The First 10 Games

With training camp completed and the regular season set to begin, there remains questions about the roster and how competitive they will be in 2015/2016. Depending on your tolerance and distribution of risks, you could make a case that goaltending and defence are the teams biggest weaknesses. There’s plenty of inexperience at both of those positions, with defence especially lacking NHL calibre depth.

It’s been made obvious by GM Peter Chiarelli that they’ll be assessing the roster regularly, with the phrase “10 game segment” being uttered again today. There are plenty of question marks around the roster with players such as Justin Schultz, Griffin Reinhart and Anton Slepyshev needing to prove themselves at the NHL level. It’s my hope that this team remain competitive past December, and that management makes roster adjustments as needed.

I put together some high-level metrics using the past performance of the Oilers division rivals to establish some reasonable goals for the first month. What we know from extensive research is that teams that have the puck more often, that outscore their opponents and that get average goaltending tend to remain competitive. It’s not a guarantee that you’ll win the cup, but there’s a good chance you can make the playoffs if you have a few of these boxes checked.

Full article is at The Copper & Blue.

Running the Edmonton Marathon

City of Edmonton

City of Edmonton

Completed the Edmonton Marathon on August 24, 2014. Easily the hardest thing I’ve gone through physically. Did not realize how much it takes out of you and the recovery needed afterwards.

I’ve been running consistently for a year. I aim for 10-20 km a week (a few times a week, somewhere between five and ten kilometers per run). I can pretty easily run up to 15 km at a 5:30 min/km pace without any issues. Early hours work best with two young ones at home.

Leading up to the marathon, the most I’d ever ran was a half-marathon about seven years ago. In hindsight, I was extremely unprepared back then but I finished the 21km trek in just over two hours. I remember being absolutely spent after that run, so I trained enough this time to avoid getting burnt out.

Along with running over the past year, I spent one morning a week at the local track merging in sprints, jogs and body weight exercises. Just picked up a couple tips online that really helped build up the legs and core. Had ACL surgery in 2006, so I had to make sure the knee and supporting muscles were feeling fine.

Going into the race, I figured a pace closer to 6 min/km get me to the finish line. Objective was to finish but to maintain a good, reasonable, pace. Doing the math, it would take me around 4:12 to finish, but I also padded it and decided that a 4:20 to 4:30 would be reasonable.

The course started in downtown, went east towards Rundle Park, then back to downtown and then looped to the west end, and then finished in downtown. A very flat course, with no hills. Caught myself a few times looking out into the river valley. Click here for a map of the route: Edmonton_Marathon_2014.

I followed along with the 4:15 pace setter to start and see how things feel. The fellow keeping the pace was very social and passed on some great advice along the way. I stuck with them for the first 29 km very comfortably and was very relieved that I made it that far without any physical issues. Unfortunately, I had to take a bathroom break and never caught up to the group after that. Right around the 33 km mark was when the discomfort kicked in, making the rest of the run extremely tough. Thankfully, I pushed through, made it to the finish line in 4:32 and felt fine, all things considered.

Quick breakdown of my run, courtesy of Sports Stats:

10 21.1 35 42.2
0:59:49 2:06:16 3:37:40 4:32:50
5:59 5:59 6:13 6:28

Average finish time was 4:06:51. Total of 542 participants.

Legs and back were pretty stiff after the run. Soreness stuck around for about 4 days. Took two weeks off from any physical exercise to fully recover, which I’m glad I did. Muscles felt very shaky for days, so I decided I didn’t want to risk any serious injury. Also felt pretty nauseous for a day, but some sleep and a good diet took care of that.

Thought the event and route were well planned. Really can’t say enough about the volunteers. From handling the race kit pick-ups, to the water stations, to the signs along the way, the volunteers really made the event a success.

Congrats to Arturs Bareikis for winning the Marathon. He completed the route in 2:27:46 with an average pace of 3:31 min/km. Just ridiculous. You can track his journey to the Olympics on his blog.

Related Links:

McGrath runs personal-best in Edmonton Marathon, but still finishes second – Edmonton Journal

Reporter on the Run (Series) – Otiena Ellwand of the Edmonton Journal

Edmonton man runs five marathons for his aunt – Edmonton Journal

Runners, organizers welcome Edmonton marathon downtown route change – Metro News

Alberta Hockey Analytics Conference

Source: Ice Nation UK

Source: Ice Nation UK

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.

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Questions following the Public Lecture on Hockey Analytics

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

In case you missed it, the Communications and Technology program at the University of Alberta recently hosted a public lecture on hockey analytics. I really enjoyed speaking at the event as I got to connect my research as a student of the program with some of the real-life work bloggers are doing online.

I can’t say enough about Michael Parkatti, who put together a solid presentation on the fundamentals of hockey analytics. If you haven’t seen the presentation, you can access it on Livestream.

What was remarkable was how big of a response the session received. The session drew a full house at the downtown campus and has since drawn over 1,600 views online. I was especially blown away by its distribution on Twitter and the positive feedback we received.

Following the session, I received a few questions from attendees and others who caught the session online. I thought I’d share some of these and my responses.

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Free Public Lecture on Hockey Analytics

Happy to announce that I’ve put together a short public lecture on hockey analytics, scheduled for  Wednesday March 26th at the University of Alberta.

Here’s the general description of the session:

The field of Hockey Analytics continues to gain importance as more stakeholders, including fans and teams, are examining data and developing new ideas regarding the game. With the advancement of communication technology and analytic tools, fans have taken a greater role in developing new methods of measuring team and player performance. New ideas are often communicated and developed amongst fans through blogs, message boards and other social media tools.

I’ll be joined by Michael Parkatti, a hockey analytics blogger at Boys on the Bus . Michael has extensive experience with hockey analytics and will be providing an overview of the field as well as the current concepts.

Moneyball – Baseball, Hockey and Edmonton

Had the chance to read Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”. It follows the Oakland Athletics implementation of sabermetrics, a method of analyzing the game, which was developed by Bill James in the 1970’s. Using a small budget, compared to the Yankees and Red Sox, Athletics general manager Bill Beane used a number of James’ theories to not only find players, but also measure their performance.

Bill James sought to uncover an objective way to look at the game. He used statistical theories and methods to measure parts of baseball that were otherwise ignored. After producing and publishing “1977 Baseball Abstract: Featuring 18 Categories of Statistical Information You Just Can’t Find Anywhere Else”, James developed a small fanbase that steadily grew with each annual abstract.

According to Lewis (2004), two things happened that made the questions James raised more answerable and more valuable. One was the advancement in computer technology, which made compiling and analyzing data more efficient. The second event was the dramatic increase in player salaries (p. 72).

It’s important to note that the statistical analysis of baseball isn’t just a method of dissecting a game. It also isn’t about implementing a new way to measure performance. Sabermetrics is about challenging the existing wisdom and knowledge. It’s okay if a new or old theory doesn’t work. What’s important is that there is a tension from which new ideas and approaches can be formed. Across the web, there are thousand of discussions about which method is better. What it does show is that baseball fans are actively engaged with the game. Drew Balen of Great White North Baseball describes sabermetrics as “a lifestyle of asking questions and thinking about daily occurrences in non-traditional ways…it’s about the process of learning”. James discusses his approach further in an interview with Slate Magazine.

Edmonton Connection

It goes without saying that there’s a big community of Oilers hockey fans online. As mentioned by Gabriel Desjardins of Behind the Net, the Oilers data on his advanced statistics website receives the most hits compared to other teams.

During Billy Beane’s reign as GM of the Athletics, the organization had a minor league affiliation with the now defunct Edmonton Trappers. Is there a possible correlation between baseball analysis and hockey analysis in Edmonton? If sabermetrics is a process of learning, is it possible that baseball fans applied it to the game of hockey? The challenge would be to find baseball fans and determine what kind of networks they had as fans.

Lewis, M. (2004). Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Billy Beane. (2011, April 1). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 9, 2011, from

Sports Arenas and Social Capital

Source: Vancouver Sun

The City of Edmonton has published a paper to support its push for a new downtown arena. The arena district is expected to revitalize Edmonton’s downtown and is in the midst of sorting out who pays for what and how much.

This paper supports the idea of a downtown arena and uses the recent development in Los Angeles, Columbus and Indianapolis as example of successful projects. Dr. Rosentraub talks about the importance of sports to a city and why a downtown location can be beneficial to its residents and business community.

Dr. Rosentraub’s brings up the idea of social capital and how sports and sports facilities can play an integral role in its development. According to his paper:

Sports are..part of the social capital of society through their role as socializing institutions that increase stability and as tool to underscore the political values and strength of a society (Wilson, 1994; Rosentraub, 1997; Andrews, 2004). Lefebrve (1991, 1996) has concluded that places within a city the encourage identification with a group facilitate the ability of individuals to build relationships that enhance identities and reduce the stress of isolation that can be endemic in large urban societies.

He mentions the Oilers run to the 2006 Stanley Cup finals as an example of the city coming together, but it had more to do with a winning team than anything else. So I’ll agree that professional sports does increase the social capital of a city. But how does an arena have a similar impact?

According to Nan Lin (2002), social capital is “capital captured through social relations” and is “seen as a social asset by virtue of actors’ connections and access to resources in the network or group of which they are members”. It’s developed by building and maintaining social ties to those within the group and those outside of the group.

According to Putnam (2000), there are two types of social capital. The first is bonding capital, which deals with strengthening the relationships in a specific group in a network. Fans, being the driving force behind professional sports, play a big part in the bonding capital. They engage with the game and other fans in online communities, as well as physical spaces other than the arena. Fans being what they are will find their own space to connect and develop social capital with one another regardless of the arena’s location. Oiler fans in Phoenix, for example, will not be impacted by the arena but will contribute to Edmonton’s social capital.

Bridging capital, the second type of social capital, pertains to the external entities and developing contact with them. This is where hockey meets the rest of the world in the form of industry, government and the rest of the community. A physical arena in downtown would enhance the bridging capital with a presence around the other entities, but there’s no guarantees it would have an impact, especially if the Oilers continue to lose every year.

I would argue that social capital generated by professional sports has more to do with the team’s success than the actual arena and its location. Both the bridging capital and bonding capital is influenced by a successful team rather than the arena location. Locating it in downtown would physically connect it to other groups in the city (ie. industry, education, government), but it’s a team success that will lead to connections. Professional sports itself, is made up of the teams, the managers/owners, sports media and fans, and will develop social capital on its own since it is fan driven.

If the Oilers are concerned with building social capital in Edmonton, they need to turn the franchise into a winner. The team has been awful for the past eighteen years with a history of bloated contracts, average scouting, poor player development and bad decisions by management. Claiming that they face the same challenges that forced the Jets and the Nordiques out of Winnipeg and Quebec City is a stretch, as explained by Tyler Dellow. I like the idea of a downtown arena, but disagree with these claims from both the City of Edmonton and the Katz Group.

For more discussion on the Edmonton arena, check out the Edmonton Journal’s Storify.

Lin, N. (2001). Social Capital: A Theory of Social Structure and Action. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Virtual World for Hockey Fans

The Edmonton Oilers announced the launch of an online community for kids. Rinksters is a place where children between 6 and 12 can play games, learn about the game and interact with other fans.

Would be interesting to see how using this site would impact future online activity. Would kids move on to start their own site, have a higher tendency to engage with other fans or even contribute to the collection of information and knowledge out there?

Clearly the Oilers are trying to draw in fans of a younger age and get them ready to spend money once they become adults. But this could also be a way to tap into the online activity and behaviour of fans once they mature.

Image from Edmonton Journal.

Why sports as a project for the MACT program?

It’s hard to ignore sports in Edmonton. Whether it’s hockey, baseball, football or basketball, there’s some history of it here in Edmonton. The majority of events, including soccer  and motorsports, at any level, can draw major crowds anytime.

The inspiration for this project is the amount of websites and fan generated information that have popped up in the past few years. Originally, if you wanted to get any hockey information, you would head to an established news outlet such as TSN or CBC.

Since the internet is now readily available to almost anyone, and the simplicity of the technological tools has increased, a lot of more people are getting involved in the development and maintenance of information. This links back to Clay Shirky’s work about group formation (EXT 503) and social media.

You can find a few blogs and websites of individuals who not only provide their commentary and opinions about hockey, but have also developed new and unique ways of tracking statistics. They’re great examples of individuals generating their own knowledge and information.