Friday, August 22, 2008

We just need more team facial width

When coaches and pundits talk about needing more "team toughness," what they really mean is more team "face width."

Ha. In the "we needed to use the grant money on something" department, a Brock University study found that NHL players with wider-proportioned faces served more time in the penalty box. Because writers who cover scientific/academic studies always jump to a headline-worthy conclusion, the article implies that such players are more aggressive.

Nonetheless, the obvious caveats: 1) they only measured the Canadian Six teams; 2) they based it on headshots, not actual measurements of their faces; 3) even if the wide boys do rack up more PIM, it could easily be because refs interpret them as more aggressive. There is a legion of academic work examining how humans interpret and draw instant conclusions about all kinds of facial attributes -- from whether they want to jump into bed with the person to whether the person might be a con man. So while we all know NHL referees are the Absolute Supreme Bastions of Impartial Judgment, they may yet succumb to the same human follies that plague the rest of us from time to time, such as whether or not that was obviously a hook nose. Time to add "whether Devorski thinks you're a goon" to the variables in facial cue studies.

That said, don't tell me you didn't immediately conjure images of a past wide-mugged goon or two when you first heard about this study.


Frank said...

Wow, that's amazing to me that someone would actually conduct a study like that. Looking back on Penguins players, it kind of makes sense with Ruutu, Laraque, Barnaby...but then I think of guys like Kasparaitis and it doesn't fit.

Uncle Jr. said...

Mick Vukota comes to mind and Craig Berube who was an Islander for a minute.

Dominik said...

Kasparaitis falls under the Lithuanian Exception (it's a little-known addendum to the Wide Face Aggression Guide).

Berube, man I forgot about his brief Island stint. Career: 1,000+ games, 3,000+ PIM, and even 61 goals!