Parity in the 4 Major Sports (NHL, NFL, MLB and NBA)

Since the lockout in the 2004-05 NHL Season and the implementation of the salary cap, I keep hearing that there is a lot of parity in the NHL. I always agreed with this statement and we don't have to look very far to find some good examples. The Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs were the last three teams in the Eastern Conference in the 2011-12 season and all three made the playoffs this year.

However, as I was watching the Conference Finals last week, I realized that the four teams playing were the last four Stanley Cup Champions: Pittsburgh Penguins (2009), Chicago Blackhawks (2010), Boston Bruins (2011) and Los Angeles Kings (2012). This led me to think, is there really that much parity in the NHL and how does it compare to the NFL, MLB and NBA?

There are a number of ways to look at parity but I chose two:

1. Parity in the regular season

In order to do this I looked at the regular season standings in these four leagues from the past 8 seasons. I ranked teams from 1 through 30 (1 through 32 for the NFL) to be able to compare all four sports equally without having to consider the number of games in each league. I then did a regression to see the correlation between a team's ranking in two consecutive seasons. Here are the results:
NFL - 0.08
MLB - 0.20
NHL - 0.24
NBA - 0.41

What this means is that from year to year in the standings we will see the least change in the NBA and the most change in the NFL. The most surprising to me was to see that there is more parity in the regular season in the MLB than in the NHL. For a league without a salary cap and a 162 games season, one would think the best (and richest) teams would always find their way to the top but that's not the case.

The NBA and NFL aren't much of a surprise since we all know that the same teams always finish near the top in the NBA and that the NFL has the most parity. Part of the season for that is the NFL only has 16 games and a single injury can take a team from Super Bowl Contender to last in the league (2011 Colts).

2. Parity in the playoffs

Since every league has a different number of teams that make the playoffs and the number of different teams that win isn't necessarily representative, I decided to look at the number of times each time made it to the Conference Finals in each league, here are the results:

Once again the NBA has the least parity but the other three leagues are pretty equal and have some good parity. I have to admit I was surprised that no team in any of the four major sports has made it to the conference finals more than four times in the past eight seasons.

If we combine all this data, it looks like it was just a coincidence that the last four teams remaining this season were the last four Stanley Cup Champions. There is a lot of parity in the NHL but no more than in the MLB or the NFL.

Enjoy the Stanley Cup Finals and for the Bruins and Blackhawks fans, we have some Boston Bruins Jerseys and Chicago Blackhawks Jerseys left in most sizes. We're also still offering 5% off any of our NHL Jerseys if you "Like" the Sports Jerseys Canada Facebook Page.