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NHL Innovation Event: #FancyStats are Dead, Long Live #EnhancedStats

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The NHL unveils their new statistics platform with help from SAP. And the stats community... not that you'd know from the press conference.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The NHL Innovation Event was the culmination of a lot of effort by a lot of people to improve the NHL's wildly outdated statistics website. It's a partnership with SAP, and as such, prominent members of both organizations presented the initial fruits of their work and the future plans to make the website even more robust.

The New Homepage

Not too much new to add here, as the new homepage is already up and running. To the NHL's credit, they're really making an effort for new fans to understand and appreciate these stats. For one, there's a major emphasis on team stats, which a casual fan might immediately gravitate to or find interest in. The new "Enhanced Stats & Making the Playoffs" section gives context to fans who simply want to know how their advanced stats abilities are affecting the team's Stanley Cup chances.

More than anything, though, there was a major push for these stats to represent players and not numbers... as cliche as that might sound. Multiple times, it was mentioned that the players are "heroes" in their departments, and the photos and logos of players and teams are more prominent on this site. Never fear, though; the "Enhanced Stats" tables are still exactly as detailed and number-heavy as you're used to.

Oddly, the URL for the "Enhanced Stats" section is nhl.com/stats/advancedstats. Call them whatever you want, I guess.

Future Phases

The future goal is to allow fans to "slice, dice, and dive into" stats more. From the sneak preview SAP gave for Phases 2-4 (yes, there are three more phases) we saw future integrations into the websites, which include:

  • visualizations: the Phase 2 page looked more number-driven and chart heavy than the initial page; where as the initial site is visually appealing, this one showed a lot more of how these numbers could be used to compare trends and draw conclusions.
  • advanced filtering: The NHL's current stats page already allowed for filtering based on very straightforward criteria such as position and rookie/veteran status, but the future website will be considerably more robust. Filter by height, weight, nationality, seasonal numbers, career numbers, etc.
  • previews of the playoffs: In an extension of the section on using Enhanced Stats to forecast playoff potential, NHL.com will be using these stats developments in their playoff previews. Now people will predict that LA will win playoff series based on something other than, "they're battle-tested!" In addition, the NHL wants to use these stats in their playoff bracket challenge.
  • historical data: Compare Gretzky and Crosby! Plante and Brodeur! Kopitar and Dionne! Regehr and Norstrom! The website will eventually allow for comparisons "across generations," as Bettman put it.

Questions

Ed Olczyk started out the panel and Q&A phase by asking about the NHL not having the perception of being a stats-focused league. Bettman's counter: "Perception isn't always reality." At the very least, that applies for those who have been working on and drawing conclusions from these statistics for so long. It's definitely creeped into the league as well, and as such, this had an air of "It's new... but how new is it, really?" ESPN's Katie Strang asked Bettman a two-part question about recognizing (1) the previous names of the stats and (2) the people who developed and refined the stats, and it focused more on why it's not called Corsi anymore than where the inspirations and ideas came from.

The panel was focused on pushing, more than anything, how this all integrates with the grand old sport of hockey. Lots of discussion about the fast pace of hockey, in general, and how this stats page can slow the game down for general fans. The recent efforts to use player and puck tracking (as seen at the All-Star Game) were used to address a reporter who wanted to know how the human element would apply.

Overall, it's going to be a really helpful resource for fans and stats enthusiasts, and the fact that it's so prominent on the league's official website is an endorsement of their legitimacy. The future phases offer some new and interesting functions. Whether this website affects the league's presentations, styles, or media going forward is anyone's guess.