Mark Popovic, KHL player and former NHLer, on hockey culture and labour vs. passion in a pro career

This is one in a series of posts in which I will report back from The Hockey Conference that I attended in London, ON from June 18-20, 2014. As I did not digitally record any of the proceedings, any direct quotations may contain slight inaccuracies – however, I have endeavored to capture the essence of the commentary and to reproduce it as accurately as possible.

The first keynote of the conference featured Mark Popovic, a former NHL player who played 81 games over five seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and Atlanta Thrashers, and current player with Croatian club Zagreb Medvescak of the KHL. For reference, you can view his career stats here.

The keynote took a unique form, as conference organizer and Western University sport historian Dr. Don Morrow conducted a one-on-one interview in the vein of the popular Inside the Actor’s Studio television program. Popovic was gracious and forthcoming with his answers, although, as will be discussed, there was a contradiction in his views on the labour process in hockey that was not adequately resolved during the session. Nonetheless, Popovic provided great insight into the life of a professional hockey player and some of the struggles, challenges and rewards of this career. After the jump, I review three of the interesting themes that emerged from this session: hockey as labour, players as commodities, and the expression of passion and love for the sport. I conclude by briefly attempting to explore the apparent contradictions between the first two topics and the latter one. Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Debunking the value of enforcers; PK Subban polarizes Gen X and Gen Y; Blackhawks fans mobilize vs. sexism; and more

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

  • Good read by Mike Leonard debunking the notion that enforcers help deter violence against other players, with an analysis of Shawn Thornton’s time with the Boston Bruins. [Stanley Cup of Chowder]
  • Avi Goldberg interprets PK Subban’s relationship with Montreal Canadiens’ management and fans through the frame of generational differences. A very interesting read. [The Barnstormer]
  • Chicago Blackhawks fans mobilized against the team’s sexism during its intermission activities, and the team responded by removing the offending features. [Puck Daddy]
  • Adam Proteau reports that Canadian entrepreneur Arlene Dickinson has joined the board of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which is good news for the league. [The Hockey News]

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Diffusion of Hockey Analytics

Applying Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations theory to understand the adoption of hockey analytics

As fans, we all watch, follow and engage with the game very differently. Hockey analytics really is a supplement to our experience with the game, much like gambling, fantasy league and video games. What a person pays attention to during a game depends on their own experience, including their biases and preferences.

Aside from the information it’s creating and the impact it’s having on the game, hockey analytics is first and foremost a method of engagement with the game. Fans are far more than passive consumers and have used the communication technology available to fully immerse themselves in an active, participatory culture.

Having said that, hockey analytics is an innovative way to understand the game as fans try to detect some sort of meaningful patterns. Again, it’s not for everyone, but the fact is analytics, especially the work fans and bloggers are doing, can possibly change how the game is being played.

And like any innovative idea or product, it tends to go through a process to become adopted by the masses. Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation theory (1964) in particular, provides some context to the current dissemination of hockey analytics.

A summary of the Diffusion of Innovation theory from UTwente:

Diffusion research centers on the conditions which increase or decrease the likelihood that a new idea, product, or practice will be adopted by members of a given culture. Diffusion of innovation theory predicts that media as well as interpersonal contacts provide information and influence opinion and judgment.

Diffusion is the “process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over a period of time among the members of a social system”. An innovation is “an idea, practice, or object that is perceived to be new by an individual or other unit of adoption”. “Communication is a process in which participants create and share information with one another to reach a mutual understanding” (Rogers, 1995).

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Making Warrior Accountable: A social media campaign

It was recently brought to my attention that Warrior is a horrible company.  When I say “horrible” I don’t mean that their equipment is horrible.  This is the same Warrior worn and used by Alex Burrows, Shane Doan, Ilya Kovalchuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Alexei Kovalev among others.  I myself purchased a Warrior Covert DT1 a few months ago. I love the stick, but I no longer love Warrior.  And, unless they change their sexist and misogynistic ways I will no longer be consuming any more Warrior products.  I encourage you to do the same.

I have never shopped on Warrrior’s website and I don’t follow them on social media, so up until last Friday I had no idea what Warrior considers “marketing”.  Someone on Twitter informed me that the following comment can be found on Warrior’s FAQ page:

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 9.40.05 AM

 

Funny thing is that Warrior does serve “that” demographic, just not with women’s specific clothing or equipment.  And if you search “women’s,” this is what comes up:

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 6.55.24 PM

So, okay they don’t make women’s gear – they have made that abundantly clear. And no one is asking them to go out of their way to include women.  But then why does Warrior go out of its way  to make women (or men shopping for women) with the intent of purchasing its equipment feel like crap?  I’m going to go out on a limb and speak on behalf of all women athletes and tell you right now, we already feel like outsiders so there is no need to rub it in.  We know that there are very few women’s specific items on the shelves.  We know that even if we find something in a men’s that we like it probably won’t come in an appropriate size for us.  We know that hockey, lacrosse and soccer (the three sports that Warrior deals with) were not made for us.  No need to put it in writing. Read more of this post

Beyond the Stats: An Interview with Extra Skater’s Darryl Metcalf

Chicago Blackhawks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Four

Los Angeles Kings

The popularity of hockey analytics continues to grow as fans, teams and the NHL embrace new methods of measuring team and player performance. The uptake of analytics is dependent on the individual doing the analysis, as each person has different opinions and biases regarding what impacts a game result and what doesn’t. As a result, a number of websites have emerged providing various levels of data and analysis, putting the onus on the end user to interpret it as they please.

It’s important to note that fans in particular have lead the charge when it comes to developing and discussing new ideas regarding the game. The online environment has been critical for the growth of hockey analytics as fans connect online, publish ideas and develop the knowledge that surrounds the game. In recent years, a number of data visualization tools such as Super Shot Search and Shift Chart, have been developed by fans making data accessible, readily available, and easy to use. A major shift has occurred moving fans from passive consumers of information to more active participants when it comes to developing new ideas and information.

Extra Skaterfor instance, has become a go-to source for anyone interested in learning about hockey analytics, including the modern metrics (i.e., Corsi, Fenwick, etc), and has established itself as a solid reference point for fans. The website uses and extends data from NHL.com and has worked collaboratively to include Vollman and Tufts’ Player Usage Charts. Recently, the website has expanded to include advanced statistics for major junior league (CHL) players, and partnered with Cap Geek to include players’ UFA statuses.

Darryl Metcalf, the man behind Extra Skater, was kind enough to answer some questions about the field of hockey analytics, his motivation for launching the website and the importance of the online fan community.

Tell us about yourself/profession background and how you got into hockey?

I played hockey growing up and have been a fan since I can remember, not unlike many kids who grow up in Canada. Today I’m a consultant for a web firm and work on Extra Skater in my spare time.

How did you get into hockey statistics and analytics?

My interest in stats comes from being a fan of the game and wanting to understand it better. I’m a baseball fan, too, and seeing the stats revolution there certainly had some influence.

Click to learn more about the data and information available at ExtraSkater.com

Click to learn more about the data and information available at ExtraSkater.com

What was your motivation to launch Extra Skater?

There was, and is, a lot of great info and tools on other stats sites like Behind the Net. I used those sites regularly but wanted to do more with the numbers so I started putting data into my own spreadsheets and playing around with different ideas. Eventually I got to the point where I thought other people might find useful what I was putting together, so I started developing what would become Extra Skater.

Where do you pull your information from for Extra Skater? How much time and effort does it take to maintain the website?

Most of the raw data comes from NHL.com, which publishes various types of reports for every game. Updates are mostly automated, so regular operation of the site doesn’t take much time, which lets me spend time improving it instead.

What has the traffic been like for Extra Skater? Which teams or players get the most attention?

Traffic has grown fairly consistently since I launched the site before the 2013-14 season, much like general interest in advanced stats, I think. I don’t have stats on the popularity of specific teams or players but I’d venture that this season the Leafs were the biggest draw. Many identified them before the season started as a sort of test case for advanced stats and attention to their stats was definitely high throughout the season and especially so during their eventual collapse.

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A Story of 15 CHL Players, Together, On One Journey

Last year I had the privilege of speaking with 15 former and current CHL players. Below are their journeys, combined into one. Each paragraph comes from a different player’s story.


 

A Story of 15 Players, Together, on One Journey

Ever since I can remember I was on the ice.

My Grandpa would take me skating,
started out on the pond.
Those times were my first memories of hockey.

I asked my parents if I could be enrolled one year.
I asked if I could play.

I still remember my first loss.

I had a yellow jersey on.

I was in grade 4 and it was the second or third game of the season in house league.

My mom said I came off the ice bawling my eyes out.

I just think that right away I was pretty much hooked though,
for the game. Read more of this post

On “NHL Bloodlines” and Social and Cultural Capital: Why Do NHL Fathers Produce NHL Sons?

In its preview of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, The Hockey News features a Matt Larkin article entitled “Rising Son,” the subtitle of which reads: “Former NHLers’ sons, other relatives are on the radar as top prospects.” Larkin’s piece highlights no fewer than 22 draft eligible players with fathers, uncles, or brothers who used to or currently play in the NHL, including the sons of notable ex-NHLers such as Pierre Turgeon, Claude Lemieux, Al MacInnis, and Glen Wesley. Furthermore, three sons of former NHL regulars are expected to be drafted in the top 10: Sam Reinhart (son of Paul Reinhart and brother of NHL draftees Max and Griffin), Kasperi Kapanen (son of Sami Kapanen), and William Nylander (son of Michael Nylander).

Meanwhile, there are numerous current and past NHLers whose fathers enjoyed successful careers. The Howe family may be the most famous of these, with father Gordie playing along his sons Marty and Mark for the New England/Hartford Whalers of the World Hockey Association in the 1970s. Bobby and Brett Hull are another well-known father/son duo. Current NHLers whose fathers also played in the league include Paul Stastny (son of Peter), Nick Foligno (son of Mike), Brandon Sutter (son of Brent), Alexander Steen (son of Thomas), and Jarred Tinordi (son of Mark). And more players of famous lineage may never become regulars in the NHL, despite their hockey pedigree: Ray Bourque and Patrick Roy, for example, both have sons toiling in the KHL and AHL respectively.

The intergenerational success of these hockey families is often explained in popular discourse as a product of genetics or “bloodlines.” Read more of this post

Weekly Links: New lawsuit filed by former players; Growth of hockey analytics; CHL/ECHL merger; and more!

Source: NHL.com

Source: NHL.com

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

  • With the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs hiring the league’s first ever woman as a paid assistant coach, Ryan Kennedy wonders if and when we might see a female coach in the NHL. [The Hockey News]
  • A good look at sexism in hockey and fans’ increasing dissatisfaction with practices that objectify or marginalize women. [Hockey Broad]
  • A group of former NHL players are suing the league, accusing the league of marketing and profiting from extreme violence. [TSN]
  • With the recent hirings of Tyler Dellow and Eric Tulsky by NHL clubs, the online stats community is starting to get recognized for their work tracking and analyzing data. [SB Nation] [CBS Sports]
  • A look into the progress of hockey analytics, how it impacts the way we watch the game, and the future of the field. [Pension Plan Puppets]

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: PK Subban on the cost of playing hockey; Ex-NHLer John Rohloff suing NHL; Sabres’ owner to buy NFL’s Bills? And more

 

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

 

  • As his contract negotiations with Canadiens continue, P.K. Subban shares his insights on the state of the game, including the rising cost for parents. [National Post]
  • The Ontario Government is looking into potentially examining the working conditions of OHL players. [TSN]
  • Buffalo Sabres’ owner Terry Pegula is in the bidding to purchase the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, who’s owner Ralph Wilson passed away earlier this year. Andy Boron discusses the bid and its potential impact on the Sabres. [Die by the Blade]
  • John Rohloff, a veteran of 150 games for the Boston Bruins in the 1990s, is the latest to launch a lawsuit against the NHL for head trauma suffered during his career. [Puck Daddy]
  • The Hockey News looks back through its archives, and uncovers this quote from Bob Clarke about the arrival of Russian players in the NHL “I’ve never been in favor of the Soviets playing in the National Hockey League. . . .I have a lot of reasons in my own mind, one of which is probably prejudice.” [The Hockey News]
  • Adam Gretz looks back at the history of the Quebec Nordiques and their impact on the Colorado Avalanche, which they became in 1995. [SB Nation]
  • Speaking of Quebec, a new NHL-style arena is nearing completion even though the NHL has shown no inclination to expand to the city. [The Hockey News]
  • Greg Wyshynski on how the hiring of Kyle Dubas by the Toronto Maple Leafs represents a crack in the NHL’s Old Boy’s Club culture. [Puck Daddy]
  • Via SB Nation, Ann Frazier has put together a great video showing the location of NHL franchises from 1917 to the present:

Weekly Links: Detroit’s new arena; Maple Leafs hire analytics expert; New rating system for helmets; Panthers no longer employ cheerleaders, and more

Source: CBC News

Source: CBC News

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

  • A closer look into the plans for the new arena for the Detroit and the critical issues pertaining to its development and maintenance. [Kukla's Korner]
  • Meanwhile, taxpayers in Pennsylvania are still paying a heavy price for the Penguins rink. [Broad Street Hockey]
  • The Arizona Coyotes are facing another legal hurdle as the local mayor alleges that the agreement struck between the city and the teams ownership group may have broken state laws. [Five for Howling]
  • In its attempts to improve its international ranking, and thus qualify to claim its host berth at the 2018 Olympics, South Korea’s men’s program has hired Seoul-born former NHLer Jim Paek as its head coach. [Puck Daddy]
  • Scientists at Virginia Tech are developing a new rating system to measure how effective various hockey helmets are at preventing concussions. [New York Times]

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Weekly Links: Backlash to Sharks’ “ice girl” decision; Imagining an expanded World Cup of Hockey; Thorold’s offensive First Nations logo

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

  • The San Jose Sharks plan to introduce “ice girls” next season, prompting many Sharks fans to express their anger at this decision – some have threatened to cancel their season tickets. [SI.com]
  • CTGray has a frustrated fans’ take on the sexism of the Sharks’ decision. [Fear the Fin]
  • Finally, Ryan Kennedy wrote an editorial about the lack of women in hockey outside of “ice girl”/cheerleader roles. [The Hockey News]
  • On the topic of sexism in hockey, if you missed Courtney Szto’s critique this week of Warrior Hockey’s marketing campaign please give it a read. [Hockey in Society]
  • Greg Wyshynski examines the offensive logo of the junior team the Thorold (ON) Blackhawks, which features a cartoon caricature of a First Nations man playing hockey. A movement is underway to have the logo changed and it appears likely to succeed. [Puck Daddy]
  • An interesting look at the history of skating rinks on Washington DC’s iconic Reflecting Pool, and an argument that it should be used as part of the Winter Classic festivities when the Capitals host the Chicago Blackhawks in January. [Puck Buddys]

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