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.

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Research Ideas

Source: Wikimedia Commons

If I had extended my tenure as a student, my research would have probably focused solely on hockey fans who conduct data analytics. Blogs, which was the focus of my MACT final project, would play a prominent role, along with other social media tools and analytics software.

That got me thinking of what other research projects could possibly spin out from the research I did complete. Here’s my random, evolving list:

–       History of hockey analytics

–       Comparison of hockey fans across teams, regions and their online activity

–       Does following a horrible team make you more likely to get into hockey analytics? Looking at you, Oilers fans.

–       Interview people who do hockey analytics to find out why they do it, what methods they use, what barriers they face and/or what they think the future holds for hockey analytics.

Between World of Warcraft and Fantasy League

Through different tools and applications, the space between fans and professional athletes has diminished significantly. The conduit between the two parties has been removed as social media replaces traditional media outlets as information distribution platforms. A new relationship exists between fans and professional athletes as the rules of engagement are still being worked out.

Recently, a blogger compiled some statistics to examine the amount of chances a team creates when a certain defencemen are on the ice. Using both traditional hockey stats and advanced statistics, Dellow pointed out how Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney struggled in comparison to his teammates. Dellow then posted his findings on Twiiter, much to the chagrin of Whitney.

Not surprised the blog post upset Whitney. Reputation is critical for professional athletes and their market value. But the work of hockey bloggers is becoming more and more engrained in the mainstream information surrounding the game of hockey. Fans are analyzing the game and using various communication tools to create, develop and share information that reaches professional athletes and managers.

Whitney’s tweet was trying to reduce the significance of the blogger by portraying the individual as someone who’s distant from the game. I do agree that bloggers are similar to World of Warcraft and fantasy league fans as they all engage within a participatory culture. All three categories include fans who do more than just consume, but also produce new, creative content.

But it would be in Whitney’s best interest to see fans more than just passive consumers of the game. Rather than mock the blogger, Whitney would be better off either ignoring the critique completely or raise counter-arguments. The last thing he should do is mock fans who participate as contributors to the information surrounding the game.

Hockey Gossip and Blogs

Saw a documentary called Teenage Paparazzo, which follows the adventures of a 14 year old paparazzo and explores the relationship between celebrities, paparazzis and fans. Adrian Grenier interviews different paparazzos, celebrities and academics, including Dr. Henry Jenkins of MIT, and highlights the celebrity-obsessed culture across different mediums.

In a conversation with Adrian Grenier, Dr. Jenkins had this to say regarding celebrity gossip:

Going from a society of small towns where people gossiped about the town drunk to an era of the internet, who do we choose to talk about? We can’t talk about our aunt and our uncle or the guy down the street because we don’t share that in common.

But we share you in common.

So I would say one of your jobs as a celebrity is to be the subject of gossip. When we gossip about someone, the person we’re gossiping about is actually less important than the exchange that takes place between us. We’re using that other person, the celebrity, the town whore, whatever, as a vehicle for us to sort of share values with each other to sort through central issues that are…

Ironically enough, Dr. Jenkins was interrupted by a fan asking to take a picture with Grenier.

There’s definitely a lot of similarities between those who follow celebrities and those who follow hockey. Aside from both being groups of fans who express their fandom using different outlets, they both engage in gossip.

I remarked last year at the amount of speculation that is prevalent throughout the game of hockey and what causes its generation. Dr. Jenkins’ remarks add another element to the rumor/gossip activity, which is the fan desire to exchange values and ideas with one another. The game itself is the common object to discuss and it’s through the interaction with other fans that allows them to express their own values and ideas.

This opportunity to share is what makes blogging the ideal platform for hockey fans. It’s easy to set up a blog, publish content and discuss with other fans. Blogs also offer a way to keep a running log of fan values and ideas, and have made it possible to link the content across a massive network. Values and ideas are able to develop and evolve over time, which is then used to fuel more gossip and speculation.

Grenier, A. et al. (Producers), & Grenier, A. (Director). (2010). Teenage Paparazzo [Motion picture]. United States: Reckless Productions.

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.

Fan Experience of Indian Premier League Cricket

In April 2011, Sportsnet began airing live Indian Premier League cricket games. I had heard of the IPL and thought I’d give it a chance. The cricket league runs for a couple months and has rules designed to complete games faster and make the game more entertaining. Teams are made up of players from around the world, giving the league an international flair.

The first thing that stuck out to me was the high quality of production. The games were available in high-definition with a lot of detailed graphics and information during games. The camera angles gave the viewer a full perspective of the physical pitch and the players. Statictics were presented throughout, giving viewers a ton of data to work with and think about. For example, the “wagon wheel” would animate where shots have been made and what the general tendencies of players are. Games were fast paced with lots of storylines, both on and off the pitch.

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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.