NHL’s Enhanced Stats Released

2015 Coors Light Stadium Series - Los Angeles Kings v San Jose SharksThe NHL unveiled the first phase of their four-phase “statistical initiative”. As of today, there are now “enhanced stats” available on NHL.com that goes back to the 2010-2011 season.

This is the NHL’s first official foray into the world of hockey analytics. The field has been established and developed predominantly by hockey fans, who have used blogs for close to a decade to develop new ideas and knowledge pertaining to the game of hockey. Hockey analytics has been built within a commons-based peer production environment, which relies on the contributions of many without an overbearing hierarchical structure. Ideas about the game, how it’s played, and where the correlations are within traditional and advanced statistics are built within a large, highly collaborative network; a complete shift away from the traditional model of information production/consumption. Remaining as an ad hoc meritocracy, open to everyone and building off the ideas of one another have been key trademarks of hockey analytics, and continues to serve as a foundation for the field. Fans have relied on simple analytics tools and social media applications to develop new information and share knowledge across a collaborative network.

The league’s challenge now will be to find the right balance as a participant in the analytics world. They can be the official source of data, but they can’t overstep their boundaries and impose any sort of gate keeping in analytics. The flow of information and knowledge derived from the data cannot be disrupted in any way by the league.

The first thing they’ll need to do is improve their “enhanced stats”. The functionality of their website is nowhere near the quality of War on Ice and lacks some of the basic metrics. David Johnson has an excellent recap of where the limitations are of the “enhanced stats” and provides a few recommendations. Here’s hoping the NHL is planning to release additional data or are at least reaching out to the hockey analytics community for feedback. Everyone can benefit from having the NHL as a key source of information, so it’s in the NHL’s best interest to do what’s best for the entire fan community.

It would also be in the NHL’s best interest to partner with existing third-party websites like War on Ice and Behind the Net as well as mobile app developers. This could involve providing them with raw data sets and letting them decide how the data is presented, aggregated and visualized for fans. At the end of the day, fans are spending countless hours on third party websites looking at and thinking about hockey information.

It’s understandable that the NHL has renamed Corsi and Fenwick stats to “Shot Attempts” (SAT) and “Unblocked Shot Attempts” (USAT) respectively. The NHL is obviously trying to make the name of the stats easy to understand and self-explanatory so that it could appeal to more people. The problem is, there are thousands and thousands of articles written that use the traditional name of the stats. So if someone is just learning about the stats now, they’ll likely be diving in to the past content produced, forcing them to refer to SAT and USAT as Corsi and Fenwick. The NHL is trying to be a gate keeper here, but their attempts at changing names are pretty futile.

Lastly, the NHL has got to release its own version of CapGeek that provides player salary information. There is without a doubt that fans valued CapGeek as a source of information, which feeds discussion and new content (i.e., articles) on trades, free agency and team salary cap issues. Similar to advanced stat websites, CapGeek had fans spending hours a week looking at and thinking about hockey information. It was surprising to hear that the commissioner of the NHL wasn’t sure if fans cared about salary information, but I’m convinced there’s resistance from the NHLPA and player agents. Regardless, the NHL has to provide this information to fans, or watch as another third party becomes the source.

The field of hockey analytics has evolved and grown thanks in large part to the contributions of many. The rules and norms established by this collaborative network have been key to the growth of hockey analytics and need to be recognized by the NHL if they want to play a role. As encouraging as it is to see the NHL provide some of the advanced stats, it would be in their best interest to emulate some of the key characteristics of a “produsage” or commons-based peer production environment.

Past Articles

NHL Needs to Provide More Data (June 29, 2011)

Importance of Hockey Analytics II (May 5, 2014)

Keeping the NHL Data Open (August 15, 2014)

NHL to Provide Advanced Stats (February 5, 2014)

Hockey Scouting in the Modern Age: An Interview with Victor Carneiro of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Hockey in Society / Hockey dans la société

hockeyscoutingWith the development of communication technology such as the web, social media and mobile technology, information pertaining to hockey has increased both in size and importance. The NHL, their broadcasters and media outlets are producing an astounding amount of content delivered on an array of platforms. Fans continue to demand information, and have played a key role in the development of new hockey related content. And of course, hockey teams are also acquiring as much information as they can for managerial decisions and to improve on-ice performance.

Not only has the amount of and demand for information increased, but many more channels between all stakeholders to share and develop information have opened as well. Teams however, are understandably restricted as to how much they can publicly disclose, mindful of the competitive nature of their business. Scouting in particular, which is relied upon to draft and acquire players has evolved in…

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Expanding the Scope: Insight from Gabriel Desjardins of Behind the Net

fehr-behind-netIt’s been great to see hockey analytics grow this year, but it’s still perplexing that more people aren’t looking past it and asking tougher questions about it’s relationship with other concepts and fields of research. The numbers and metrics are a part of a continuous discussion, which has intensified with more and more people joining in the discourse. For instance, possession stats have gained prominence, and that’s lead to more questions about the game. Projects tracking zone entry stats and puck retrieval stats will uncover new information, which will likely spawn off more questions. That’s the thing about analytics in any field…there is no finished product.

So if we look past the actual stats and the ensuing discussion, there’s still a lot to be understood about how exactly hockey analytics has impacted the different facets of the game (management, scouting, players, etc) as well as it’s relationship other fields such as information technology, business and society in general.

Behind the Net was one of the first websites that collected advanced stats, with its owner Gabriel Desjardins leading a lot of the online discussion in the early days. He sent out a series of tweets last week that gave some insight into hockey analytics, but also touched on some topics that have yet to be fully explored.

As we approach the trough of disillusionment for hockey analytics, here are a few helpful thoughts…

#1) Hockey insiders have been using “analytics” for decades. +/-, Sinden/Corsi shot/pass/touch counting, video aggregation. These stats had the imprimatur of cigar-chomping insiders, so nobody dug too deeply or cared too much

#2) One day, members of the general public found out what insiders had been doing and slowly worked through the value of this data. Somehow people popularizing the league’s internal metrics became outsiders as far as fans/media were concerned. It’s a classic obtuse battle of ideas. e.g. Obamacare was conservative for Romney but socialist for Obama. It took “analytics” predicting an unavoidable Leafs collapse to push people to the “Peak of Inflated Expectations”. It’s amazing – people promoted ideas the NHL used for decades w/o press caring but these ideas then needed to be proven publicly

#3) Now that analytics have been re-proven externally, teams have been getting PR boosts by announcing various hires but teams were already using analytics. So there’s no new benefit. Except I suppose people will expect the Leafs to benefit, hence the trough of disillusionment.

#4) Now here’s the missing piece: teams need to know how to interpret these stats and correctly use them to drive decisions. It’s statistical parallel to @Lowetide_‘s “saw him good” principle. Teams don’t understand regression will cut guy based on 3 games. Teams need to take long view to get analytics benefit and incentives don’t align. Today’s best GMs still only have 14-day outlook

#6) May see benefit for poorly-run teams [TOR, EDM] but the inflated expectations are that “stats guys” will take them on a 2015 playoff run. Unless @mc79hockey is making $1M a year, we need to seriously temper expectations

#7) There’s very little low-hanging fruit in analytics and most of it has been harvested in hockey. There’s no Matt Stairs or Roberto Petagine waiting to be freed. Helps that the KHL will put a pile of cash in your suitcase at the end of every game. Nobody needs to toil in the A for $75k/year

#8) The thing that initially annoyed me was Pierre Mcguire’s comments to @wyshynski about firing coaches for using analytics. But teams already sign and play guys because “Coach knew him in junior” or much worse.

Diffusion of Hockey Analytics

Hockey in Society / Hockey dans la société

Applying Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation theory to understand the adoption of hockey analytics

As fans, we all watch, follow and engage with the game very differently. Hockey analytics really is a supplement to our experience with the game, much like gambling, fantasy league and video games. What a person pays attention to during a game depends on their own experience, including their biases and preferences.

Aside from the information it’s creating and the impact it’s having on the game, hockey analytics is first and foremost a method of engagement with the game. Fans are far more than passive consumers and have used the communication technology available to fully immerse themselves in an active, participatory culture.

Having said that, hockey analytics is an innovative way to understand the game as fans try to detect some sort of meaningful patterns. Again, it’s not for everyone, but the fact is analytics, especially the…

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Beyond the Stats: An Interview with Extra Skater’s Darryl Metcalf

Hockey in Society / Hockey dans la société

Chicago Blackhawks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Four Los Angeles Kings

The popularity of hockey analytics continues to grow as fans, teams and the NHL embrace new methods of measuring team and player performance. The uptake of analytics is dependent on the individual doing the analysis, as each person has different opinions and biases regarding what impacts a game result and what doesn’t. As a result, a number of websites have emerged providing various levels of data and analysis, putting the onus on the end user to interpret it as they please.

It’s important to note that fans in particular have lead the charge when it comes to developing and discussing new ideas regarding the game. The online environment has been critical for the growth of hockey analytics as fans connect online, publish ideas and develop the knowledge that surrounds the game. In recent years, a number of data visualization tools such as Super Shot Search and Shift…

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Importance of Hockey Analytics II

Source: Zimbio

Source: Zimbio

Originally posted at Hockey in Society.

It’s been remarkable to see how quickly the field has developed over the past few years. The amount of new information being derived from hockey analytics has grown and continues to be discussed across a large and diverse online community. And while the focus has rightfully been on the hockey data and extracting meaningful patterns, it’s important to assess some of the foundational concepts that have supported the development and growing popularity of hockey analytics.

Analytics in any industry is a continuous process. Regardless of what patterns are found, new questions will arise to continue advancing the discussion initiated by analytics. Hockey analytics is no different as it really is a never ending process to uncover, share and build upon new information. Because it pertains to professional hockey, there is new data available almost every day and involves analysis from anyone that’s interested in the topic. The game itself, including the off-ice business (i.e., trades, free agency, draft) is highly chaotic and at times unpredictable.

Related: Importance of Hockey Analytics – Hockey in Society (2012, June 11)

What makes hockey analytics, or any sports analytics unique, is that it’s being done in an open environment that allows for anyone with basic analytic and communication technology tools to join the discussion. Using blogs and Twitter, participants have created a very collaborative environment that supports discussion and the continuous extension of ideas and information.

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Deconstructing the Jersey Toss

"The medium is the message." (1964)

“The medium is the message.” (1964)

Originally posted at Hockey in Society.

The jersey of any sports team, professional or not, holds a history, a story, and many different meanings. The message that resonates with any sports jersey is different depending on who is involved in the communication process. To some, the jersey simply designates who plays on what team. For others, a jersey holds significant, personal meaning which can be immersed in a narrative to build and share.

During two embarrassing losses on home ice this past season, two Edmonton Oilers jerseys were tossed by fans on to the ice. Both were acts of frustration and disapproval towards the club and their miserable performance. Many understood why the fans threw the jersey, while others, including Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens, questioned why the jersey was used as the medium to send a message.

“I’m from (Edmonton). You’re not just disrespecting guys in the room you’re disrespecting guys who wore the jersey before us … Messier, Gretzky, they all take pride in wearing that jersey. You’re a fan, you get to say and do whatever you want, call me whatever name you want, but when it comes to that logo, that’s a sacred thing for us. It’s disheartening for me to see our fans treat it that way.” (Canoe.ca)

The crumpled jersey on the ice for all to see was significant because it was an extreme response to a poor performance. It brought to light the narratives, history and meaning we each have as fans of the team. And, aside from the disrespect to the past players as Scrivens pointed out, the toss of the jersey also challenged and disrupted the traditional communication channels sports fans have established with their team. Continue reading

Fan Involvement in a Sports Team’s Decision Making

Hockey in Society / Hockey dans la société

 By Sunil Agnihotri

Professional sports team owners and management strive to draw and retain fans by assembling a quality product in order to sell tickets and merchandise. There are numerous factors that influence how well a professional sports team draws fans: on-ice success, local economy, local sports market, demographics, to name a few. It’s crucial for teams, regardless of the external factors, to connect with fans and give them a reason to continue watching and attending events.

With the development of technology, including the rapid ascension of new interactive platforms and tools, the demand of the fans have evolved. This in turn has put the onus on sports team and leagues to adapt and accommodate to their relationship with fans. One recent study (Hyatt, C., et al, 2013) examined this new breed of fans and provided recommendations on how professional sports teams can implement new ways of drawing…

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Edmonton’s November Project – Building Community Through Fitness

Hockey in Society / Hockey dans la société

By Sunil Agnihotri

A few weeks ago, I saw an interesting tweet from Andrew Ference, the newest member of the Edmonton Oilers.




November Project

If you’re not familiar with the November Project, it’s  a year-round, outdoor group fitness class for anyone and everyone to join for free. It was started by a small group of people in Boston who were looking to get into shape without having to splurge on expensive equipment and memberships. Pretty quickly, using social media to announce locations, their sessions grew, with some workouts involving over 300 people. Today, the November Project has been established in Madison, WI and San Francisco. It really is a grassroots movement that emphasizes community and fitness.

One member of…

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