Biased Impartiality Among National Hockey League Referees

35 Pages Posted: 4 May 2013

See all articles by Michael Lopez

Michael Lopez

Skidmore College

Kevin Snyder

Southern New Hampshire University

Date Written: May 2, 2013


This paper builds an economic model of referee behavior in the National Hockey League using period-specific in-game data. Recognizing that referees are influenced by a desire for perceived fairness, this model isolates situations where a referee is more likely to call a penalty on one team. While prior research has focused on a systematic bias in favor of the home team, we find that referee bias is also dependent upon game specific conditions that incentivize an evening of penalty calls. Refereeing games in this fashion maintains the integrity of the game, thus benefiting spectator perceptions and opportunities for financial returns.

Keywords: NHL, referees, biased impartiality, make-up calls

Suggested Citation

Lopez, Michael and Snyder, Kevin, Biased Impartiality Among National Hockey League Referees (May 2, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Lopez (Contact Author)

Skidmore College ( email )

815 North Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-1632
United States

Kevin Snyder

Southern New Hampshire University ( email )

United States

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