Are U.S. roads deadly during the Stanley Cup Finals? (2018 Study)

The Stanley Cup finals cause deadly roads in the U.S.. Roads during Game five of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals were the deadliest with 141 crash-related deaths.

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Biscuits. Buckets. Sweaters. These words take on new meanings for hockey fans.

Called Hurley back then, the game of hockey originated in Nova Scotia in the early 1800s. It has been called a “Canadian game…as Canadian as the Maple Leaf.”

But today the NHL has 31 teams, 24 in the United States and seven in Canada.

“There is no better sporting experience than watching an NHL game inside a rocking, jam-packed arena, and there’s no better postseason for thrills, chills and overtime killers than the Stanley Cup playoffs.” – Joe Haggerty

Tragically, many of those hockey playoff “thrills and chills” involve players getting seriously injured or even killed.

Hockey is ranked 3rd for resulting ER visits and 5th for the most dangerous sports in the world—just under boxing and rugby.

“…hockey has become one of our more dangerous past-times.” – Bleacher Report

It doesn’t end there. Our researchers discovered these games create serious dangers off the ice as well. As the competition heats up to win the Stanley Cup and fans take to the streets, you should know the risks involved.

10 Facts About Fatal Car Crashes During the Stanley Cup Finals

Click here for our methodology

The dedicated team of researchers at closely examine our nation’s roadways and constantly work to determine fatal trends. Our 25,000 data point case study is the very first to dissect the dangers the Stanley Cup finals inflict on American roads.

It’s clear the problem doesn’t end with injuries on the ice. NHL games, especially the finals, correlate with an increase in alcohol consumption, state-wide traffic, and fatal car crashes.

#1 – The Game Day With the MOST Fatal Crashes: Winning State

Game and Year: Game 4 (2014)
Winning Team: Los Angeles Kings
Fatal Crashes in Home State: 13
Difference from Daily Average: +65.97 percent

On Wednesday, June 11, 2014, the New York Rangers narrowly escaped a four-game sweep, thanks to their goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, who had 40 spectacular saves that night.

The Rangers managed to win game four by one point, but the Kings had luck on their side when they won the 2014 Stanley Cup on Friday the 13th in overtime.

The Kings may have earned the oldest trophy in professional sports in 2014, but the night they lost at Madison Square Garden in that year’s NHL finals, they suffered a much greater loss in their home state.

13 fatal crashes occurred on game day four in California, which was a significant 65.97 percent increase from the statewide daily crash average for 2014.

It seems California residents let the excitement of the big game and later the disappointment of the loss get to them. Driving emotional is always a bad idea.

#2 – The Game Day With the MOST Fatal Crashes: Losing State

Game and Year: (Tie) Game 3 & 6 (2016)
Losing Team: San Jose Sharks
Fatal Crashes in Home State: 13
Difference from Daily Average: +41.73 percent

Out of all the NHL finals from 2010 to 2016, the San Jose Sharks had not just one, but two games that were the deadliest for any losing team’s home state.

These two treacherous game days had a lot in common. Both of these games were played against the Pittsburgh Penguins, happened in the same playoff series of 2016, fell on a weekend (dangerous days to drive), and took place at the infamous “Shark Tank.”

Here’s the breakdown of those games:

  • Game 3 – Saturday, June 4, 2016: San Jose Sharks (3) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (2)
  • Game 6 – Sunday, June 12, 2016: Pittsburgh Penguins (3) vs San Jose Sharks (1)

Despite their game three win, the Sharks lost the championship in game six.

In addition to losing the Stanley Cup, California lost many innocent lives in the 26 fatal car crashes that occurred on its public roads those two game days.

The NHL finals’ negative effect on the roads is proven by the 41.73 percent increase in fatal crashes on both game days in the not-always-so-golden “Golden State.”

#3 – The Game Day With the LEAST  Fatal Crashes: Winning State

Game and Year: (Tie) Game 3 & 5 (2013)
Winning Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Fatal Crashes in Home State: 0
Difference from Daily Average: -100 percent

Finally, we get some good news, but sadly, it’s not for California.

Illinois achieved some impressive accomplishments during the NHL finals of 2013: winning the Stanley cup and having not just one, but two full playoff game days of zero fatal car crashes in its entire state.

What’s especially remarkable is that one of those game days was a Saturday, the day of the week with the most fatal crashes in America.

Here are the details on those two games:

  • Game 3 – Monday, June 17, 2013: Boston Bruins (2) vs Chicago Blackhawks (0)
  • Game 5 – Saturday, June 22, 2013: Chicago Blackhawks (3) vs Boston Bruins (1)

Due to the millions of crashes we study and work tirelessly to prevent, in our eyes, Illinois’ greatest achievement during the ’13 finals was having the safest roads out of seven years of winners.

#4 – The Game Day With the LEAST  Fatal Crashes: Losing State

Game and Year: Game 6 (2010)
Losing Team: Philadelphia Fliers
Fatal Crashes in Home State: 0
Difference from Daily Average: -100 percent

Two talented, well-matched teams fought hard for the championship title of 2010, but on Wednesday, June 9th, game six became the end of the road for Philly.

On their home rink, the Philadelphia Flyers lost by just one point in overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks. This was the first Stanley Cup win for the Blackhawks since 1961, ending the second-longest Stanley Cup drought in NHL history.

Although this major loss sunk the Flyers, they are champions in our book by having zero fatal crashes in their entire (rather large) home state of Pennsylvania for that whole day.

We all could learn a thing or two from the “City of Brotherly Love.” Apparently, Pennsylvania drivers have learned to apply that brotherly love to fellow drivers on the roads.

#5 – U.S. Roads During the Stanley Cup Finals

As you can see in the last two points, we were able to find some game days that had decreases in fatal car crashes. But, hands down, our study proves that American roads are in fact deadlier during the Stanley Cup Finals. 

On average across the seven series in our case study, there was an alarming 7.3  percent increase in fatal crashes on NHL final game days.

This seemingly small percentage has severe ramifications. That 7.3 percent breaks down to over six more fatal traffic accidents every single game day. Remember, just one car crash often has many victims.

And, the problem isn’t isolated to game days. The entire championship series (including the day before, the off days between games, and the day after) had an overall 5.4 percent jump in car crashes resulting in deaths.

In just seven Stanley Cup Finals, spanning over only 104 days, there were 131,830 people killed in motor vehicle collisions in the United States.

#6 – The MOST Deadly Day During the Stanley Cup Finals

Our researchers detected many spikes in fatal crashes during this sports series since 2010, but one day, in particular, stood out from all the rest.

On Saturday, June 9, 2012, there were 141 fatal car crashes and many more lives lost on our nation’s public roadways—a 66.44 percent increase from the typical daily average that year.

This deadliest day of the Stanley Cup Finals to date (and hopefully forever) was game five of the matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils fought back earning victories in game four (3-1) and five (2-1) even after losing the first three games of the series. A championship win would have been the greatest comeback in 70 years of the NHL!

“We didn’t give up. We tried to come back, but it’s tough coming out of that hole.” – defenseman, Bryce Salvador

Regardless of what happened at the Prudential Center that night, the real devil of the matter is the countless loved ones America lost that fateful Saturday.

#7 – The LEAST Deadly Day During the Stanley Cup Finals

Out of all the days in the seven NHL championship series from 2010 to 2016 (including the days before and after the series and off days between games), there was one day that proved to be the safest for U.S. roads, and as we would guess, it wasn’t a game day. 

Tuesday, June 2nd, the day before the Stanley Cup Finals of 2015 began, there were the least fatal car crashes in the U.S. out of all the days in our seven-year, intricate study.

There were 62 traffic accidents that resulted in deaths that day across America. That’s 62 too many for sure, but it’s less than half of the number of crashes that occurred on the deadliest day (point #6).

This exceptional day for U.S. roads — and public safety — was a 29.65 percent decrease in fatal crashes compared to the national daily average for that year. If only the entire NHL playoff period could mean safer roads!

#8 – Fatal Crash Rates During the Stanley Cup Finals

Below are the seven-year averages (2010 to 2016) for the winning and losing teams’ home states during the NHL finals. These percent differences are compared to the involved states’ typical daily fatal crash average.

– Winning Team’s State:

  • Day Beforeup 24.3 percent
  • Game 1 – down 24.7 percent
  • Gap 1 – down 5.9 percent
  • Game 2 – up 43.1 percent
  • Gap 2up 1.7 percent
  • Game 3 – down 17.2 percent
  • Gap 3 – down 9.6 percent
  • Game 4up 31.8 percent
  • Gap 4 – down 28.5 percent
  • Game 5 – up 13 percent
  • Gap 5 – up 1.5 percent
  • Game 6 – down 14.5 percent
  • Gap 6 –  up 2.5 percent
  • Game 7 – up 2.5 percent
  • Day After – up 5.4 percent

– Losing Team’s State:

  • Day Beforeup 32.1 percent
  • Game 1 – down 4 percent
  • Gap 1 – down 4 percent
  • Game 2 – up 12.1 percent
  • Gap 2 – down 8 percent
  • Game 3up 8.1 percent
  • Gap 3 – down 16 percent
  • Game 4 – down 28 percent
  • Gap 4 – down 20 percent
  • Game 5 – up 20.1 percent
  • Gap 5 – down 19.3 percent
  • Game 6 – up 3.1 percent
  • Gap 6 – NA
  • Game 7 – NA
  • Day After – down 16 percent

Hint: Red = BAD!

*Gap 6 and Game 7 are unavailable for the losing team’s state because 2011 was the only year in our study that went to seven games, and that year the Vancouver Canucks lost the series. We do not have Canada’s fatal crash reports. See our methodology for more information.

The day before the series, game day two, and game day five all had increases in fatal traffic accidents in both the winning and losing teams’ home states over the seven years.

The most significant combined increase our study uncovered was game two’s shocking 55.2 percent jump in collisions resulting in people killed.

The crash data clearly demonstrates that the Stanley Cup Finals correlate with dramatic increases in fatal car crashes, especially for the states that are home to the champs. On average over the seven years, eight days in the playoff series had destructive increases in deadly crashes in the winning team’s state.

It seems winning in the final games of the NHL season often mean losing on the roads . . . a loss of the highest caliber.

#9 – Fatal Crash Trends During the Stanley Cup Finals

As you can see in the above video, something as simple and fun as a sports game can mean extreme destruction and danger for the surrounding areas.

When analyzing the 25,000 data points on fatal crashes during this hockey championship series, our researchers arrived at many distressing realizations about how these games affect our roads.

From 2010-2016, both the states home to the winning and losing teams experienced detrimental surges in statewide car crashes that killed people on over half of the Stanley Cup Final game days.

Many of these fatal car accidents have to do with the excessive drinking that goes on long before these games even begin.

Social psychologists at the University of Minnesota performed a study on alcohol consumption based on fans’ BAC levels while tailgating and attending NHL games.

“If you’re under 35, you’re nine times more likely to leave the game drunk. If you drink at your pregame tailgate, make it 14 times more likely.” – Wired

On the bright side, the day the Stanley Cup Finals are over has had a combined 21.4 percent decrease in fatal crashes over the seven years in our study.

#10 – Safety During the Stanley Cup Finals

No matter what, your safety on and off the ice is crucial, especially as you drive around during the NHL final games.

Here are 10 Driving Mistakes that cause most of the fatal crashes in our country:

  • Drinking and Driving – Don’t let celebratory drinks or drowning your woes put you and those around you in danger.
  • Exceeding the Speed Limit – Speeding to get the stadium or home after the game isn’t worth causing a deadly car accident.
  • Driving Distracted – Always keep your eyes on the road. And, don’t let emotions from the big game keep you from making safe choices behind the wheel.
  • Driving Tired – If a late game goes into overtime and you’re exhausted, simply hail an Uber, Lyft, or taxi!
  • Forgetting Seat Belts – Accidents happen to the best drivers in the world. Protect you and your loved ones with proper safety restraints.
  • Ignoring Bad Weather – Inclement driving conditions are common during the hockey finals. Take the proper precautions.
  • Driving too Close – You can’t predict what might happen on the road and how other drivers behave, so follow the three-second rule.
  • Tunnel Vision – You might be driving next to an angry fan, someone who had too much to drink, or just a bad driver in general. Stay aware of what’s going on around your vehicle.
  • Driving Aggressively – The body-slamming, plowing-through tactics you witness during the Stanley Cup have no place on our roads.  Remain calm in the many frustrating situations driving can throw your way such as heavy game-day traffic.
  • Lazy Ownership – Maintain your vehicle just like the players do their stick and skates. Routine check-ups will prevent your car from malfunctioning on the road causing an accident.

One mistake behind the wheel can cost many lives.

As the above Geico video illustrates, we all need to drive like a “real hero.”

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”  – NHL MVPWayne Gretzky

Take a shot at playing it safe on the roads. You just might save lives.

Our Play-by-Play

  • This article is a result of an in-depth study of seven years of NHTSA fatal crash reports.
  • Our team of analysts compiled nearly 25,000 data points of deadly accidents that occurred on the roads during the Stanley Cup finals from 2010 to 2016.
  • To allow for the study of the complete trend during those years, our intricate data includes the days just before and after the NHL finals, days off in between games, and all the game days.
  • The most deadly and least deadly game days were determined by comparing the fatal crash data for that exact day to the U.S. fatal crash annual average and that state’s fatal crash annual average.
  • When looking at the Stanley Cup finals over the course of seven years, percent differences were determined by averaging the fatal crash totals and comparing those to the U.S. and state annual crash averages for those years.

*From 2010-2016 the Canadian NHL team, the Vancouver Canucks, made it to the Stanley Cup Finals one time, which was in 2011 when they lost to the Boston Bruins. We do not have access to Canada’s fatal crash data, so this study and the averages calculated are only in regards to the roads in the United States.

Complete Rankings: Fatal Crashes During the Stanley Cup Finals

– To sort the table by category, click on header columns.

– Click here for the full stats and sources for each category. For all media inquiries, please email: Josh Barnes

Day After785.2083400.00%379.40%350.00%416.50%
Day Before785.2090471.40%379.40%550.00%416.50%
Entire Series785.2090371.40%364.30%407.90%420.30%
Game 1785.2086285.70%379.40%400.00%416.50%
Game 2785.20112542.90%379.40%466.70%416.50%
Game 3785.2081314.30%379.40%450.00%416.50%
Game 4785.2079500.00%379.40%300.00%416.50%
Game 5785.20108428.60%379.40%500.00%416.50%
Game 6685.2084266.70%312.00%460.00%446.00%
Game 7185.2070100.00%97.50%Data Not AvailableData Not Available
Gap 1785.2088357.10%379.40%400.00%416.50%
Gap 2785.20103385.70%379.40%383.30%416.50%
Gap 3785.2075342.90%379.40%350.00%416.50%
Gap 4785.2090271.40%379.40%333.30%416.50%
Gap 5685.20102316.70%312.00%360.00%446.00%
Gap 6185.2064100.00%97.50%Data Not AvailableData Not Available