Monday, July 19, 2010

Penalties: Part 1

This is the first part in a series on penalties in the NHL. The data comes from various sources on the web, much of it from in their play-by-play reports on each game.

In the 2009-2010 season, there were 12328 penalties called, which works out to about 10 per game (as there are 1230 games in each regular season).

The breakdown by period is:
  • First period: 4062
  • Second period: 4420
  • Third period: 3745
  • Overtime: 101
So, right off the bat, it looks as though the "they put away the whistles in the third" idea has some merit. We'll take a closer look at that later in the this post, and later in the series when we look at individual referee data.

The top 10 penalties called in 2009-2010 were:
Penalty Calls
Hooking 1750
Roughing 1502
Fighting 1423
Tripping 1412
Interference 1065
Holding 953
Slashing 783
Hi-sticking 747
Cross checking 483
Boarding 310

Some notables that are missing from the top 10 include: Delay of game (puck over glass), Too many men, Goaltender interference, Holding the stick and the bloody version of Hi-sticking.

All told, there were 50 distinct types of penalties called in 2009-2010 (I was surprised how many different ones there were). Here are a few that were almost never called:
  • Spearing was called 3 times, and one additional time as a double minor.
  • Abusive Language - Bench was called twice
  • Just one Illegal Stick penalty, on Brett Carson of the Hurricanes at 18:41 of the third period in a 5-1 blowout over the Rangers. Not sure the point of that one was...
Now let's take a look at the most commonly called penalties, broken out by period (I combined both the regular and double minor versions of Hi-sticking):

Penalty 1 2 3 OT Total
Boarding 94 109 104 3 310
Cross checking 147 172 160 4 483
Delaying Game-Puck over glass 91 94 106 1 292
Fighting 674 454 295
Hi-sticking 257 277 298 12 747
Holding 293 353 300 7 953
Holding the stick 54 67 42
Hooking 594 661 480 15 1750
Interference 376 394 287 8 1065
Interference on goalkeeper 67 85 79 2 233
Roughing 440 541 512 9 1502
Slashing 210 303 261 9 783
Too many men/ice - bench 74 104 60 3 241
Tripping 433 538 421 20 1412

We already saw previously that calls from the second period to the third period dropped from 4420 to 3745, a 15% drop. Most of these are judgement calls on the part of the refs. You can see they are pretty consistent on many of them - Roughing, Too many men, Boarding, Cross checking, Hi-sticking, Slashing, etc.

Take a second look at three calls that have a definitive impact on the speed and flow of the game - here they are with the drop from the second to the third period:
  • Hooking - dropped by 27%
  • Interference - dropped by 27%
  • Tripping - dropped by 22%
I'm willing to let Tripping drop - it's essentially flat with the first period, so I could argue that the long change has something to do with that.

Hooking and Interference calls, however are way down from the first period numbers too. You can't tell me that it's not happening as much in the third period - I don't buy it. I think the refs are exercising their "judgement" (such as it is) instead of calling what they see on these penalties.

Any thoughts on the analysis?


PensPal said...

Awesome analysis! I find this very interesting and I would hope that the NHL has this sort of data to ensure the referees are aware of common calls. It would be interesting to do this by referee (or pairings I guess)

Pat said...

Thanks! Glad you liked it. I'll be looking at calls associated with specific referees coming up soon here.