Performance Under Pressure: Preliminary Evidence from the National Hockey League, pp. 213-231

Craig A. Depken
Robert J. Sonora
Dennis P. Wilson

Emotions can have important effects on performance and economic outcomes. This study examines the behavior of professional athletes involved in a dynamic competition in their own natural environment. We empirically analyze overtime shootouts in the National Hockey League in the context of performance under psychological pressure as initially outlined and tested by Apesteguia and Palacios-Huerta (2010) in international soccer. We find no team-level advantage in NHL shootouts for either the first shooting, second shooting, or home team, suggesting that the influence of pressure is not consistent across the two sports of hockey and soccer. However, shot level analysis indicates that on average there is an advantage to shooting second, or equivalently, a disadvantage to being the second goalkeeper. Because there is a much greater natural advantage to the goalkeeper in a hockey shootout than in a soccer shootout, the preliminary results suggest that goalkeepers might perform slightly worse under pressure.