Source: Edmonton Oilers

Source: Edmonton Oilers

Derek Zona of Copper and Blue posted an interesting question for Edmonton hockey fans: Why haven’t you quit the Oilers?

It’s a fair question that I’m sure most Oiler fans have thought about. The team last won the Cup in 1990. It’s been eight years since the team made the playoffs. And since Daryl Katz took ownership of the club, the Oilers have been the worst team in the entire NHL.

For an outsider who may not value sports fandom, this may seem like a bizarre scenario: sports team keeps losing, yet the fans keep coming back for more. So here’s my response to Derek’s question.

Being a fan doesn’t follow the same traditional model of consumption that other products rely upon. It really functions in a unique ecosystem that has all sorts of weird norms and values. It’s tough to rationalize a lot of what happens in a cartel like the NHL and compare it to other consumable products.

A key element of being a fan of sports teams is continuously extending the product, before, during and after any game. Think of the conversations you’ve had about the Oilers with others, the articles you read, the stats you’ve glazed over, the digital artifacts you may have created (i.e., blogging, Youtube, etc). I don’t think there’s any other product for humans to consume that involves so much time and effort.

All of this continuous extension really engrains the fans deeper into their team. Quitting the team means you leave behind the continuous extension, a lot of which is spins off some extremely positive stuff that probably gives fans some relief from the losing. A lot of the positive relationships built, whether it’s at the game or online, keep fans following the shared product. And having a shared product like the Oilers also gives us a vehicle to connect with others and share our own ideas and values….all the stuff that’s critical for community building.

Trying to calculate your sunk costs like they do in the Freakonomics podcast (“The Upside of Quitting”) Derek links to is tougher for sports fans who consider quitting their teams. It’s tough to put a number on the emotional and intellectual investment you put into following the game and extending the content.

So good luck to the Oiler fans who want to quit now. Especially the bloggers and hockey analytic folks who have made valuable contributions to the game. Your creativity and intellectual contributions have you got you all in too deep. 😉

Related: Hockey Gossip and Blogs (2012, February 1)

Hockey Fans and the Leviathan II: All Three Zones Tracking Project

Yochai Benkler

Yochai Benkler – Author of Penguin and the Leviathan

Corey Sznajder of The Shutdown Line is seeking funding for a project that will collect very unique hockey data.

Here’s a short description of the All Three Zones Tracking Project:

I am tracking zone entries & exits for every game of the 2013-14 NHL season and making the data available publicly through either an e-book or an online database. What I end up doing will depend on how much money is raised through this. In addition to this season, I may also track previous years and include playoff data.

If you’re at all interested in supporting Corey, follow this link.

A couple things to note:

  1. Corey is going to manually collect data that isn’t available anywhere else. It’ll be interesting to see how others will use it to develop new ideas and information.
  2. It’ll also be interesting to see what other projects focussed on hockey analytics and data collection could pop up that will utilze crowdfunding/crowdsourcing.
  3. Even if you’re not into analytics or you don’t think you’ll use the data collected by Corey, knowledge and information about the game will grow because of this project. Fans/bloggers will use this data to create new ideas and add to the current discourse that surrounds the game.

Related Links:

Hockey Fans and the Leviathan – The SuperFan

Hockey Analytics: The new wave of information and the online fan community that is driving the field

In case you missed it, the Communications and Technology graduate program at the University of Alberta hosted a public lecture on hockey analytics this afternoon in Edmonton.

        Link to full lecture on Livestream

        Event details including speaker bios

We had a great turnout in the classroom with people of various backgrounds in attendance. Along with hockey fans, there were members of the U of A faculty, students, bloggers and even employees of the Edmonton Oilers in the classroom.

I want to thank Michael Parkatti for his in-depth presentation of hockey analytics. Michael’s contributions to the field of hockey analytics have been extremely valuable and he continues to track game stats on his blog, Boys on the Bus. I really hope people left the session with not only a better understanding of hockey analytics, but also an appreciation for the work fans have done online.

My main motivation for putting this session together was to promote the field of hockey analytics and really showcase the kind of work hockey fans are doing online. Hockey analytics is still many years behind other sports in terms of tracking and collecting data. But there really is a lot of potential for continued growth and development of hockey information.

Continue reading

Google Glass in Professional Hockey

ImageWith the recent announcement that Google will soon release its wearable, augmented reality glasses, there has been a lot of discussion about how the technology can be used.

What’s most intriguing to me is how these wearable devices can be used in professional hockey. I’ve come up with three uses.

  1. Professional hockey teams could use the device to send real-time information to players throughout the game. This could include who is on the ice with them, what play to run or where to place the puck.
  2. Coaches could use the data collected by these devices and apply them to their strategies for each game.
  3. Those outside the game, such as fans, hockey analysts, sports journalists or league officials could use the data collected to do their own analysis.

These are all just random ideas, so until the limitations of the device are shared, we can dare to dream. I’d be interested to hear what others think of using Google Glass in professional sports.

More information about Google Glass can be found here.

Hockey Bloggers with Press Passes

Without a doubt, a tension exists between hockey bloggers and those who work as members of the mainstream media (MSM). The lines that separate the two groups have blurred as both fans and those with official press passes to cover the game interact and participate online. Communication tools and software have become more readily available and easier to use, allowing anyone with a basic understanding of the technology, and an interest in the game, to participate online.

In the past few years, bloggers have made the jump to more mainstream platforms and  we’ve also seen those with press passes, such as fomer Edmonton Journal writer Robin Brownlee, get into blogging. In his latest post for OilersNation, “Deep Thoughts XXIV: Ties that bind”, he had this to say about the current state of hockey coverage: Continue reading

SuperFan 2.0 – Exploring the Produsage Qualities of Hockey Fans

Here’s the extended abstract for my final research paper entitled SuperFan 2.0 – Exploring the Produsage Qualities of Hockey Fans.

Introduction and Problem Definition

Professional sports are a billion dollar industry as fans attend live events, collect merchandise and gamble on outcomes. Information is also a major product of professional sports and has been used by sports fans to predict outcomes, participate in fantasy league contests and to interact with other fans. Past research has depicted fans as simple consumers of professional sports. Fans have various reasons to follow sports and use various technological tools to stay informed and interact with other fans. There was found to be a lack of research regarding the role hockey fans play in the creation, development and distribution of information. The advancement of technological tools, combined with the participatory culture fans operate within, has given fans more opportunities to be creators and distributors of information.


This study is designed to answer the following research question:

Based on the key principles of produsage (Bruns, 2008), can hockey fans be considered “produsers”?

This study used a qualitative content analysis to examine a single fan generated hockey blog. Content from this blog, including the homepage, options for users of the blog and blog articles, was coded using the following four key principles of produsage as a guide:

  1. Open Participation, Communal Evaluation – Produsage environments are open to all to get a wide array of experience and contributions.
  2. Fluid Heterarchy, Ad Hoc Meritocracy – Leadership within the project depends on the contribution the individual makes. Those whose contributions are valuable to the project will elevate their status within the community.
  3. Unfinished Artefacts, Continuing Process – Rather than a finished product, the aim of produsage is to evolve and continuously improve the shared content within a community.
  4. Common Property, Individual Rewards – Individuals working within a produsage environment are motivated by their ability to contribute to a communal purpose. Produsage environments ensure that the shared content will not be exploited and will remain available to those who contribute to the project.

Findings are based on the activity of hockey fans on the selected blog. These findings are then categorized by produsage principle and reviewed to ensure reliability and validity.


Based on a review of one hockey blog and its users, hockey fans can be considered produsers. Hockey fans who engage with the game through blogging meet the four key characteristics of produsage. Fan activity has changed the traditional production-consumption model as fans are now taking on a greater role in producing content. The blog articles and corresponding comments function as an example of a fan community sharing content and developing information within a participatory culture.


The research question is addressed by comparing the findings of the content analysis to the four key principles of produsage. How professional sports leagues such as the National Hockey League can engage with their fans in a produsage environment is discussed. The weaknesses of the study, as well as areas for further research are also addressed.

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

Blogger Part of Oilers’ Analytics Team

Source: Wikimedia Commons

David Staples of the Edmonton Journal reported Friday that the Edmonton Oilers have employed an analytics team to assess player and team performance. Interesting timing, since a growing number of NHL teams, including the Oilers, have representatives at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this weekend in Boston. The Oilers’ analytics team is made up of “university professors, business analytics specialists and hockey bloggers with analytics expertise” (Staples, 2012). One member of the team is Bruce McCurdy, a contributor for The Copper and Blue blog, as well as the Edmonton Journal’s Cult of Hockeyblog.

It’s great to see the Oilers recognize the contributions a blogger can make to the information and knowledge surrounding professional hockey. Enough research and evidence exists that demonstrates the benefits of blogs. Allowing anyone to participate, providing less restrictions compared to other publications and allowing individuals to collaborate are just a few of the benefits. Unfortunately, the hockey club fails to acquire the full benefits of blogging communities. McCurdy can definitely be that link between the hockey team and the online community, but to really benefit from the collective intelligence of fans more would need to be done. Moving away from the traditional producer-consumer business model to one that welcomes participation and engagement from more fans would increase the chances of uncovering information and knowledge that could benefit the club. This would include the Oilers management being active, trusted participants within the community without trying to control and dominate the development. As it stands, the collective intelligence generated within blogging communities is still uncharted territory.

Yochai Benkler (2011) put it best:

For the commons has finally come into its own. Because in today’s knowledge economy, the most valuable resources – information and knowledge – are themselves a public good, and the best way to develop and maximize this good is through millions of networked people pooling that knowledge and working together to create new products, ideas, and solutions (pg. 153).

Related: Blog post from last year regarding the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference here.

Related: Blog post about a hockey blogger looking to crowdsource data collection for analysis here.

Benkler, Y. (2011). The Penguin and the Leviathan: The Triumph of Co-operation over Self-Interest. New York: Crown Business.

Staples, D. (2012, March 2). Oilers start up analytics group to delve into Moneypuck issues. Edmonton Journal Cult of Hockey. Retrieved March 2, 2012 from http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2012/03/02/oilers-start-up-analytics-group-to-delve-into-moneypuck-issues

Get Blogging Comrades

Melk Abbey Library, Austria (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Our MACT cohort has done a lot of exceptional work. Both as individuals and as a group, we’ve completed all sorts of research papers and case studies to better understand communication and technology and apply our findings to our professional fields. To me the purpose of what we’ve done as students is not to just summarize our findings for a grade, but to extend the information available to us. As graduate students we have to continue building on the theories and artifacts to build new knowledge.

As a cohort, we have an opportunity to play a major role in the knowledge surrounding communication and technology. We have all sorts of tools available to us that weren’t around for the theorists we’ve learned from. We have to capitalize on the very tools and environment we’ve studied to share what we know.

I hope every student, regardless of cohort or faculty, is able to publish their work and knowledge in some form. Whether it’s through social media, conferences, poster sessions or other outlets, letting the next group of students know what we’ve done will only help develop our field. Knowledge is meant to be shared and extended.

I’ve personally found blogging to be a quick and easy way to share information and connect with others. No need to publish every day. Even a quick blurb about some of your work or anything related to it. Be sure to use tags, provide links and search for related blogs.

Related article: MACT Experience

Qualitative Content Analysis

My research project is utilizing qualitative content analysis to see if online hockey fans can be considered produsers. This method isn’t as common as the quantitative approach, but does have its strengths as an analytical tool.

There’s a few excellent sources of information regarding this approach. None, however, being more useful than this article. Zhang (2009) provides a summary of other research done on this method to illustrate its strength and weaknesses. It then provides steps to follow when conducting qualitative content analysis.

I’ve selected one hockey blog and will examine its homepage as well as a few blog posts. What I’ll do is comb through the blog and code/mark-up/highlight whatever content falls under the categories outlined in my codebook. I’ve established four categories, reflecting the four key characteristics of produsage (Bruns, 2008). I’ve established a codebook to sort my observations and interpretations of the blog. Definitely a rigorous process to ensure that my coding is accurate and consistent.

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

Zhang, Y. & Wildemuth, B.M. (2009). Qualitative analysis of content. In B. Wildemuth (Ed.), Applications of Social Research Methods to Questions in Information and Library. Retrieved October 18, 2011 from http://ils.unc.edu/~yanz/Content_analysis.pdf