Rise of hockey analytics could force teams to reinvest in IT infrastructure design


The benefits of big data analytics are only just beginning to be felt in professional hockey, so teams looking to compete for the Stanley Cup may need to upgrade their staff members’ data knowledge and IT infrastructure design to adequately prepare for this paradigm shift.


The use of analytics and data-driven insights in sports settings was first pioneered in baseball, but its usefulness has been extended to hockey as of late. As team budgets rise in accordance with new competitive pressures and more fan base clamoring, organizations need to do everything they can to position themselves for success. Increasingly, that means running big data analytics software to identify hidden value and help teams make shrewder personnel decisions.


For instance, by using figures such as age and the Corsi rating, a statistic that Hockey Prospectus said helps to track how a player personally impacts possession ranking, Michael Schuckers, director of St. Lawrence University’s Quantitative Resource Center and co-founder of Statistical Sports Consulting, can determine the likelihood that a player in the National Hockey League will be successful on a new team.


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By using these kinds of numbers and formulas, Schuckers postulated that Daniel Brière’s two-year $8 million contract may not pan out as expected for the Montreal Canadiens, while the Ottawa Senators will likely be quite pleased with the two-year, $6.5 million contract recently given to Clarke MacArthur, the Boston Globe reported. Although neither player comes close to the dollar figures or name recognition of major stars like Sidney Crosby, these kinds of contracts can still make or break a team, and analytics can be especially helpful in picking winners and losers among this caliber of athlete.


“I think the top 100 players have something that’s easier to see with the eye,” Schuckers said, according to the Globe. “You watch a couple dozen NHL games, Sidney Crosby is going to stand out. Patrice Bergeron is going to stand out. It’s those players who are doing the little things – playing more of the grunt minutes and energy-line minutes – where it’s harder to tell and get a sense of what their value is. It’s not as dynamic to the eye. That’s where analytics can help. I think analytics can pay a great deal of benefits monetarily.”


Of the seven NHL franchises in Canada, only the Edmonton Oilers have fully embraced big data analytics thus far. However, in a recent article in the Edmonton Journal, Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish said that these applications will only become more popular with other teams in Canada and the United States as analytics continues to prove useful in these scenarios.


Although a hockey team can quickly see the benefits from big data analytics, making sure such an initiative can be successfully implemented is often easier said than done. For example, an organization may find that it has to upgrade its IT infrastructure design to account for the influx of new data streams. Canadian hockey franchises looking to get the most out of analytics may decide that partnering with FlexITy is their best option. By first determining an organization’s current and future needs before implementing best-in-breed solutions, managed IT services provider FlexITy can help hockey teams and other businesses maximize their IT investment to yield future dividends.