Had the chance to meet up with a group of people interested in hockey analytics this past Saturday in downtown Edmonton. The event was hosted by Rob Vollman, author of The Hockey Abstract, and featured presentations covering the different sides of hockey analytics.
Here’s a quick recap of what we covered.
Sean Solbak of Frozen Pools talked about hockey analytics in the realm of fantasy league. Sean gave some insight into the algorithms used to predict points based on things like ice-time, shots, passes, possession and shooting percentage. Of course, capturing luck is always a challenge, but there’s definitely value in the models used by Sean to predict performance.
Next, Justin Azevedo of FlamesNation gave a presentation on possession stats like Corsi and some of the work he has done this past season tracking the Flames. Justin shared some of the patterns he found in the data he collected manually and also provided some insight into applying those findings to actual game situations.
Following the lunch break, Rob Kerr of Sportsnet 960 radio in Calgary gave some insight into analytics from the perspective of broadcast media. Rob gave some examples of analytics from the late 1990’s such as Dave King’s teachings and emphasized the importance of the field to everyone involved in the game. He also pointed out that a lot of what broadcast media presents in-game depends on the revenue it can generate.
Greg Sinclair, the man behind the Super Shot Search application, gave a demo of his work and the accuracy of his findings. A number of fans still track shot locations manually when Greg’s work is readily available for anyone interested. Greg does a great job providing visual data, which is going to be critical for this field to grow.
I then gave a presentation on where the field could potentially go and the type of online ecosystem/environment is needed for its sustainability. My main objective was to point out that partnerships with schools and post secondary institutions would be key.
Dan Haight of Darkhorse Analytics then gave some insight into analytics from the perspective of NHL clubs. Dan has been working with the Edmonton Oilers over the past few years and talked about the adoption of analytics by managers. I thought his presentation on the different roles people play in an organization was great and could apply to pretty much any industry. Analytics really is in its infancy, and as Dan highlighted, analytic projects have a high tendency to fail, making the adoption of it a challenge.
We had some great discussion throughout the day. People like Ryan Batty of The Copper and Blue, Bruce McCurdy of The Cult of Hockey, Darcy McLeod (@Woodguy55) and Sapp MacIntosh (@MacSapintosh) attended and shared their insight and experience.
This conference really showcased some of the talent we have in Alberta when it comes to analytics. I’ve long suspected that hockey fans in Alberta, especially, have been important catalysts for hockey analytics and hope to see continued development. It was important to connect with people from the online community and share ideas to develop the field. This event could potentially be a spring board for new ideas among the community, and possibly a larger event in the near future.
Special thanks to Rob Vollman for organizing the event and inviting me to present. He was kind enough to do an interview with Hockey in Society last year to discuss his book. And thanks to Sean Solbak for arranging the meeting space at Startup Edmonton.
So that was fun. Next year's conference will be bigger. Maybe another one in September and it won't be top secret!—
Greg Sinclair (@theninjagreg) May 24, 2014
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