In today’s NHL, analytics can give teams a competitive advantage over opponents.

The growth and importance of hockey analytics were two key takeaways from the fourth annual Hockey Analytics Conference at Carleton University in Ottawa. The international conference focuses on the collection, analysis, and application of hockey data.

The conference was established in 2015 by Dr. Shirley Mills and Dr. Michael Schuckers. Mills is an associate professor of mathematics and statistics at Carleton University. She is also an executive director of the Statistical Society of Canada. Schuckers is a Rutherford professor of mathematics and a professor of statistics at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. He is also the director of the Peterson Quantitative Resource Center.

Conference Highlights

Field work presentations of hockey analytics highlighted this year’s conference. There were many presenters who ranged from amateur statisticians, like Campbell Weaver, to popular professionals, such as Micah Blake McCurdy of HockeyViz, Brian Macdonald of Greater Than Plus Minus, and Asmae Toumi of Hockey-Graphs.

This year’s lineup included presentations that examined topics such as ‘The hot hand theory in hockey’; ‘Estimating the causal effect of injury on performance’; ‘Hockey player mapping with deep convolutional neural networks’; and ‘Isolating individual impact on team shot quantity and quality’, among others.

Rob Vollman

“We’re trying to show the diversity of the applications as well as the individuals,” Dr. Mills said. “[Hockey analytics is] not only in the game itself, but it’s analyzing individual players, the value of trades, the value of contract negotiations, the marketing side of business to get people into the stands, [evaluating] how happy are the fans, the training regime…every aspect”.

Additional applications include identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a player, a line or a team; deconstructing team strategies; improving player health, development, and performance; and making roster or line-up decisions.

Other conference highlights included a data visualization workshop; a panel discussion about analytics in other hockey leagues; a book launch for Rob Vollman’s most recent publication, Stat Shot: A Fan’s Guide to Hockey Analytics; and a conversation with Elias Collette, the Senior Business Data Analyst at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

Role Models

Vollman and Collette are role models for students who are passionate about both hockey and statistics. They turned their hockey passions and data skills into jobs with NHL teams. Vollman, a pioneer of hockey analytics, was recently hired by the Los Angeles Kings as their senior hockey analyst; Collette works for the Canadian Intellectual Property Office by day and as an analytics consultant with the Ottawa Senators by night. Tim Pattyson, who works for the Senators as their hockey data analyst, also attended the conference.

A recent article by Ian Mendes of TSN revealed the Senators intend to increase the role of analytics in their daily hockey operations this season. In this article, general manager Pierre Dorion told Mendes, “We will embrace the power of data and insights to measure our impact.”

Data Secrecy

It’s not surprising that presenters working for teams were careful answering questions, if they answered at all. Presenters were either vague or silent when responding to questions about team priorities, data collection methods, current or past data projects, inner workings, and capability.

 

Vollmer Photo Credit: Hiveminer.com

Billy Morrison covers the Ottawa Senators and the NHL’s Atlantic Division for Full Press Coverage. Follow Billy on Twitter @BillyMorrison01.

 

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