As any person interested in hockey stats should do, I’ve been gradually building my own personal database of player information that I can use when Y3K robs my future post-human self of cloud data for 3 seconds. To that end, player size wasn’t a huge priority but I knew eventually I’d want to have it, if only to think about how normal-sized I’d be in the 1920s NHL. In the process of bringing in all that data, I decided to do a little demographic work on player height and weight. We all know the players are bigger now than they were before, but by how much? And is there greater variance in size now or in the past?
Focusing on skaters (no goalies), I also decided to include figures for North American males for a bit of perspective here. Obviously, when it comes to height NHL teams have favored taller-than-the-average-population players. Worth noting, though, is the plateau and slight decrease since the 2004 lockout. Whether teams are realizing a tipping point where too much skill is traded off for size, or there are just fewer large enforcers, it’s still an interesting trend.
Unlike the plateau for height, weight has had a discernible peak at the 2004 lockout and a dip down to today. I think this is a really promising sign, that teams are willing to give opportunities to smaller players. I also think, as mentioned above, that this is watershed from moving away from enforcers. Whatever the case, being at pre-1994 lockout weight is quite a change.
I also wanted to provide standard deviations for the league heights and weights. Outside of early numbers made obviously wonky by league sizes that involved only around 50 players, the current spreads of player heights and weights are among the most diverse in NHL history. I’d like to think this is a little bit due to the rise of hockey statistics, in conjunction with the salary cap pressure to make the most out of cap dollars.
Here’s the table of data used:
|Season||Ht Avg||Ht SD||Wt Avg||Wt SD|
5 thoughts on “NHL Player Size From 1917-18 to 2014-15: A Brief Look”
I hate to squash the importance of these well researched stats- but the only Stats that could really tell the whole story are the Stats for Starters. I would suggest the average size for a starting NHL Player has not changed a whole lot in 45 years. My research indicates less than an inch in height and 8 pounds in weight. A difference to be sure- but not much. No greater change in the game comes close to the space aged new skates, gloves and sticks.
Great stats…. maybe you should focus mainly on the Goalies.. same as this stats also stats on the size of equipment for goalies…. It might tells big the difference..
1998-1999 was the year when things changed, not the lockout. That was the year the NHL started the two referee system. An extra pair of eyes reduced the number of cheap shots behind the play (re: the massive increase in minor penalties over the first two years). After that, cheap shots started to decline and so did the number of fights. The NHL went from about two fights per game in the 1980s to one fight every two games today. Goons and other big players disappeared because teams no longer wanted or needed to seek revenge or “set the tone”.
There have been and will continue to be cases of CTE among ex-players, but it will decline in time. Big, strong players today (e.g. Ovechkin) use muscle to keep the puck, not bash other players’ heads in. The ban on blindside hits also helps.
Do you think Gretzky would be as good or better or worse regarding points in today’s non physical game.