Collaboration and Hockey Analytics

Source: WIkimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Data analytics is a collaborative exercise with the network (both operational and social) being a critical component of any analysis. The right environment has to be in place for people to contribute, develop and share data. To transform the data into information,  context is drawn from the network as individuals apply their backgrounds, experiences and ideas to push the development of a concept. Once the data transforms into information (and later knowledge), the network will distribute the information to those who can use it and develop it further.The importance of collaboration was highlighted at the Analytics, Big Data and the Cloud conference, which presented various topics related to data analytics such as health, productivity and community. One session of personal, and academic interest, was related to professional sports. A description of the session: Continue reading

The Hockey News: 100 People of Power and Influence (2012)

Source: The Hockey News

Different list, same flaws.

The Hockey News released its annual list of people with power and influence this month. I mentioned last year that the list completely ignores those with online influence and even cited one blogger who broke a major story in 2011. The good news is they included Dellow in their list this year. The bad news is, they ignored everyone else.

Here’s what Jason Kay, the editor of The Hockey News, says about the top 100 people of power and influence:

“We consult handfuls of industry experts to validate, or deny, names we have in mind and to unearth people we may not have considered. And it’s important to us that the list reflects all aspects of our world: from executives to players; from heads of industry to media; from viewers to doers” (P. 4).

First off, there isn’t much to get fired up about since the list lacks any real research. Its based on the top newsmakers of the years, plus the opinions of those within the hockey community. Secondly, Kay (2012) wants to reflect all aspects of our world, but leaves out fans and online activity. The kicker for me is the last part claiming that the list wants to include everyone “from viewers to doers” (P. 4). How about viewers that are doers? Fans that do more than just consume the product but actually do something with what’s available.

I’ll leave it to The Hockey News to come up with their lists. But until they start exploring more than newsmakers and use valid and reliable research methods, it’ll lack any credibility.

Campbell, K. (2012). 100 People of Power and Influence. The Hockey News, 65 (14), p. 16-31.

Superfan 2.0

Leaning towards calling my research project “Superfan 2.0”.

A superfan is someone who falls under the prosumer definition. They catch games, collect merchandise and follow the game religiously. They have a solid understanding of the game and are on top of the latest news and information. But with new technology, fans have evolved and now play a more active role within the game. These fans create content related to the game and work within a network to develop information and knowledge. The 2.0 part of it refers to O’Reilly’s definition of web 2.0 and the technology fans have used to create, maintain and share information.

Think the term Superfan 2.0 suits them just right.

Hockey Prosumer vs Hockey Produser

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Since my research is looking at how hockey fans are produsers (Bruns, 2008), I think it’s important to compare produsage to prosumerism. Both sound similar, but are very different.

The vast majority of research that examines professional sports depict fans as consumers or prosumers. Consumers are those that consume. Prosumers, coined by Alvin Toffler in 1980,  are consumers that become active in designing and improving the products in the marketplace. Current research looks at consumption patterns of sports fans, but also how these fans are having an input on the products they consume.

Produsage, on the other hand, is “the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement” (Produsage, 2007, para.2). Produsers build on existing content to create new content. In this case, fans become unique producers unaffiliated with the main sources such as professional sports leagues and broadcast networks. Information is the content that my research examines, with blogs serving as the specific tool fans use to produse.

The availability of hockey games and related information is the result of hockey prosumers. Fans demand content be available on mobile phones and applications and the league responds.  In this case, fans don’t create anything new. They simply assist in enhancing the product.

Fans who blog on their own or in collaboration with other fans, serve as one example of produsers. They create their own content using what’s available to them, which in this case is the game of hockey. They create, maintain and share their information online and are unaffiliated with official producers. Sports fan produsage lacks research right now, and could provide insight into changing role of the hockey fan.

Bruns, A. (2009). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Produsage. (2007, December 31). Produsage: A working definition. Retrieved from http://produsage.org/node/9

Produsage. (2009, April 5). Beyond Toffler, beyond the prosumer. Retrieved from http://produsage.org/node/58

Prosumer. (2011, August 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:10, August 28, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosumer

Toffler, A. (1980). The Third Wave. USA: Bantam.

Toffler, A. (1990). Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century . USA: Bantam.

NHL Needs to Provide More Data

It would be in the best interest of the NHL to begin generating and providing more advanced data for fans to work with.

The amount of hockey statistics has come a long way. Along with goals, assists, points and penalties, the league now provides even greater details, breaking down results by period, by division, arena, etc.

Fans have demonstrated a high demand of statistics which are used in debates with other fans, their own blogs/commentary, fantasy leagues and gambling. Some have even used statistics to create visual representation of the game. For example, TimeOnIce (ex. game number 30311) shows which players were playing with and against  to give fans an idea of who the coaches tried to match up.

To really stay relevant and remain a valuable source for information, the NHL needs to join the community of fans who use stats regularly for their own purposes. Two things need to be done:

1. Expand the amount of data being captured. For example, tracking player mistakes, similar to what the Cult of Hockey does, could be done. For an example of advanced hockey analytics, see BehindTheNet.

2. Make the data easy to work with and share. Provide the statistics, but also tutorials on what it is and how to use and share it. Anyone with basic computer skills should be able to learn some export and embedding functions to use the information on their blogs.

The object of these statistics should be to encourage fans to do something with it. Hockey fans are more than just consumers. Blogs and fan videos demonstrate the creativity of a community passionate about their sport. Sport fantasy social clubs show us that fans are involved and committed. Some even bet on sports! Look at this, CompareTheBets’ List of Promo Codes. From that, we can all deduce that lots of people do it!  It’s also imperative to reach out to new fans and teach them about the game. The best way learn is to be active and engaged with the material available.

If the NHL doesn’t provide the content fans need to create their own material, it won’t matter. Fans will find a way to get things done. The league can either be a part of the community’s movement towards active fandom or a spectator of creative content.

NHL Trade Deadline: Speculation, Rumors and Information Overload

With the NHL trade deadline coming up, a lot of rumors and speculation has taken over sports websites, blogs and twitter feeds. Trade activity typically picks up around this time with teams deciding if they’ll make a run for the playoffs or start unloading players in the hopes of re-building for next season.

I find this to be incredibly frustrating for a few reasons.

1. Teams shouldn’t have to wait until the deadline to tweak their rosters. In my opinion, you have months in advance to plan things out, make your trades and give a team a chance to mesh together.

2. The rumors that are out there are typically baseless. It makes for great chatter, but really it amounts to nothing. Recently, a bunch of trades went down well before the deadline, which is a rare occurrence. I personally did not hear any rumors or speculation about the players who were traded, which makes me question how good the insiders at TSN and Sportsnet really are. Copper & Blue have a piece on this as well.

3. You can’t trust anybody. NHL teams are known to release names of available players and potential trades through different media to entice other teams and see what the value of their players is. Managers make very calculated moves to get ahead.

Major sports networks such as TSN and Sportsnet will have extended trade deadline coverage all day on their television broadcasts. Their websites will have real-time updates with analysis after every trade. Twitter is being used heavily to share information such as which team has a scout at a game and what trades may or may not go down.

Why so much speculation of potential trades and signings in the NHL?

For one, the trade deadline does have a lot of action. Last year alone, 31 trades went down on the deadline. (Wikipedia)

Second, the way contracts are set up, speculation will always exist. The free agency process, teams re-building and draft classes all contribute to the speculation.

Third, hockey is a game that relies on more than one superstar. To really build a successful team, the right group has to be assembled. From first line scorers, to third line pluggers and second pair defenceman, every position is vital. Speculation is not reserved for top players only. Every position is open to speculation, including minor league teams and junior prospects.

Even when a team gets a new player or loses one, it doesn’t guarantee anything. Picking up a player looks good on paper, but a lot of pairings just don’t work. You can blame this on “chemistry” or perhaps a bad fit in a coaches system. Regardless, this spurs on even more speculation.

Speculation and gossip will always exist in the game because of its business structure as well as the game itself. But being buried with more and more speculation is causing some major information overload. A lot of bad information is on the web and it’s up to fans to build the filters necessary to cut through it all.

NHL Guardian Project

Source: wikimedia.org

The NHL has hired Stan Lee, creator of Spiderman comics, to develop 30 heroes representing each team. These characters “came to life” at the NHL All Star Game this weekend in Carolina (Source: NHL.com). You can see all of the characters and read their back stories at the official Guardian Project website.

A lot of people have wondered out loud how comic book heroes relate to hockey. The obvious rationale is provided by the NHL:

“With an initial plan to reach an all-family audience and narrower target demo of tween boys, GME hopes to bring a new audience to the NHL, while engaging the existing, established hockey fan base through a compelling tale of good vs. evil.” Source: NHL.com

But how do superheroes bring in new fans?

It does tap into the market of comic book fans who are familiar with Stan Lee’s previous work. Being exposed to NHL logos and learning about the teams they represent is a good way to get fans into the game. But it’s the narratives and storytelling that will bring in fans.

Narratives play an important role in communication between people. It’s a way to teach, a way to entertain and a way to engage readers. By having characters, a plot, conflict and an ending, stories manage to stick with us longer and have a greater impact that simply reading lessons or information. An example would be the lessons a child learns when reading a story.

Stan Lee and crew attempt to summarize an entire NHL team and its city into one single character. Here’s an exerpt from The Oiler’s background:

He’s gritty and tough like the roughneck oilrig workers he mostly associates with. He spends a majority of his time roaming the Northwest Territories. He’s most happy when he’s exploring the vast northern wilderness. Whether it’s blasting bad guys with torrents of energized oil, engulfing them in a horrendous blizzard or crushing through concrete walls, the Oiler is one devastating Guardian. Source: nhl.com

A person can get more out of their engagement with a narrative and following a character, rather than just consume information about a topic. The Guardian project ties the information about Edmonton and what an Oiler is into animation and a storyline instead of just presenting facts to consume.

The NHL’s foray into comics also works as an example of transmedia storytelling. Henry Jenkins (2007) defines transmedia storytelling as:

a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. (Source: Confessions of an Aca/Fan)

The NHL has used television, radio, web, social media and gaming to reach its audience. By using comics, the NHL can continue its storytelling and capturing a wider audience and maintain costs.

According to Jenkins,

comics have emerged as a key vehicle for constructing transmedia narratives — in part because they cost less to produce and are thus lower risk than developing games or filming additional material (Source: Confessions of an Aca/Fan)

It’s easy to mock the NHL for trying out comic book superheroes, especially when they make for easy punchlines. The odd selection of characteristics for some of the guardians as well as the strong resemblance to older Stan Lee characters have been a more popular topic of conversation. But there is good reasoning for a professional sports league, that’s trying to grow its game, to try something as imaginative as this.

NHL in 360

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/bcvideo/1.0/iframe/embed.html?videoId=1248069572260&playerType=embed

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo has a special exhibition set up to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Buffalo Sabres.

This video is shot from different points of view. A goalie and a forward for the Sabres has a camera attached to their helmets while one camera is from a fans point of view. The New York Times has more on the story.

The Hockey News: 100 People of Power and Influence

Source: The Hockey News

Latest post about The Hockey News’ annual list is here.

The latest issue of The Hockey News compiles the top 100 most influential people in hockey today.

The game itself has so many facets that it’s impossible to really measure influence. There’s the business side of it, so sponsors, owners, league executives and agents have influence. Then there’s the game play, so coaches, players and managers who determine how their teams prepare and perform have influence. Broadcast networks and mainstream media of course influence the game since they decide what’s presented, and how much.

I was surprised to see only one blogger make the list. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy ranks at #92 this year, up seven spots from last year. He’s the only blogger to have ever made the list.

Fans themselves have a lot of influence on the game and use blog sites regularly to get the latest information and interact with others. Online activity of NHL hockey fans has increased significantly over the past few years with more subscribing to digital services (Financial Post). But the modern fan is more than just a consumer of the game. They also act as sponges learning the game and developing their own ideas and thoughts. They take the information out there and centralize it to construct knowledge on blog sites.

Having only one blogger on the list seems bizarre to me especially considering the amount of traffic and comments they get daily. In the past year alone, some major stories have been broken by bloggers. None bigger than blogger Tyler Dellow uncovering some dirt on Colin Campbell, a senior VP and the NHL’s head of discipline. Reaction from TSN, Globe and Mail and Puck Daddy.

It could also be that the list The Hockey News has compiled just ignores online activity as an influencer.

Phoenix Coyotes player Paul Bissonnette landed at #100 on the list. He has a total of 6 points in 80 career games (as of this post) and is known more for his fighting on the ice. But online, Bissonnette has become one of the most popular hockey types on Twitter (@BizNasty2point0). With over 34,000 followers, he ranks near the top of all hockey related accounts, even ahead of The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews). Bissonnettes entertaining tweets are pretty refreshing for a league that has very robotic-like players when a broadcast medium is placed in front of them. He’s also a supporter of causes that help the homeless and has some unique fundraising methods.

His online activity and the nature of his tweets has the attention of a demographic that the NHL caters to and should get him a higher spot. Bissonnette updates regularly to give followers a behind-the-scene look at life in the NHL and promotes the game in a market desperate for fans.

The Hockey News needs to start examining online activity as an influence on professional hockey. I can understand how owners, players and media influence the game. But with more and more people online and the web being what it is, more attention needs to be placed on bloggers and online communities.

Campbell, K. (2011). 100 People of Power and Influence. The Hockey News, 64 (14), p. 14-23.

Hartley, M. (2011, January 25). NHL mobile apps top one million downloads as hockey fans go digital. Financial Post. Retrived from http://business.financialpost.com/2011/01/25/nhl-mobile-apps-top-one-million-downloads-as-hockey-fans-go-digital/.

How blogging is like pond hockey

Ken Dryden talks extensively about the evolution of hockey in his book “The Game”. He stresses the importance of allowing young players to be creative without the rigid structure of organized hockey. He uses Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur as an example of a player who would spend time alone on the ice or with a few friends before and after practice to feel and develop his own game. Dryden talks about how skill and instincts are developed better when there’s less restrictions. The mind is able to wander more and think of new ways of playing the game.

Kids across different sports are placed under strict limitations by coaches. They’re expected to follow a team system or game plan and find a role to stick with for the greater good of the team. Rosters can’t have twelve Gretzky’s playing forward, so naturally, some players got be more offensive while others were put into supporting roles.

When the ice is open and there are less limits, like in pond hockey, a player has the ability to be creative. They can try different things without any repercussions. You get the chance to feel the game and be more imaginative.

I find this similar to blogging. When individuals can just write, without any worry of losing anything, some interesting stuff can come out. And if it doesn’t, big deal. It sticks around the web until someone can come along and maybe pick up from where it left off. Like pond hockey, there are some loose rules, but for the most part, you’re free to do whatever you want.

Being able to write is the same feeling you get when you’re playing on a frozen pond. The possibilities just seem endless when you can skate whichever direction, at any speed and include any movement. It’s a great feeling when the sunset is the final buzzer.

Dryden, K. (1983). The Game. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons.