High-stick? Scientific Analysis of Nate Thompson’s “Goal”


The Flames let a 4-1 lead slip away last night which ultimately resulted in an overtime loss and left their season in serious jeopardy. Reactions around the league are all over the spectrum: most Flames fans are screaming over a questionable goal that was under review for a high-stick, most Oilers fans are telling them to quit whining about it, and most Ducks fans are going about their Tuesday as usual (nobody in Anaheim cares about hockey. It’s a shame). 

Flames fans may have a point. At the time of that crucial Nate Thompson goal, it was approximately 12:30 AM EDT, meaning the crew at the NHL review center headquarters were literally burning the midnight oil. This article published by Forbes shows irrefutably that staying up too late kills brain cells, reduces productivity and focus, and can lead to Alzheimers and dementia. Perhaps, the high participation of west coast teams in the playoffs over the last few years has resulted in the death of a few too many brain cells. Memory loss doesn’t seem to be an issue though, because clearly nobody is forgetting this play.

While we join the group of fans who vehemently disagree with the NHL’s decision to uphold that iffy Thompson goal, it’s important to realize that jumping to the conclusion that the review guy in Toronto is to blame for the Flames’ season going up in smoke (lol) is a bit preemptive. Therefore, The Win Column team put together two detailed scientific analyses on that particular play in order to determine exactly what happened and prove which way the call should have gone.

Analysis 1

The first analysis begins with determining Thompson’s height when wearing skates. From the Anaheim Ducks website, his height is listed at 6’0”. From the figure below, and using proportional distances, it can be shown that Thompson’s total height, hT, is the sum of his actual height, hN, and the height of his skates, hS.

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 10.09.34 AM.pngWith proportional distances:

hN = 17.3
hS = 0.72

Translating to real heights:

hN = 6’0”
hS = 3.0”

To keep a conservative estimation, hS will be taken as 2”. This gives a total height for Thompson as:

hT = 6’2”

Next, we must determine the height at which the puck makes contact with Thompson’s stick before deflecting into the Calgary net. The following 4 images were used in this determination, all taken from the official review video found on the league website.

It is a bit difficult to decipher exactly where the puck is while it’s flying through the air in several camera angles. Fortunately, we have the benefit of looking at Mikael Backlund‘s flailing right arm, and have synced all 4 images to this striking pose which coincides with Thompson making contact with the puck.

Using anthropometric data, Thompson’s height on skates matched that of a 95th percentile male based on several standard dimensions.

To keep his stick under the 48″ crossbar height, Thompson’s shoulders must drop 13.5″ from his shoulder height of 61.5″(C=156.4 cm). Via the Pythagorean Theorem, it can be concluded that his height drops by approximately 2″ from bending his legs, assuming his feet are 24″ apart.

Height lost from legs.jpeg

For Thompson’s stick to be at crossbar level, he must lower his height by 11.5″ from bending his back. An angular measurement shows that his back must be at an angle of 55˚ to achieve this reduction. However, from analyzing his position at the moment he makes contact with the puck, his back angle is at only 30.2˚.

Therefore, Thompson’s stick at the point of contact is approximately 9″ above the crossbar.

Analysis 2

Based on the combination of images, it can be safely assumed that Thompson’s stick is along the same vertical plane as his right skate. As this is the point of his body closest to the net, this provides a conservative estimation. By the laws of physics (yes, all of them), the net’s profile will shrink in all directions as the distance from the camera increases. This shrinkage was ignored to keep with a conservative estimation (mainly because we have final exams coming up), and it was assumed that the 48″ net height was consistent across the entire y-axis of the rink. By projecting the net profile to the plane where Thompson contacts the puck, we can determine whether there was a high-stick on the play by looking at his stick relative to the projected net profile. If his stick is inside or level with the profile, then there was no high-stick on the play, confirming the NHL’s decision.

WhatsApp Image 2017-04-18 at 12.41.57 PM.jpeg

Thompson’s stick clearly makes contact with the puck outside the projected net profile, thereby proving that there was a high-sticking infraction on the play. The NHL’s decision was incorrect and the goal should not have counted.


Well, there you have it, Flames fans. You were right. The Flames were once again robbed of a playoff win via video review, and will fight to stay alive tomorrow night in Game 4. Our fingers are crossed for a better outcome, but if the Ducks manage to win again, we can all find comfort in the fact that Dennis Wideman will finally be off the books.

39 thoughts on “High-stick? Scientific Analysis of Nate Thompson’s “Goal”

  1. Call on the play was a good goal. Insufficient evidence to overturn the call. Open and shut case, even by a casual fan. Rest of Canada to Calgary fans: “stop whining. Grow up its embarrassing.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was pretty damn high. Im not a flames fan, but being a casual fan you wouldnt actually know how that hurts when its questionable like that, so keep quiet filthy casual.


    2. I get what you’re saying, and I would have respected that answer the league. But that’s not what they said. They concluded it was a good goal, not that it was inconclusive. They can’t complete all of the calculations done above, so I would have been satisfied with inconclusive instead of concluding that the goal was good


  2. ‘Robbed a playoff win’. Lol that goal wasn’t the game winner, or even the game tying goal. The Flames reacted to a bit of adversity by completely folding.


  3. This made me laugh. Possibly a good chunk of it is true, maybe even all of it, but it’s comical how wrapped up in the goal you Flames fans are. It’s a good goal now, nothing you can do about it but drown your tears in beer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a difference between whining and blatantly terrible reffing. Whether they are doing it on purpose or just plain incompetent I don’t know. Every game in the playoffs thus far the refs have blatantly impacted the game. Flames take a 3 goal lead and the refs stop calling penalties, 5 or 6 blatant hooks and interference calls and nothing. Johnny gets a breakaway a game, hooked 100% of the time and he has yet to receive a penalty shot.

      Ducks hook and slash Dougie, blatant infractions, Dougie on his heels from blatant interference grabs on to a stick and is immediately penalized.

      See how your fanbase does when the refs impact the outcome of nearly every game. We went from least penalized to most penalized team in the league, never get penalty shots so go ahead and hook when a Flame gets a breakaway pass. Easy to throw stones when the refs aren’t impacting every game for you.

      Explain how the Flames lose nearly 100% of video reviews, our best player was slashed 20 times in one game, got a broken finger and not a single whistle to be seen. 20+ blatant infractions a night are not called so go ahead and cheat against the Flames, the refs don’t seem to care. Fun game.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope you understand That the “Bad calls” have been on both side and you have to deal with remember it was one of your players that intentionally injured Cam Fowler and nothing happened to him you also had NO PKs in game 3 and had numerous Power plays. In the end it’s doesn’t Down to one play the Ducks over came three goal deficit besides the flames can’t win in Anaheim any way


      2. You realize the Ducks were the ones being screwed by the refs right? How many power plays did the Flames have compared to the Ducks zero power plays?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. As a flames fan I am embarrassed. This was a waste of time to even post this trash. Blame the team! The goal was good and just for the fact that the Flames cheated by not giving Corey Perry back his stick. As a Flames fan I am embarrassed….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re an idiot and embarrassment to being a Flames fan. First it was a high stick. I didnt need a science lesson to know that. Next, once the stick is out of play Perry needs to go get one from his bench. They don’t need to do anything to give it back….and punching players on our bench is a penalty.

        To the guy who thinks Gio intentionally hurt Fowler, youre wrong. He is not that player. Never has been.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Lol Someone has way to much time on their hands to put this analogy together. As if the league is going to go through this process. Regardless of what the final call was, one team would be unhappy.

    This isn’t the reason the Flames are down 3–0 in the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Next time don’t blow a 3 goal lead. Everyone knows Cal isn’t used to winning but in the playoffs teams will never stop coming. This goal should of been a burner and you still would of had the lead. The real problem was the team stopped playing once it had a 3 goal lead. And Elliot gave up a SOFT 2nd goal. Cool analysis but the hurt looks 100x with pages like these.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you to the students who put this together so quick = great job and it’s going around by all of my Flames Fan friends. It does not matter about the series or the game, this is an analysis on one call. Focus on this, as we all do as fans on every single call on each play. We all do it, no matter who your home team is. Stop calling out commenters on this post who have legit opinions on the work done to see the physics of this play.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your conclusion is right on the money, and the methodology, solid; the post was fun to read. With that being said, whether or not that one goal made or broke the Flames is open for discussion. I myself am curious to see how tonight’s game turns out, and if things go pear-shaped, then, as they say, “there’s always next year”.


    1. Made a mistake in my comment, bloody shame I can’t edit following submission:

      With that being said, whether or not that one goal made or broke the Flames is open for discussion.

      should really read as:

      With that being said, whether or not a single review can make or break the Flames’ entire run is open for discussion.


  8. Well, that is a good explanation if your reference points are accurate. Better question might be what happened on the other three goals? Sometimes the bounces go your way, sometimes they don’t. Whining never changes things. Move on and get ready for game 4.


  9. Gee! The Flames were just playing the Ref’s & The Ducks.. an it was Frecking Highsticking, Come On Guys….. Play Hard an Follow Through.. I’m a pre upset fan here .


  10. Janet, The “refs and the Ducks”? Explain the Flames 5-0 PP advantage. The refs also had nothing to do with the high stick goal call. That was Toronto, not the on ice officials. The other three goals happened too. All the Ducks goals were 5 on 5….no help from the officials there either. Flames flat out blew a comfortable lead. No excuses, they just blew it. Game 4 starts soon.


  11. Not a hockey fan, but someone who has a fairly deep knowledge of geometry (video game developer). There where a few issues with this analysis, but perhaps the greatest is that it ignores the fact that these images are taken from a near 45 degree top-down angle.

    First part:
    The angle of the back is measured directly from the image. This is very wrong. The height of the camera would narrow the apparent angle towards the y-axis. The positioning of the camera slightly behind the player, as opposed to directly to the right, would have narrowed this angle as well.

    I can forgive readers for missing this, it a lot of numbers are given and the arguments are fairly convincing.

    Second part:
    I cannot forgive readers for missing it here. The plane projections of the net do appear legit. The problem is that the only criteria used is that the stick appears above the top of the plane from THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE CAMERA. This would only be accurate if the camera were at the exact same height as the top of the net, but it is clearly significantly higher. The skate of the man next to him appears to be above the top of the plane, but that is just perspective.

    Here’s the thing: I don’t have any stake in this game. I’m only here because a friend posted a link on Facebook. I am also not saying that the stick wasn’t too high. All I’m saying is that this article is far from proof either way.


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