When an NHL player has a child, a certain phrase is often heard: “Dad Strength”. But what is “dad strength,” and is it real?
What is “Dad Strength”?
Dad strength is the phenomena where a man has increased lifting power after having a child. It isn’t instant, and it supposedly comes from doing things like constantly carrying your child, installing car seats, and caring for the child. Seems like sound logic to me, but does that logic carry over to the rink?
Some seem to think so…
Can you imagine how much Dad strength Harlow is going to give Brooks Orpik? It will be like watching the Hulk hold a hockey stick.
— Tommy Chalk (@Tommy_Chalk) March 24, 2015
Even the NHLPA seems to think it’s real
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) November 28, 2016
Is It Real?
This question has been asked quite a few times but has gone without answer…
Will your favourite NHL player tear up the league after he has a kid? Let’s take a look and see if there is any merit to this concept of “dad strength” in hockey. We’ll look at the short term by seeing how often players register a point in their first game after having a child. We’ll then look at a slightly longer term by comparing the points and goals per game rate in the first ten games after players have a child to their points and goals per game rate over the entire season. Finally we’ll look at the long term and compare players’ points and goals per game rate in the season following them having a child to their points and goals per game rate over their career up until that season.
To look into “dad strength” I needed to find some NHL dads. I was able to find info on 39, and the dads we used here were Nicklas Backstrom, Patrice Bergeron, Nick Bonino, Johnny Boychuk, Tyler Bozak, Dustin Byfuglien, Mike Cammalleri, Zdeno Chara, Patrik Elias, Alexei Emelin, Loui Eriksson, Mikhail Grabovski, Jannik Hansen, Matt Hendricks, Duncan Keith, Ryan Kesler, Mikko Koivu, Anze Kopitar, Nikolai Kulemin, Brooks Laich David Legwand, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Marleau, Jamie McBain, Matt Moulson, Rick Nash, Kyle Okposo, Max Pacioretty, Matt Read, Brad Richards, Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, Marc Staal, Matt Stajan, Derek Stepan, Vladimir Tarasenko, Anton Volchenkov, Dale Weise, and Travis Zajac. We were also able to find info on three fathers with multiple children (Byfuglien, Sharp, E.Staal), bringing our sample size to 43.
The First Game
The first thing we did to determine if dad strength was real was determine whether our NHL dads registered a point in their first game after having their child.
As the graph shows, 27 of our dads did not register a point in their first game after having a child, ten of them registered one point, and six of them registered two points. Now, looking at this graph with no background makes it seem as if the number of players registering points in their first game after having a child is somewhat high, so I decided to determine the most likely outcome of our 43 dads playing on one given night and how many points would be registered. To do so I calculated each player’s career point per game average (PPG).
(Approximate PPG numbers)
I then took each player’s PPG and averaged the numbers out, giving me a total of 27.95043211, which I then multiplied by the number of dads (43). I finally ended up with 6.5/10. With that number I calculated the most likely outcome of all of the players playing on one given night and determined that 27 points would likely be registered. In real life our dads registered 22 points in their first game back after having a child. The number of points registered was five points less than the likely outcome.
Our short term analysis seems to point in the direction of dad strength being a myth rather than a miracle.
The First Ten Games
Then next thing I took a look at whether a player’s production increased in the first ten games after having a child. To determine this I took a look at two stats, PPG and Goals Per Game (GPG). I first determined the PPG and GPG of the players in the full season that their child was born and compared it to their PPG and GPG in the first ten games after their child was born.
Taking a quick glance at this graph, it seems like Matt Moulson is super dad! Going on a massive tear after his son, George Benjamin, was born. On the other side of things, it seems like Patrick Marleau should stop having children during the hockey season, as he went absolutely cold after his son Jagger was born. Outside of the outliers, there is a clump of players near the middle of the graph and what seems to be a near equal amount of players on each side of zero in terms of both GPG and PPG.
Taking a deeper look at the graph, I found that in the first ten games after having a child, 19 of the dads saw their GPG rate decrease, 20 of them saw their GPG rate increase, and the other four dads saw their GPG rate stay the same. What shows is that having a child has no effect on a player’s GPG rate in the first ten games after having a child.
In those same first ten games, 22 of the dads saw their PPG decrease, 20 of them saw their PPG increase, and one dad saw his PPG rate stay the same. It doesn’t seem as if having a child has any effect on PPG rates in the first ten games after having a child either.
Finally, I decided to take a look at how a player having a child affected their entire season. To do this, I again looked at GPG and PPG, but this time I compared the GPG and PPG of the season the player had a child to their career GPG and PPG numbers up until the season they had the child (eg: Pacioretty’s 2013-14 GPG and PPG vs his 2008-2013 GPG and PPG).
When taking a quick look at this graph, we see what is essentially the same thing we saw on the last one. There are a few outliers on each side, a clump of players near the middle of the graph, and a near equal amount of players on each side of zero in terms of GPG and PPG.
In the season where an NHL player has a child, 20 of the dads saw a decrease in GPG, 22 of the dads saw an increase in GPG, and one of the dads saw his GPG stay the same as his career average up until that point. With that being said, it seems as if having a child has no effect on GPG in the season that a player has a child.
In terms of PPG in the season where an NHL player has a child, 19 of the dads saw their PPG decrease, 23 of the dads saw their PPG increase, and again one dad saw his PPG stay the same. Yet again it seems as if having a child has no effect on a player’s PPG rates, shown this time over a full season.
“Dad Strength” in hockey, myth or miracle? Unfortunately, it seems as if it is the former. The evidence presented in this article supports the idea that having a child has no effect on a player’s production, thus showing that “dad strength” in hockey is not real.
So no, your favourite player probably isn’t going to tear up the league after he has a kid (sorry Voracek fans!). But hey, if he does score a goal it’ll be extra special.
Chris Carnovale is the writer of “The Carnovale Files” for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can follow him on twitter @Chris_Carnovale