Perhaps the funniest study I’ve heard about in some time has just been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Brock University neuroscience researchers Justin Carre and Cheryl McCormick claim that the number of penalty minutes a player receives can be predicted by the size of his face.
I’m not even sure what to say to that. I always thought scientists were smart. I also thought that phrenology (a defunct field of study, once considered a science, by which the personality traits of a person were determined by “reading” bumps and fissures in the skull) was a thing of the past. Evidently, I was wrong.
From the Canwest news article:
The measurements, performed with the help of a digital ruler, compare the width of the face at the cheekbones with the height between the bottom of the eyebrows and the upper lip. An unusually wide male face has a ratio of about 2.3, while a relatively narrow face has a ratio of about 1.6.
According to Carre and McCormick, the Ottawa Senators had the strongest correlation between face size and penalty minutes of the six Canadian teams.
He shifted his gaze to the NHL, and calculated the facial ratio for the players on Canada’s NHL teams using 2007–08 roster photos and compared the results with the average number of penalty minutes per game the player racked up for aggressive behaviour such as slashing, cross-checking, high-sticking, boarding, elbowing, checking from behind and fighting. Goalies were not analyzed.
Of the 18 Senators, Carre looked at defenceman Mike Commodore, who has since left the Senators, with a facial ratio of about 1.6 and only about a minute per game in the penalty box, was at the low end of the scale. Right-winger Chris Neil, with a facial ratio of almost 2.4 and about three minutes per game in the box, was at the opposite end.
At this point, I’m afraid I need to question the methods used by the researchers. Leaving aside the somewhat incredible notion that a player’s facial size determines aggressiveness, the claim that Mike Commodore only averaged a minute in penalties per game is rather misleading. While it’s true that Commodore posted 26 PIM in 26 games in Ottawa, over the 2007–08 season he had 100 PIM in 77 games. Over his career (where he presumably used the same face for every team) he has 439 PIM in 296 games. One can almost hear the incredulity in the voice of the spokesman who responded for the Senators:
Brian Morris, a spokesman for the Senators, was at a loss for a comment on Carre’s findings. It would be hard to draw conclusions based on facial measurements working from photographs alone, he suggested. “Seemingly, it’s more of a theory than a scientific fact,” he said.
No kidding, Brian. No kidding.
—Jonathan Willis is the owner of The Copper & Blue and is a regular OilersNation contributor.