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An introduction to Hockey Analytics and the By The Numbers forum (PLEASE READ ME)

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01-18-2014, 02:23 PM
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hatterson
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An introduction to Hockey Analytics and the By The Numbers forum (PLEASE READ ME)

This thread is designed to serve as an introduction both to the world of hockey analytics in general and our specific niche here in the By The Numbers forum. It will serve as a landing spot for new visitors, a source of knowledge for those new to the field, and a quick reference FAQ for the curious.

You can either read the tread in its entirety or use the following links to jump to the relevant post:
  • What is hockey analytics? (post 2)
  • What is the By The Numbers forum and why does it exist? (post 2)
  • Do you have any special rules here? (post 2)
  • What type of people can benefit from hockey analytics? (post 3)
  • Can hockey really be accurately measured and analyzed? (post 3)
  • Does hockey analytics replace actually watching games? (post 3)
  • I'm interested in hockey analytics but I don't know anything about it or where to start? (post 4)
  • I've got the basics down, where do I go from here? (post 4)
  • How do I find out what's already been done? (post 4)
  • I have ideas but no skills/data to pursue them or I have skill but no ideas. What do I do? (post 4)
  • Is there a list of resources somewhere? (post 5)

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Come join us on the By The Numbers forum. Take a look at our introduction post if you're new. If you have any questions, feel free to PM me.

Last edited by hatterson: 01-18-2014 at 08:01 PM.
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01-18-2014, 07:27 PM
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What is hockey analytics?

Analytics in general is defined as "the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data" which means that hockey analytics is simply the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in the data surrounding hockey.

There's a couple key things in that definition that are worth paying attention to. First, the word meaningful. Patterns are fun, they're interesting, and they can provide for fun factoids to toss out during conversations. "Hey did you you know that Bobby Orr scored twice as many points on days with an 'e' in them?" (That's made up, please don't quote it) Ultimately however, they're not worth much more than an interesting conversation piece unless they're meaningful, unless they move beyond "huh, that's interesting" and into the territory of deepening our understanding of the game we love.

Second, it's worth paying attention to the dual goals of analytics: discovery and communication. We value both here. Discovering a new insight into the game doesn't help everyone unless you can also tell them about it and clearly you can't tell everyone about something unless you've first discovered it.

What is the By The Numbers forum and why does it exist?

The "By The Numbers" subforum is a place where mathematics and statistics are used (in a rigorous fashion) to answer questions about the game that we all love.

Who's the greatest player of all time? How much should that player receive on his next contract? Are goaltenders used in the most efficient way by teams? Did Player X deserve the Selke Trophy last year? How important was Scotty Bowman to the success of the Red Wings? What will Phoenix's playoff run mean to their long term financial viability? What percentage of revenues should players receive in the next CBA?

We all love a good argument, and between all of the teams and leagues out there, there are a lot of viewpoints. Unfortunately, "conventional wisdom" has dominated the conversation for essentially all of the 20th century. I'll have my opinion and you'll have your opinion, and they're both based upon "what we know" and anecdotal evidence to support our preconceived notions. Generally, arguments evolve into who's "played the game", and (if a tiebreaker is needed), "who's played the game at a higher level".

A rigorous, science-based approach, attempts to bridge that gap. No longer is it necessary to stand in front of a 90mph slapshot, or fight a heavyweight, in order to have credibility and understanding of the sport that we love. With the right data (that's important) framed the right way (that's also important) we can see things that even tenured professionals miss. (I'm also not suggesting that these methods eliminate the need for traditional methods. Both can, and do, happily work together if done well).

Do you have any special rules here?

Two additional rules apply (in addition to our site rules):
  1. Respect what goes on here. If you can't do that, then feel free to ignore the forum entirely.
  2. Be patient, and trust others' motives. What's basic to you may not be basic to me, and we're all in this together. Be helpful. Take opportunities to learn, and take opportunities to teach.
Oh, and have fun! That's why we're here to begin with - it's just a game.

If you have ideas for the success of the forum, please send them our way.

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01-18-2014, 07:28 PM
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What type of people can benefit from hockey analytics?

Simply put, we believe everyone can benefit, however we understand that people are at a very different places in their exposure and expertise to this side of hockey, from those who may not even know what hockey analytics are to those who earn a living studying and advancing the field. We hope that this forum, and the discussions inside of it, help to bridge the gap between those two groups.

Can hockey really be accurately measured and analyzed?

Well it all depends on what you mean be accurately. Certainly, we'll never be able to predict things with absolute certainty. We'll never be able to guarantee, with 100% accuracy, that Team A will defeat Team B in tomorrow nights game. However, that's not our goal, nor should it be. What fun would a sport be if you already knew who was going to win?

Instead, the goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the game. Some believe that's possible, some don't. Clearly the majority of us here believe that analytics provides valuable information but instead of going into the detailed viewpoints here, we'll simply reference this thread in which many members share and discuss their views.

Does hockey analytics replace actually watching games?

No, it doesn't, nor is it meant to. Analytics are meant to expand and deepen your knowledge of the game, not to completely replace or provide it. We believe that analytics, just like actually watching the game, are only a piece of the puzzle not the entire thing.

If you completely ignore analytic methods of looking at the game you open yourself to a wide range of biases and you allow yourself to miss valuable insight that otherwise may not occur. Similarly, if you only look at the numbers, you're going to have an awfully hard time providing the needed context to interpret those numbers.


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01-18-2014, 07:28 PM
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I'm interested in hockey analytics but I don't know anything about it or where to start?

Well you already have the first step right, curiosity. The desire to discover will help you more than any other skill. However, even ultimate curiosity is wasted if you don't know where to look. That being said, here are a few resources to help start your journey:

The Fakers Guide to Advanced Stats in the NHL - By Sean McIndoe (DownGoesBrown)
Stats Made Simple Part 1: Corsi & Fenwick - By JenLC
Stats Made Simple Part 2: Score Close & Score Effects - By JenLC
The Idiot's Guide to NHL Advanced Statistics, Part I - By Jonathan Willis
The Idiot's Guide to NHL Advanced Statistics, Part II - By Jonathan Willis

I've got the basics down, where do I go from here?

Now, you can let your curiosity guide you. Are you more interested in goaltenders? Perhaps you have a passion for finding out what forwards are the best defensively. Or perhaps you love everything defensemen. It's up to you.

The best thing you can do is explore, read what other people have done and try it out for yourself. At the bottom of this post is a list of various sites/blogs/resources that will help you on your search.

How do I find out what's already been done?

It sounds like a copout, but google is a valuable resources. Searching can yield a ton of information. In addition we have this thread that contains a ton of details about stuff that's been done.

I have ideas but no skills/data to pursue them or I have skill but no ideas. What do I do?

Trying never hurt anyone, worst thing that can happen is that you learn a little from your failure. Maybe you'll gain some skills or maybe exploration will give you some ideas. However, if that fails, you can also post in this thread about your idea. Perhaps someone will come along who has the skill to complement your idea or vice versa.


Last edited by hatterson: 04-01-2014 at 09:32 AM.
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01-18-2014, 07:28 PM
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Is there a list of resources somewhere?

This is far from a complete list and will be modified as time goes on. If you have any suggested additions, please feel free to PM on of the By The Numbers forum moderators.

Analytics Websites:
Hockey Prospectus
Hockey Analytics
Behind The Net
HockeyAnalysis.com

Analytics Blogs:
Hockey Historysis
Brodeur Is A Fraud
Hockey Abstract
Hockeythink
Objective NHL
NHL Numbers

Data Sources:
Extraskater.com - Contains player and team level statistics for Corsi/Fenwick/Shots as well as scoring and quality of competition. Also includes game level detail.
Stats.hockeyanalysis.com - Player and team based stats for shots/goals as well as WOWY and HART stats. Also includes some nice charts/graphs.
Behind The Net - Contains season level statistics for qualcomp, on/off plus minute, corsi, zone stats and shooting percentages
Hockey-Reference
Hockey Summary Project
HockeyDB
Hockey Databank Project
The Goaltender Home Page
NHL Standings under various scoring systems

Tools and Software:
The R Project For Statistical Computing


Last edited by hatterson: 04-01-2014 at 09:29 AM. Reason: Updated data sources.
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