The NHL will be introducing 35 new stats on their website today, ushering in a new era in the ways fans, media, and teams can measure the game. Adding to the puck and player tracking technology the NHL introduced at the 2015 All-Star Weekend, which TechGraphs chronicled, the 2014-2015 season may be remembered as the year the NHL left the analytics ice age and joined U.S. pro sports leagues in adopting advanced sports technology.
NHL COO John Collins said of the additions, “You’re going to see a big change in the way we present our stats, in terms of the depth and the utility of how to do it. And that’s before the puck tracking [system].” He later added, “We need to create a digital record of what happens on the ice. That’s standard across the league, and goes much deeper than the current real-time scoring system.”
The two most common advanced stats are Corsi and Fenwick, both of which estimate puck possession. For a primer on advanced NHL statistics check out this primer from Sports Illustrated, or for a deeper dive, take a look at Lighthouse Hockey’s introduction to hockey analytics.
In addition to being used by media and fans, the NHL will begin allowing teams and player agents to use these advanced statistics in arbitration hearings, which will change the criteria for how arbitration eligible players are compensated.
In fact, Jimmy Hascup of USA TODAY wrote an article today about player agent Allan Walsh, who brought up puck-possession metrics in a discussion about the value of one of his clients in a meeting with a general manager. After Walsh told the officials they were missing an important part of his clients value, Walsh recounted, “It was kind of like, ‘(expletive), he knows.’ It really brought discussion to a different level.”
But these new metrics aren’t being met with open arms by everyone associated with the NHL. Much like the scouts vs. quants stat wars chronicled in the Michael Lewis book, Moneyball, many in the NHL establishment have been resistant to these new metrics. Josh Gold-Smith from Awful Announcing covered this conflict recently, showing that one NHL columnist compared “analytics folks” to terrorists:
“People who disagree with me are terrorists” – Jack Todd (now with screen shot) pic.twitter.com/GgyHd2Csjk
— Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) October 4, 2014
We’ve seen this story before in baseball and we know how it will end. Regardless of the opinions of stats-truthers, the NHL has already won by embracing advances in sports technology, which will bring dividends to the league and their fans for years to come.