home-ice advantage – describes the benefit that the home team is said to gain over the visiting team. This benefit has been attributed to psychological effects supporting fans have on the competitors or referees; to psychological or physiological advantages of playing near home in familiar situations; to the disadvantages away teams suffer from changing time zones or climates, or from the rigors of travel; and in some sports, to specific rules that favor the home team directly or indirectly.
The term is also widely used in "best-of" playoff formats (e.g., best-of-seven) as being given to the team that is scheduled to play one more game at home than their opponent if all necessary games are played.
In most team sports, the home or hosting team is considered to have a significant advantage over the visitors. Due to this, many important games (such as playoff or elimination matches) in many sports have special rules for determining what match is played where. In many team sports in North America (including baseball, basketball, and ice hockey), playoff series are often held with a nearly equal number of games at each team's site. However, as it is usually beneficial to have an odd number of matches in a series (to prevent ties), the final home game is often awarded to the team that had the most success over the regular season.
The strength of the home advantage varies for different sports, regions, seasons, and divisions. For all sports, it seems to be strongest in the early period after the creation of a new league. The effect seems to have become somewhat weaker in some sports in recent decades.
There are many causes that attribute to home advantage, such as crowd involvement, travel considerations, and environmental factors. The most commonly cited factors of home advantage are usually factors which are difficult to measure and so even their existence is debated. Most of these are psychological in nature: the home teams are familiar with the playing venue; they can lodge in their homes, rather than in a hotel, and so have less far to travel before the game; and they have the psychological support of the home fans.
The stadium or arena will typically be filled with home supporters, who are sometimes described as being as valuable as an extra player for the home team. The home fans can sometimes create a psychological lift by cheering loudly for their team when good things happen in the game. The home crowd can also intimidate visiting players by booing, whistling, or heckling. During the Vancouver Canucks playoff run during the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs there were two men wearing body suits that would harrass (in a rather oulandish manner) opposing team players who were in the [penalty box]] involving climbing onto the outside of the divide between the stands and the penalty box. Generally the home fans vastly outnumber the visiting team's supporters. While some visiting fans may travel to attend the game, home team fans will generally have better access to tickets and easier transport to the event, thus in most cases they outnumber the visitors' fans (although in local derbies and crosstown rivalries this may not always be the case). In some sports, such as association football, sections of the stadium will be reserved for supporters of one team or the other (to prevent fan violence) but the home team's fans will have the bulk of the seating available to them. In addition, stadium/arena light shows, sound effects, fireworks, cheerleaders, and other means to enliven the crowd will be in support of the home team. Stadium announcers in many sports will emphasize the home team's goals and lineup to excite the crowd.
Sometimes the unique attributes of a stadium create a home-field advantage. Cherry Hill Arena, a New Jersey-based arena in the southern suburbs of Philadelphia, had a number of idiosyncrasies that its home teams used to their advantage but earned the arena an extremely poor reputation, including a slanted ice surface that forced opponents to skate the majority of the game uphill and lack of showers for the visiting team. As the arena seating areas were tarped off with advertising on it, the arenas ice surfaces are all now a standard 200' x 85' with standard rounding in the corners, and standard layouts for player and penalty benches it would appear that there was no difference between playing in one arena versus another.
The 2019-20 and 2020-21 NHL seasons saw major disruption due to COVID-19-restricted conditions that resulted in bubble playoffs (during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs and ghost games during the 2020-21 NHL season, as fans were unable to attend in person until either into March or into the playoffs. New research has shown that this led to a significant drop to home advantage compared with the previous six seasons. In 592 games played under the restricted conditions through March, home teams suffered a decline of 10% while road teams’ win rates increased by 7%. 
In ice hockey, there are at least three distinct rule-related advantages for the home team:
- The first is referred to as "last change", where during stoppages of play, the home team is allowed to make player substitutions after the visiting team does. This allows the home team to obtain favorable player matchups. This rule makes the home team designation important even in games played on neutral ice.
- Traditionally, the second advantage was that when lining up for the face-off, the away team's centre always had to place his stick on the ice before the centre of the home team. However, in both the NHL and international rule sets, this now applies only for face-offs at the centre-ice spot; when a face-off takes place anywhere else on the ice, the defending centre has to place his stick first. The centre who is allowed to place his stick last gains the ability to time the face-off better and gives him greater odds of winning it.
- The third advantage is that the home team has the benefit of choosing whether to take the first or second attempt in a shootout.
Gaining or losing home-field advantage
However, in the playoffs, home advantage is usually given to the team with the higher seed (which may or may not have the better record), as is case in the NFL, MLB, and NHL playoffs. One exception to this was MLB's World Series, which between 2003 and 2016, awarded home-field advantage to the team representing the league which won the All-Star Game that year, to help raise interest in the All-Star Game after a tie in 2002 (before 2003, home-field advantage alternated each year between the National League and the American League). The NBA is the only league that has home-court advantage based solely on which team has the best record (using various tiebreakers to settle the question should the teams finish with identical records).
In many sports, playoffs consist of a 'series' of games played between two teams. These series are usually a best-of-5 or best-of-7 format, where the first team to win 3 or 4 games, respectively, wins the playoff. Since these best-of series always involve an odd number of games, it is impossible to guarantee that an equal number of games will be played at each team's home venue. As a result, one team must be scheduled to have one more home game than the other. This team is said to have home-field advantage for that playoff series.
During the course of these playoff series, however, sports announcers or columnists will sometimes mention a team "gaining" or "losing" home-field advantage. This can happen after a visiting team has just won a game in the series. In playoff series format, the home-field advantage is said to exist for whichever team would win the series if all remaining games in the series are won by the home team for that game. Therefore, it is possible for a visiting team to win a game and, hence, gain home-field advantage. This is somewhat similar to the concept of losing serve in tennis.
As part of a settlement for a 1992 strike by the NHL Players Association, the National Hockey League scheduled two neutral-site games for each team in a non-NHL market, with one as designated home team and one as the designated road team. The neutral site games ended after the 1993–94 NHL season, as the following season was lockout-shortened, and the 1995–96 NHL season reduced the regular season from 84 to 82 games per team. The NHL has held neutral-site, season-opening games in Europe (sometimes also including preseason exhibitions against European clubs), first from 2007 to 2011 as the NHL Premiere, and from 2017 as the NHL Global Series. The 2019 NHL Heritage Classic was also a neutral site game, played in the non-NHL market of Regina, Saskatchewan—falling roughly halfway between the markets of the participating teams, the Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets.
In the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, for the first time in NHL history all division winners (who had home-ice advantage) were eliminated in the first round as all the wild-cards advanced to the second round. The Columbus Blue Jackets won a playoff series for the first time, defeating the first-place Lightning in four games, and marking the first time in Stanley Cup playoff history that the Presidents' Trophy winners were swept in the opening round, and the first time since 2012 that the Presidents' Trophy winners were defeated in the opening round. They were soon followed by the Calgary Flames, who with their five-game loss to the Colorado Avalanche, ensured that for the first time in NHL history, neither of the conference number one seeds advanced to the second round. After that, the two remaining division winners, the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals, were each eliminated in an overtime game, the Predators in six by the Dallas Stars, and the Capitals in seven by the Carolina Hurricanes.
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