NHL seeks to grab fans with data analytics

The NHL wants to bring in hardcore fans and casual fans alike with a multi-phase plan to offer 'enhanced statistics' along with advanced visualizations on 100 years of historical data and its real-time scoring data.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

"This cottage industry has popped up around our statistics about applying enhanced analytics or statistics around our games," he says. "We strive to make NHL.com the home for all official conversations around hockey at the NHL level. That was kind of the impetus. We have the data. We have the official statistics around the game and our real-time scoring system. We get the data faster than anyone else."

A new way to analyze the game

"Goal number one is to put these stats on NHL.com," says Chris Foster, director of Digital Business Development at the NHL, who is leading the charge to digitize all of the league's game records going back to its first season in 1917-1918. "We know that's where the majority of casual fans come to find us. We know there's going to be a learning curve, but we want to teach our fans a new way to look at the game and analyze the game."

To start, the NHL has renamed the stats. Corsi is now Shot Attempts (SAT), Fenwick is now Unblocked Shot Attempts (USAT), PDO has become Shooting Percentage Plus Save Percentage (SPSV%), etc.

"There will be quite a bit of commentary about how or what these statistics are and how to interpret these statistics," McArdle says. "We've given a lot of thought, even to the names we've given to these statistics, to kind of chip away at the mystique. We want to make sure that the casual fan understands what the stat is, to be as descriptive as possible."

That's part of the first phase of the NHL.com/Stats redesign, along with more than 30 new extended statistics like first and second assists (1st A, 2nd A), goals by time (G/20), penalties (taken and drawn) by time (Pen/20, PenDr/20) and average shot length (ASL).

Phase 2 is planned to roll out in time for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It will feature analysis for every Stanley Cup Playoffs game and series using an algorithm that incorporates 37 variables, including road record, goals against, special teams statistics, etc. Advanced filtering will allow users to do game, season and career comparisons between players, teams and games delivered in dynamic line graphs.

In Phase 3, planned for the start of the 2015-2016 season, the NHL will incorporate new metrics, visualizations, active player comparison tools, player performance prediction tools, pre-season rankings and team power indexes.

Phase 4 will come in 2016 to coincide with the NHL's Centennial Celebration. It will feature the entire official statistical history of the NHL, including every box score dating back to the league's inaugural 1917-1918 season. With 100 years of stats fully integrated into the package, the NHL will roll out new tools and functionality, including advanced filtering and visualizations that can be applied to the entire history of the league.

"The historical data is certainly not as in-depth as what we're collecting today," McArdle says. "What the data going back to 1917 allows you to do is really tell stories."

For the first time he says, you will be able to have that argument at the bar about whether Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby is the greatest player of all time and use visualizations to back up your claim.

"You'll be able to do team comparisons across eras," he says. "You'll be able to ask 'who was better at X, Y or Z. It will allow fans, broadcast partners, bloggers, analysts and commenters to tap into that data."

The package will leverage the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud service, along with various SAP solutions and technologies.

Follow Thor on Google+

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
Watch out for these 6 IT management traps to avoid