, nine of them were won by the home team.
  • Of the top ten games with the most goals by one team, eight of them were won by the home team.

Why would this be? Could it be that the crowd is indeed the extra man on the floor and their cheering really does provide a boost to the home team, like the players always say in interviews? I have always assumed that players say that because that’s what they have to say, but in truth they are so focused on the game itself that they are able to tune out the fans, whether cheering or booing. I’m sure that’s at most partially true, since it’s hard to tune out 10,000 people cheering for or against you. (Indeed, Edmonton Rush player Jarrett Toll admittedyou don’t hear “normal” crowds but the loud ones make an impression every time‘.) But if your team is scoring tons of goals and the fans are really loud, it appears that this can push you to keep scoring, even if the other team is scoring a ton as well.

A couple of other similar numbers that I found later:

  • The home team has won 53.4% of regular season overtime games (87-76)
  • The home team has won 70% of playoff overtime games (7-3)

Former NLL player, coach, and serious dreadlocks owner Tom Ryan (pictured at right) wrote a piece on IL Indoor last year about Home Field Advantage in the NLL, where he did a lot of work analyzing how teams performed at home vs. on the road. His conclusion was that over the last three seasons, Toronto and Minnesota have enjoyed the best home field advantage.

The outlier?

The one pattern that was obvious from the data but didn’t seem to match the rest was this:

  • Of the top ten games with the lowest total score, seven of them were won by the away team.

But when you think about it, the crowd could explain this as well. If the home team has only scored 3 goals in the game and it’s the fourth quarter, the barn is likely to be pretty quiet. For the home team, not hearing the crowd just reminds them that they’re not playing well, while being able to silence the crowd in your opponent’s barn is likely a huge confidence booster for the other team.

Long story short? If you’re a fan, cheer loudly for your team. It really can help.


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