CapGeek, Hockey Analytics and the NHL’s Reluctance to Provide Information

CapGeek has announced that it would be ceasing operations as its founder and director, Matthew Wuest attends to some personal matters. CapGeek was the definitive source for NHL salary information used by fans, NHL teams and media outlets. It also provided interactive tools to determine if teams could take on player salaries, a cap calculator for armchair GM’s and what future rosters could potentially look like. It really improved the public’s understanding of the salary cap model and the numerous financial intricacies involved in building NHL rosters.

The website filled a need after the NHL implemented the salary cap in 2005. Team’s were no longer able to outspend one another and had to find a way to put together a roster with financial constraints. Team were on more of a level playing field, forcing fans to learn more about the cap and what implications it can have on their club.

img003CapGeek provided a service that really should’ve been provided by the NHL. The league had the resources and time to build a website and share information that fans demanded, but instead allowed a third party to be the source of information. By leveraging various sources and contacts within the NHL, CapGeek forced the information into the public realm. It’s a fantastic example of how individuals can collect and distribute information outside of traditional means using communication technology and strengthen the overall discourse. Not only did CapGeek publish the information, but they also gave their site visitors the ability to create new ideas and knowledge using the content and interactive tools on their website. This was a critical success factor for the website as it further pushed discussion pertaining to trade speculation, roster development and cap implications. It was a fantastic method to cut through the many misleading narratives that fans are inundated with and forced a higher level of  critical thinking when discussing the game.

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Beyond the Foster Hewitt Media Gondola: A Review of the CWHL All-Star Game

“Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland” goes the saying by legendary commentator Foster Hewitt, whose name is engraved on the broadcast booth of the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. In order for this article to be written, I am grateful to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League media coordinator Kristen Lipscombe for allowing me to sit in the press box as well as inviting me to the all-star draft party (a private function) the night before.

It is certainly easier to record observations high up in the 600-level press box section, where I could jot down notes frequently without facing the scorn of fellow fans for staring at my portable electronic device instead of making noise. There was also a television that showed Sportsnet One’s live broadcast next to me. Overall, when I write reviews of events, I try to document minor details that many people don’t already know and can’t find anywhere else. These details may be trivial, but they offer insight into many broader themes.

I strongly believe in making my research accessible to academics across different disciplines and I also want to present it in a way that won’t be easily dismissed by influential policymakers and the general non-academic audience. One problem I have observed in academia is that some experts travel to conferences only to engage with a small handful of other experts who already know and agree with existing challenges. Sometimes the dialogue in academia becomes very theoretical and ideological to the point where some of these experts already know their results before beginning their observations.

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On Beliveau, Masculinity and “Class”

Image courtesy of the Guardian

Upon hearing the news of Jean Beliveau’s passing a few days ago, I was immediately taken back to my most enduring and endearing memory of Le Gros Bill. In a past life, a time when I thought a career spent toiling away in academia was for suckers (and yet here I am), I worked in numerous capacities at the Hockey Hall of Fame – some glamourous, some not so glamourous. One of my jobs at the annual Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies was to patrol the front of the hotel at which most honoured members in town for the event would stay. I was responsible for escorting the various Hall of Famers and their families through the crowd of (often aggressive, almost always professional) autograph seekers to the limo bus that would then take them to the red carpet at Yonge and Front.

One of the people I had to guide through this organized chaos each year was Jean Beliveau. As the flood of tributes after his death demonstrate, he is revered as a hockey legend and beloved by most with a knowledge of the sport’s history. This well-deserved respect and public veneration makes memorabilia featuring his likeness or signature worth a pretty penny (and like an artistic masterpiece, the value of this type of merchandise has undoubtedly increased after his passing). For me on Induction night, this meant the assembled horde of “fans” carrying unsigned pieces of memorabilia were especially eager for a moment of Mr. Beliveau’s time.

One year, I met him at the top of the hotel ramp, (re-)introduced myself, and began leading him and his wife toward the curb where the bus was waiting. With the help of a co-worker, I attempted to shield them from the hungry mob gathered in front of the hotel. He stopped a couple times and politely signed some autographs; meanwhile my co-worker and I absorbed more than a few shoves, jabs and insults from members of the crowd who were less than pleased with our efforts to keep them from obtaining their big ticket item (that would almost always be up for sale on eBay the next morning). We finally got Jean and Elise to the doors of the bus and we wished them a pleasant evening. But before the doors closed, Beliveau lightly grabbed my shoulder and asked, “Are you okay?” After I assured him that I was just fine, he patted me on the back and said “Great. You’re doing a great job. Thank you.” On a night entirely organized around treating these “honoured members” like unparalleled VIPs, he cared enough to stop for a second and ask how I was doing. This was certainly not a heroic or courageous deed; but it was an example of a genuine act of kindness and gratitude from a man who by all accounts was chalk full of them.

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Hockey Helps the Homeless…but what does Canada do?

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Photo from York

Hockey Helps the Homeless (HHTH) was started in 1996 as as industry tournament by Toronto businessman, Gary Scullion.  Today, there are 14 tournaments held across Canada, and six university tournaments run by over 500 volunteers.  Players are asked raise a minimum of $250 in addition to paying the $200 registration fee which pays for 3 games, a personalized jersey, some food and a banquet.  Last year, the Vancouver tournament raised over $346,000 in gross revenues and has raised over $1 million since 2011.  HHTH partners with 35 different agencies across Canada to support front-line support projects (e.g., the disbursement of survival kits, food delivery trucks, providing medical and counselling services, and  renovations) and reintegration and transition projects (e.g., helping to prepare people to reintegrate into the workforce and independent living by providing life skills, funding libraries and skills training).

The growth of using sport for social change is becoming increasingly prevalent.  Perhaps, Right to Play is the best known champion for the use of sport as a vehicle to build capacity, teach skills, and build solidarity.  Now we have events, programs, and fundraisers such as the Skate to End Poverty,  the Homeless World Cup, and a host of charitable runs and races that all privilege the so-called power of sport.  HHTH has certainly identified an important area of social concern but while we recognize that HHTH does some tangible good for Canadian communities, we should also ask:

  • How does playing hockey help the homeless, aside from raising money?
  • If HHTH tournaments are so successful at raising funds, why are the number of tournaments growing each year?
  • Is there any way that hockey actually contributes to homelessness?
  • Is homelessness an individual concern or an issue for the government?
  • Is money and resources all that is needed?
  • If you told a homeless person on the street that you were going to play hockey on their behalf, what do you think their response would be?
  • What role does the rising cost of living play in homelessness in Canada?

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Hockey Research at the 2014 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) Conference

One of the things we like to do at Hockey in Society is highlight current sociocultural research about hockey being done by scholars across the globe (you can see various posts related to academic conferences here). Last week, the annual conference for the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS), a scholarly association for sport sociologists, took place in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately I was not able to attend, but the program is published online, so I am still able to highlight the research being presented that it relevant to the critical study of hockey and its place in society.

After the jump, check out the abstracts from relevant presentations (including from Hockey in Society writers Courtney Szto and Matt Ventresca). Topics include entrepreneurship and the formation of all-Black sport leagues (including the Colored Hockey League in the Canadian Maritimes) in the Reconstruction Era; racialized media media representations of black players, including the Montreal Canadiens’ P.K. Subban; the demise of Hockey Night in Canada and La soirée du hockey and the loss of hockey on Canada’s pubic broadcasters; social media reaction to Punjabi hockey broadcasts; and concussions in sport.

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Happy Birthday Šatan; or, How Should a Legend Retire?

The only pet I ever had was a small water turtle. I got it in the summer of 2002, and its name was Šarky (read as Shar-ke), as it was the most popular name in Slovakia at that time. You could hear it in phrases like “Šarky is God!” or “Šarky to the castle!” (in Slovakia this latter phrase doesn’t indicate any historic sightseeing, but becoming the country’s president). Šarky is not a regular given name, but it is the official nickname of Miroslav Šatan, a retired Slovak ice hockey player, who captained the national team to one gold, two silvers and a bronze in four World Championships, won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 and never really said a “proper” goodbye to the ice hockey scene. On October 22, Šarky celebrated his 40th birthday and all of the Slovak media celebrated with him. However, you could sense some uncertainty about the recent position Šatan is occupying in the minds of Slovak sports fans.

If the Slovak ice hockey in the era of its independence (which means since 1993) was to have a synonym in a person of a single player, then it definitely is Miroslav Šatan. He played with the senior men’s team since 1992, moreover, the very next year he was also drafted to the NHL. As just a 19 year-old lad he was part of the Slovak national team, which after the split of the former ice-hockey empire – Czechoslovakia – was demoted to the lowest ‘C’ division. However, it took just 10 years and Šatan, as the team’s captain, was raising the top divisions’ World Championship trophy above his head. Maybe he was not as iconic a player back in those times as other notable Slovaks, Žigmund Pálffy, Peter Bondra or Pavol Demitra, but he definitely was considered to be the one defining the style Slovaks played.

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Hockey Scouting in the Modern Age: An Interview with Victor Carneiro of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

hockeyscoutingWith the development of communication technology such as the web, social media and mobile technology, information pertaining to hockey has increased both in size and importance. The NHL, their broadcasters and media outlets are producing an astounding amount of content delivered on an array of platforms. Fans continue to demand information, and have played a key role in the development of new hockey related content. And of course, hockey teams are also acquiring as much information as they can for managerial decisions and to improve on-ice performance.

Not only has the amount of and demand for information increased, but many more channels between all stakeholders to share and develop information have opened as well. Teams however, are understandably restricted as to how much they can publicly disclose, mindful of the competitive nature of their business. Scouting in particular, which is relied upon to draft and acquire players has evolved in the modern age as communication technology increases in significance.

To get a better perspective on scouting in the modern age, I reached out to Victor Carneiro, Director of Player Personnel for the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Victor is also active online, at times giving a glimpse into the world of scouting in  junior hockey.

Tell us about yourself, how you got into hockey, and how you landed with the Soo.

Well, I’m from Toronto. I’m a big sports fan. I like a lot of sports outside of hockey, soccer probably being number two. I find a lot of the flow sports have some similarities with hockey as well. 

As for getting into hockey, growing up, like most Canadian kids, I was a big hockey fan. But I realized at a young age I wasn’t going to make it as a pro hockey player. Luckily the school I went to had a hockey arena on campus and I just ended up being a rink rat. I mainly did the scorekeeping and timekeeping for our school’s games but I also helped with the ice and at times in the snack bar. I remember being asked to do the scorekeeping and timekeeping for a high school tournament and I ended up getting paid. I thought it was so great to watch hockey and get paid.

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