Data Journalism in Hockey

old-time-reporterHockey analytics is doing some pretty remarkable stuff for the game. Not only are there new methods of understanding and following the game, but we’re beginning to see some of the more unintended consequences of its growth.

One thing to keep an eye on will be the evolution of hockey reporting and journalism. Analytics has received widespread attention this summer with NHL teams hiring experienced professionals and discussing the new statistics quite publicly. All of this is great, but now the people following the game, especially those that are relatively new to hockey analytics, will demand supporting evidence, in an easy-to-use, storytelling format.

Travis Yost brought up an excellent point, citing the potential for new data tracking technology as a reason why the demand for better sports writing will likely grow. There will definitely be teams looking to hire individuals with experience in analytics to keep up, but there will also be media outlets looking to enhance their coverage of the game and these advanced stats.

This will put the onus on anyone developing information about the game, whether it be newspaper writers, hockey analysts on television and fans online. The game has changed because of analytics, and now the information surrounding the game has to evolve.

What this means is that the distribution of  information has to shift from simple reporting to more data journalism. It won’t just be about grabbing quotes from coaches and players and then referencing some of the new stats like Corsi and Fenwick etc. But it’ll also mean having to embed graphics and information in an interactive and engaging way to tell a unique story.

The good news is, there are a handful of newspaper writers and bloggers who have been doing this very well for a few years now. James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail, as well as Japers’ Rink and SB Nation’s Outnumbered come to mind. But now, there will be an increasing demand for it. And I can definitely see some slick new platforms or reporting dashboards that can take all of the advanced stats and put together a strong game story.

Blogging platforms have served as a solid foundation and medium to develop hockey analytics. And now, they can be a real training ground for those looking to advance their careers in writing about the growing field.

 

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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.

Continue reading

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

Teaching a Blogging Course

thinking-manHappy to announce that I’ll be teaching a short course on blogging this spring. The course is available through Next Step Continuing Education. It’ll be held on Thursday April 10th in Sherwood Park, Alberta.

I’ll definitely be relying on some of the concepts I picked up as a student in the MACT program. Without getting too deep into theory, one of my objectives is to promote the information and knowledge development that happens on blogs and in online communities. With more and more people getting online and producing content, I think it’s critical that people have a basic understanding on how to contribute and navigate online.

I’ll be sharing my experience with the tool and give some insight on how to use blogging for personal projects as well as in business, education and government.

Here’s the official description over at the Next Step Continuing Education website:

Find out about the foundational concepts of blogging and strategies to maintain a successful one. Also explore the benefits of working in an online environment and how to effectively use social media applications.

It’s available to everyone, so please share with anyone you know that might be interested.

To register for the class, click here: Next Step Continuing Education

Thoughts on the Oilers: Nail Yakupov, Love/Hate the Internet; Goaltending; Linus Omark; AHL

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Fun times to be an Oilers fan. With the season all but gone by the 20 game mark, the off-ice noise is starting to take over.

Nail Yakupov

It was tough watching Nail Yakupov get skewered, again, by the media for comments made by his agent over the weekend. It’s become pretty obvious that the kid won’t always get a fair shake in Edmonton, considering his teammates have struggled just as bad, if not worse, this season. But Yakupov does have a ton of support from fans who see past the misinterpreted, erroneous media clips and focus more on his star potential. Let’s just hope he can staring spending more time celebrating goals rather than take leading questions from the reporters.

Love/Hate the Internet

Bad information is just something you have to deal with as a hockey fan. This past weekend was a perfect example of how quickly bogus rumors can spread, as all sorts of stories about Ales Hemsky being dealt were popping up.

On the flip side, the internet, especially Twitter, is great in squashing bad rumors. It’s not an easy process, but following (and blocking) the right people and questioning the content will quickly get you past the bogus information.

The web also provides context to certain stories that may be ignored at first glance. Going back to the Yakupov drama, his agent Igor Larionov provided some scathing comments about the Oilers, which was quickly spread and critiqued.

Thankfully, people who have covered Larionov as a player provided his background and potential reasons as to why he said what he said. George Malik of Kukla’s Korner provides an excellent summary of how the story played out on Twitter and gave some useful context to the story [Kukla’s Korner].

Goaltending

The Oilers are definitely a better team with a goaltending tandem of Devan Dubnyk and the newly-acquired Ilya Bryzgalov. But it came at a cost as Ladislav Smid was shipped out to make cap space for Bryzgalov. Goaltending, in my mind, wasn’t the weakness of this team, so I find the trade-off pretty puzzling considering how bad the defensive lapses have been.

Having said that, maybe Bryzgalov plays average, steals a couple games and makes the defence look better than it is. Then again, it’s goaltending, which some would argue is similar to alchemy [The Copper and Blue].

Linus Omark

In case you missed it, Omark had another great goal playing for the Oklahoma City Baron of the AHL:

 

For whatever reason, Omark seems to have a little more space when he plays in the AHL. A case can be made that the quality of players isn’t the same in the AHL as it is in the NHL. But I’m starting to think it’s the system they have in place in OKC that gives Omark, not only time and space, but some confidence in attacking in the net.

American Hockey League (AHL)

The AHL is a very talented league that, if utilized properly, can develop and prepare players for the NHL. We’ve seen far too many players in the Oilers system get rushed far too quickly, and instead left to struggle and eventually fade away in the NHL. For whatever reason, getting sent to the minors has a stigma about it in Edmonton. But in Detroit, it’s just part of the process and has proven to be a successful strategy every year.

The best teams in the league let their players adjust to the professional game slowly in the AHL or comparable minor leagues. In my opinion, unless they’re exceptional talents like Crosby or Ovechkin, players aren’t ready for the NHL until they have at least two full years in the minors.

Recommended Links

Stars at Oilers G-20, 13-14 – Lowetide

Dallas Stars @ Edmonton Oilers Game 20 Preview – The Copper and Blue

Ilya Bryzgalov Lost in Translation – Tend the Farm

Terry Jones and Yakupov – mc79hockey

Larionov’s Comments Yield a Yakupov Incident on Twitter  – Kukla’s Korner

“Fistic Ice Savvy”: An Example of Irresponsible Sports Journalism

hordichuk2After being sent to the minors by the Edmonton Oilers, Darcy Hordichuk was recently  interviewed by long time hockey writer, Jim Matheson. The article wasn’t anything unique, but one line stood out in particular.

I think the Oilers still need Hordichuk, even in limited minutes because he has fistic ice savvy, but the roster size is very limiting when they’re carrying eight D.

Fact is, Hordichuk is a 32-year old enforcer, with years of experience in the NHL and the minors. But nothing in particular sets him apart from other enforcers. His stint with the Oilers, in my opinion, hasn’t been anything to write about.

Jonathan Willis of Oilersnation provided a play by play description of every event involving Hordichuk in a recent game. Pretty much sums up his usefulness on this team. So it wasn’t surprising to see him get sent to the minors.

Matheson provides a summary of how Hordichuk is doing in the minors, which is fine. But describing him as having “fistic ice savvy” is just bad sports journalism.

For one, it’s a made-up description with a very unclear definition. At no point has Matheson clarified what “fistic ice savvy” entails or who else might have this quality.

Secondly, there’s no way to measure this. I’m not asking for detailed data metrics and methodology. But how do you know you’re fistic and have savvy? Is it when you fight? Where on the ice you fight? Who you fight?

Thirdly, and most importantly, “fistic ice savvy” is a perfect example of the misinformation that surrounds professional hockey. Rather than make a claim, explain its rationale and then provide examples, Matheson uses a vague description of Hordichuk and leaves it as is. Not even an attempt is made to support “fistic ice savvy”.

Matheson is definitely a good hockey writer, but more detailed information should be provided when making claims. More and more of his readers are knowledgable fans, and claiming Hordichuk is anything more than an enforcer is just irresponsible journalism.

Hockey Reporting and Hockey Analysis

usb1Typewriter“We shape our tools,and then our tools shape us.” – Marshall McLuhan

 

Influence of Technology on Sports Journalism

The impact of web technology has had a profound impact on how professional sports are consumed by fans. For example, fans have numerous options when they want to watch or listen to a game, including, among others, using mobile technology or data tracking software. Fans can interact and share content with others by publishing their thoughts and ideas about hockey on blogs and other social media platforms. To keep up with their loyal fan base, the NHL has readily adopted technology and software that helps their fans get closer to the game. Examples include providing detailed statistics available online or social media promotions to connect players to fans.

One area of professional sports that technology continues to strongly influence is sports journalism. Specifically, individuals who are employed by television broadcasters that hold NHL distribution rights, such as TSN or Sportsnet, newspapers and the NHL. These individuals typically have direct access to players and managers and are responsible for providing news and updates regarding NHL-related activity.

In the past, individuals who covered sports for the local news channel or newspaper were considered “reporters”. They would attend games and produce a story using the results of the event. Within the story would be quotes from players and coaches, a summary of key events within the game and maybe a preview of the next game. Since speculation is an important facet for professional sports, gossip regarding players and team could also be included, depending on the reporter.

Today, individuals who cover sports for mainstream media outlets are labeled all sorts of things. “Insiders”. “Analysts”. “Correspondents”. At first glance, they all appear to have the same role, which is to cover the game and provide some sort of content for fan consumption. But it’s the technology they use that differentiates them, as not all sports journalists produce the same kind of content. Understanding the tools they and what type of content they produce, can allow us to classify them and understand their roles and objectives.

Defining Reporting and Analysis

The technology sports journalists use differentiates those who report on the game, and those who analyze the game. Both “Reporting” and “Analyzing” are interchanged regularly, not only in sports journalism, but also other industries such as information management. While both actions produce content, they each entail different objectives.

I did a quick search online and came across this differentiation of Reporting and Analysis on a blog from Adobe, a major software company:

Report­ing: The process of orga­niz­ing data into infor­ma­tional sum­maries in order to mon­i­tor how dif­fer­ent areas of a busi­ness are per­form­ing.

Analy­sis: The process of explor­ing data and reports in order to extract mean­ing­ful insights, which can be used to bet­ter under­stand and improve busi­ness performance.

So applying these definitions to sports journalism, I’ve come up with this:

Hockey Reporting: The process of coordinating data and information into summaries that describe hockey-related events. This is someone that summarizes current events, including games, player or team performance and current rumors.

Hockey Analysis: The process of exploring data and reports in order to extract mean­ing­ful insights, which can be used to bet­ter under­stand the game and support further analysis and continue extending the knowledge surrounding the game. This would be someone that could summarize current events, but spends more time looking deeper into the data from hockey games to provide further insight.

These definitions need some work, so I’m hoping to get feedback from anyone interested.

Why the need to classify sports journalists?

It’s critical for fans to understand the roles and objectives of the contents’ producer. The present environment for hockey fans contains a lot of information, and it’s really up to them to filter through the noise to find value in the content available online, in print and on television. Fans do more than just consume the content as they have demonstrated their ability to extend the content by providing their own feedback and raising new, applicable ideas.

By understanding the producers role, fans can put the content into perspective before extending the content and building new ideas. This is not to say that what sports reporters produce cannot be built upon by fans. But a more appropriate response can be made after understanding what the producers objectives are. And it’s much more beneficial to the game if ideas are built on solid claims and information, rather than bogus hockey rumors, for example.

As always, feel free to leave feedback below or contact me directly!