The Dominant Home-Ice Advantage in the NHL
There is no sport quite like hockey. The thrill of crisp skates gliding effortlessly over a frozen surface, the satisfying sound of a puck hitting the back of the net, and the roar of a passionate crowd cheering on their favorite team—these are just a few of the elements that make hockey one of the most beloved sports in North America and around the world.
At the professional level, the National Hockey League (NHL) is the pinnacle of the sport. With 31 teams spread across North America, the NHL is home to the best players in the world, who compete for the coveted Stanley Cup each season. But within the league, there are divisions that bring a unique dynamic to the game. In this article, we will explore one particular division—the NHL Eastern Conference—the Atlantic Division—and discuss the significant home-ice advantage that these teams have in their arenas.
The Eastern Conference-Atlantic Division is made up of eight teams: the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Located predominantly on the east coast of the United States, with the exception of the Canadian teams, this division is home to some of the most passionate and storied fan bases in the league.
One thing that sets this division apart from others is the competitive level of play. With teams like the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who have a long-standing rivalry dating back to the Original Six era, and the Montreal Canadiens, who hold the record for most Stanley Cup wins, the Eastern Conference-Atlantic Division is home to some of the most intense and exciting hockey games in the NHL.
But what truly sets this division apart is the dominant home-ice advantage that these teams have in their arenas. The concept of home-ice advantage is not unique to hockey; it exists in many sports. However, in the NHL Eastern Conference Atlantic Division, it seems to have an even more significant impact on the outcome of games.
One of the main factors contributing to this advantage is the undeniable passion of the fans. Hockey fans are known for their die-hard loyalty to their team and their unwavering support, no matter the score. In this division, the fans take their passion to a whole new level. Whether it’s the Crazy Canucks in Vancouver or the Original Six Feel in Toronto, the fans in this division know how to make their home team feel loved and supported.
In addition to the fan support, there are other elements that contribute to the success of teams in their home arenas. Some attribute it to the familiarity of the ice surface—home teams know the boards and angles of their rink like the back of their hands, giving them an advantage over visiting teams. Others point to the added pressure put on visiting teams, who are not only playing against the home team but also against a passionate and vocal crowd.
Whatever the reasoning may be, the numbers do not lie. In the 2019-2020 season, the top three teams in the Eastern Conference (Atlantic Division) had the highest home-winning percentage in the entire league: the Boston Bruins (25-9-6), Tampa Bay Lightning (24-9-3), and Toronto Maple Leafs (25-9-2). These teams also had some of the highest attendance numbers in the league, with the Maple Leafs averaging a whopping 19,003 fans per game in their home arena.
But the home-ice advantage isn’t just limited to the regular season. In the playoffs, home-ice advantage becomes even more critical. With the pressure of a best-of-seven series, playing in a familiar and supportive environment can give teams the extra boost they need to secure a spot in the next round.
The 2020 playoffs saw the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins face off in a tight series that ultimately saw the Lightning clinch the series in Game 5 on home ice. The Toronto Maple Leafs also had a strong performance in their home arena, defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets in a thrilling Game 4 overtime win.
It is not just in the NHL that this home-ice advantage is seen. At the minor hockey level, this phenomenon can also be observed. Minor hockey in North America and around the world is a breeding ground for future NHL stars, and the Eastern Conference-Atlantic Division is no exception. With youth hockey programs like the Toronto Marlboros and Montreal Canadiens Minor Hockey Club, young players are taught the importance of giving their all on home ice and defending their territory.
In the world of hockey, home-ice advantage is a crucial factor for success. It is a combination of passionate fans, familiarity with the rink, and added pressure on opposing teams that gives the Eastern Conference-Atlantic Division an edge over others.
The Eastern Conference-Atlantic Division of the NHL is a force to be reckoned with, not just because of the talented players on the ice but also because of the passionate and unwavering support of their fans. With a dominant home-ice advantage, these teams have shown time and time again that when it comes to hockey, there’s truly no place like home.