Elias Pettersson has hit a lot of posts this season.
According to the NHL, Pettersson has hit a combined eight posts and crossbars this season, which leads the league. That doesn’t count any posts he hit that went off the goaltender first, as those count as saves, and it of course doesn’t include any shots that went off the post and in for a goal.
A goalpost makes a musical sound when a puck hits it — a distinct “ping” that either fills a goaltender with delight or dread. It’s a sound that is unlike any other in sports.
But what musical sound does it actually make? What is the pitch or frequency of a goal post?
Pitch is a sound’s quality caused by the rate — or frequency — of vibrations causing the sound. A sound with a high rate of vibrations causes a higher-pitched sound, while something with a low rate of vibrations causes a lower-pitched sound.
In western music, certain frequencies have been given names in a scale of 12 semitones from A to G#. While there are all sorts of microtones between each musical note in this scale, these are the musical notes that western listeners would be used to hearing in everything from classical music to modern pop.
So, what musical note gets played when Pettersson pings a post?
Here is Sportsnet’s “Pettersson post pack,” featuring all of Pettersson’s pings from this season.
If you listen carefully, you may note that they all seem to play at around the same pitch, even if some are a little more dull sounding, perhaps because the puck didn’t hit the post squarely or just grazed the post instead of making a solid impact.
I took the audio into Logic Pro to get a better read on the frequencies of each of these post hits. All of Pettersson’s post pings all seem to ring at a frequency of approximately 3000 Hz, which is very close to a high F#, aka. Gb.
On some post hits, however, there also appears to be a tone at around 1000 Hz, which is in between a B and a C. Occasionally, we get a frequency around 1420, which is right in between an F or F#, but an octave lower than the one we normally get. It still has the overtone at around 3000 Hz, so there is some consistency.
It’s not just Pettersson’s posts. If you listen to Adam Gaudette’s goal against the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, the post he hits rings at the same F# frequency as Pettersson’s shots.
That makes sense, of course. The shape and resonance of the goalpost doesn’t change, so it shouldn’t matter what hits it — it will vibrate at the same frequency and create the same pitch.
What’s really interesting is that goalposts used to ring at a lower frequency.
Cody Hodgson’s bardown goal in “Game 8” against the Boston Bruins back in 2012 makes a very different tone than Pettersson’s posts from this season. It strikes the bar and resonates at around 2220 Hz, which is almost exactly C#, but over an octave lower than Pettersson’s F# posts. It’s a much lower pitch.
If you listen to other posts from the same season, they sound much like Hodgson’s, a much lower frequency than posts from this current season.
That means, at some point in the last decade, something about the NHL’s goalposts changed that caused them to vibrate at a higher frequency, producing a higher-pitched “ping” sound.
Perhaps it was in 2013, when not only did the NHL make the back of the nets shallower, they changed the upper corners of the goalposts. Where they were previously more rounded, the new corners were much more square. Does that change explain the change in pitch?
Whatever the cause, modern NHL goalposts make a higher-pitched sound when they’re hit by a puck. Make of this what you will.
What I made of this was a sick beat.