Oilers hire Tyler Dellow of mc79hockey.com

620-eakins-dallas2-thumb-620xauto-329706Happy to see the Oilers hire Tyler Dellow of, the now defunct, mc79hockey blog. Tyler’s been blogging for years about the Oilers, focusing on hockey analytics and recently applying his findings to game footage. The blog was a fantastic source for analysis, really pushing the discussion on hockey analytics, and will definitely be missed. Sounds like he’ll be joining the Oilers hockey operations department and reporting to Coach Eakins.

Related: On Tyler Dellow, his role, and what this can tell us about Eakins – Copper & Blue

I’d love to point out some of the work he’s done including his dissection of Taylor Hall’s Corsi stats and the Oilers performance following defensive zone faceoff losses. But I guess it’ll have to wait until someone can uncover that hidden treasure. A lot of his work picked apart the Oilers and did show some of the weaknesses in their tactics, so I guess it makes sense for the Oilers to ask him to remove the content. His blog was also one of the few sites where the comments section was just as  valuable as the actual post. I found it a little troubling that Tyler was able to wipe out the work of others who trusted that their contributions would be always be accessible. I’m sure most of the commenters are supportive of Tyler’s move, so maybe losing their work was just a necessary trade-off.

Those who have read my work know that more than hockey analytics itself, I’m interested in the social, online environment that fosters the development of hockey information and knowledge. So as much as the growth of analytics interests me, so too does the network and the collaboration of fans.

I think Tyler would admit that a big reason for his success in analytics is the open environment that he was able to work in. He received regular feedback both on his blog and on Twitter, which played a big role in the direction he took with hockey analytics. He’s obviously a bright guy and will more than likely carry on with his ideas and insight as a member of the Oilers. However, the corporate culture that the Oilers have is far different than the interactive environment Tyler has grown accustomed to. Online, Tyler has been extremely open with his data, which makes him open for feedback and criticism. Now that his work will only be reviewed by a select few, I’m curious to see what impact it might have on his own critical thinking. There’s a much different working-dynamic when you’re sealed off with a select few. Biases, groupthink, politics, etc., are all the things that tend to creep in to any bureaucratic system.

It’s almost as if the Oilers should actually hire a few more bloggers that Tyler’s work can be tested by. The good news is, the Oilers do have an analytics working group that can really challenge his work. But it might be in the Oilers best interest to add additional bloggers, or some sort of external advisory group, with little social or financial ties to the team, who can provide Tyler with feedback.

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

Hockey Fans and Owners: Rules, Expectations and Actions

Source: Yahoo! Sports

A few interesting stories in the news that really highlight the relationship between fans and team owners. One is about a Montreal business that was asked to take down a sign that had the local hockey teams logo. From CTV Montreal:

The banner showed a man wearing a Canadiens jersey and slicing shawarma with a sword. Underneath the cartoon-like caricature was a large “Go Habs Go” message.

Issa quickly received a letter from an NHL lawyer telling him he was violating league copyrights and to remove the banner. At first, he simply painted over the Canadiens logo on the shawarma slicer’s jersey, but another letter quickly followed in January telling Issa that “Go Habs Go” also represents a trademark.

The other is out of Vancouver, where a car dealership was asked to take down a sign that supported the local hockey teams playoff run. From The National Post:

Doug Lum, general manager of the Destination Auto Group, said he received the letter by both courier and email Thursday from the NHL’s legal department.

The letter refers to a large sign on the window of the company’s Kingsway Honda dealership.

The Teardrop Flags reads: “Go Canucks Go!” with the words “Honk if you’re a fan” underneath. There is also a small Canucks logo on the window.

It’s clear that fans and team owners have certain expectations of one another. Fans expect entertainment and information when the need it. Owners see fans as a source of revenue and an audience for their product. Fans must also abide by certain rules, such as the ones established by the Canucks and Canadiens. Rules are a given in any relationship, whether business, personal, online or offline.

Within a network of groups and individuals related to the game, relationships between entities rely on expectations. From there, these expectations can evolve and determine if and how the relationship will continue to exist. Expectations play a role in the fluidity of the network with rules and actions changing all the time. From these relationships come action by fans, as well as league managers and team owners.

What I find surprising is how harsh both the Canucks and Canadiens franchises reacted to signs clearly supportive of them. Additionally, both organizations were able to copyright a slogan that was created by fans (“Go Team Go”). Even in a digital age where anyone can remix cultural artifacts such as team logos and images, both franchises still view their fans as simple consumers rather than creative produsers (Bruns, 2005). I don’t think this will impact future fan behavior since the web is filled with fan generated content that does not have full permission from the teams.

Bruns, A. (2005, March 11). Some Exploratory Notes on Produsers and Produsage. Retrieved from http://snurb.info/index.php?q=node/329. (2011, May 16).

Restaurant owner fined $89,000 for showing some Habs spirit. (2011, May 16). CTV Montreal. Retrieved from http://montreal.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20110516/mtl_basha_110516/20110516/?hub=MontrealHome.

Wyshynski, G. (2011, May 17). Is NHL wrong for serving $89,000 fine to Montreal restaurant? Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved from http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Is-NHL-wrong-for-serving-89-000-fine-to-Montrea?urn=nhl-wp5062. (2011, May 18).

Ziemer, B. (2011, May 2). Car dealership’s Canucks Sign Draws NHL’s Ire. The National Post. Retrieved from http://sports.nationalpost.com/2011/05/02/car-dealerships-canucks-sign-draws-nhls-ire. (2011, May 18).

Social Networks & Information Gatekeepers

A real tension exists between hockey bloggers and mainstream media (MSM). Both groups have their strenghts and weaknesses, but far too often it has become a childish argument of who produces better quality and which is a better source of knowledge and information.

Placing everyone tied to the game of hockey in a giant network diagram, you can start to see why this tension exists. Include in this giant web the fans, team owners, players, sports journalists and anyone else with some relationship to the game. Strictly based on communication patterns, these individuals are tied to one another with short linkages representing close ties. Information would be shared much easier and more often across closer ties. Based on relationships and goals, individuals would group together and maintain ties.

Communication being the exchange of information, is of high value to fans. They are active individuals who demand this information for their personal interest, knowledge and engagement with the game. Over different mediums, fans connect with sources of information and share what they know and understand with others.

The network they’re a part of is a fluid and dynamic stucture. The size of the network changes, links are formed and broken, and groups gather and disband. But within this network are numerous gatekeepers who decide what information will enter the network. In this case, these gatekeepers are the team, their employers as well as mainstream media outlets.

Professional sports teams are major businesses, so the information they have is closely guarded. Hockey clubs are competing with one another and must do whats best for their own operations. The information teams share must adhere to the goals of their organization, with sponsors and investors in mind. Media outlets that cover the team must follow the direction of teams if they want to continue having access to players and managers. Withholding information from a social network, as well as releasing half-truth material, will cause tension between bloggers and MSM. But it’s their actions, and inactions, within a social network that maintains it.

Gatekeepers are active in the social network as consumers of information, but fail to reciprocate. Bloggers and readers can get together and discuss a topic out in the open for everyone, including gatekeepers to read. Yet these gatekeepers will not share what they know as honestly and openly as the rest of the social network.

Second, gatekeepers attempt to control what members and groups of network know, understand and experience about the game. If a team loses badly, their official website may report on the positives instead of particular reasons why they lost. This would be an attempt to divert negative reaction, maintain a positive outlook on the team and keep fans coming back. The problem with trying to control what people know is that in a social network filled with links for information exchange, knowledge is being created, developed and shared.

The social network that these gatekeepers are trying to influence will generate knowledge with or without them. If what a team releases goes against the knowledge of that network, they’ll feel an instant backlash. Web technology and communication tools have made this network highly advanced in terms of knowledge development about the game. As a result, gatekeepers are seen with some suspicion and resentment for their contributions to the network.

University of Twente. (2010, September 7). Gatekeeping. Retrieved from
http://www.utwente.nl/cw/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20clusters/Media%2C%20Culture%20and%20Society/gatekeeping.doc