How Will Toronto's Home Ice Advantage Be Nullified With No Fans In The Stands?

By Dan Dukart on July 4, 2020 at 8:05 am
Kasperi Kapanen and Zach Werenski battle for the puck
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Barring (another) change, it appears the Columbus Blue Jackets will be heading to Toronto for the qualifying round (and beyond, if applicable) later this month. 

Naturally, then, the question becomes: does Toronto hold any sort of inherent advantage by playing in their home building without fans? Well, we can't say for sure how a lack of fans will impact the outcome, but we do know that, per Hockey-Reference, home teams historically win 56.4% of the time in the playoffs.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, Historical Data




Win %

Regular Games




Elimination Games




Closeout Games




Overtime Games




TOTALS 3555 2746 56.4%

Anecdotally, some home-ice advantages appear to be more pronounced. The now-defunct Joe Louis Arena had a reputation as a rink with unusually lively boards, and Red Wings players were dexterous at using them to their advantage. From

"The Red Wings used their knowledge of Joe Louis Arena's exceptionally lively boards to repeatedly set up offensive plays that led to rebound goals - and frustrate the Penguins once again in the Stanley Cup finals - during their 3-1 victory Saturday night."

NHL players have said for forever that it can actually be easier playing on the road, where they can suck the energy out of the home crowd and use it as a weapon of their own. Conversely, we've all heard the anecdotes that some players, while playing in front of their home crowd, feel the pressure, or feel the need to 'put on a show', or other such drivel.     

Other teams have notoriously loud/passionate fans. But the Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, and Winnipeg Jets don't have a Stanley Cup to their names to show for it. FiveThirtyEight argued a few years back that, unlike major leagues, NHL teams don't enjoy any home-ice advantage in the playoffs, or at least, not recently. Home ice advantage is more noticeable in the regular season, though that's partially diluted by the 'loser point'. Of the 31 teams, only two teams were under .500 at home: the Montreal Canadiens (14-17-6) and Detroit Red Wings (12-23-2). The Sharks finished .500, at 17-17-2.  

When asked if there was any advantage, or not, to the Maple Leafs playing at home, John Tortorella replied, on his weekly radio hit on 97.1 FM with Carpenter and Rothman:

"Neither, quite honestly. I think in this situation, the way these past few months have gone, I think teams just want to play. I don't think teams care where they play. It's going to be a really different situation without fans, obviously.

Not exactly scientific, but definitely predictable. Teams just want to play. At 18-9-7 at home, the Maple Leafs are in the upper half of teams at home. But with no fans, will that advantage matter? 

The New York Times recently wrote about Germany's Bundesliga in a piece titled, "Do Empty Stadiums Affect Outcomes? The Data Says Yes". From that reporting:

The performances of home teams in the Bundesliga have, for all intents and purposes, collapsed in front of empty stands. The number of home victories slipped by 10 percentage points, to 33 percent of matches in empty stadiums from 43 percent in full ones.

The change has been so extreme, in fact, that Lukas Keppler, a managing director of the data and analytics firm Impect, noted a sort of “negative home advantage.” For the first time in soccer history, he said, it has appeared, at times, to be easier to be playing on the road.

A negative home advantage? Sign Tortorella and company up for that! Having no crowd noise is certainly an interesting wrinkle, but who can say how it will or won't help certain teams in the NHL. Here's Tortorella:

"The noise of the building, or lack of, just the intensity that comes with fans being in the building, and not having that... how are teams going to handle that? I don't know how our team is going to, I don't know how Toronto is going to, but the team that best adjusts to that, and gets into that competitive mindset quicker than the other team is going to have a major advantage in Game 1."  

In a short series where winning that first game will have a major impact, finding and establishing that competitive edge - before your opponent - may make all the difference. 
Follow 1st Ohio BatteryFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

View 4 Comments