The NHL announced a partnership Friday with enterprise software company SAP, which will transform the way hockey fans consume data across multiple platforms, including the League's numerous outlets.
This partnership begins with a redesigned statistics page on NHL.com and the introduction of advanced stats on the website, but it will expand to improve the fan experience on television broadcasts and in NHL arenas as future phases of the project are introduced.
"Hockey is extremely fast-paced with very little stoppage in play, which results in many aspects of the game failing to show up in the box score," NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said. "In partnering with SAP and using its best-in-class SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud service, we are now able to capture data points like never before and present existing and new statistics in a visually appealing way.
"The new NHL stats platform goes beyond data to offer insights that will help avid fans go deeper and help casual fans understand the game better. There are also unlimited storytelling opportunities as we provide our fans with a personalized and interactive experience."
The first phase of this partnership debuted Friday. Shot attempts, also known as Corsi, and unblocked shot attempts, also known as Fenwick, have been staples of the advanced-statistics community and are now, along with dozens of variations, on NHL.com.
Other new statistics include penalties drawn and penalties taken, primary and secondary assists, and zone starts. Another advanced metric is SPSV%, also known as PDO, which is combined on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage and is used as a measure of good fortune enjoyed by an individual player or team.
Part of the initial phase includes the decision to use different names for the statistics that have been known as Corsi, Fenwick and PDO.
"We feel that with the new site that there's going to be a whole population of fans who are not familiar with these analytics," said Chris Foster, director of digital business development for the NHL. "We just felt that the names Corsi and Fenwick and PDO, while it is great that analysts have used them and brought them to life, really in our opinion the names aren't self-explanatory. With any other stat like that, the acronym or the definition tells you what the calculation is and what we're looking for."
The second phase, expected to launch by the start of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs in April, will include new ways to visualize all of the data on the website. It will feature advanced filtering, which will make it possible to sort and aggregate data from individual games or across multiple seasons.
It will include a playoff series prediction tool, which will be featured as part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Bracket Challenge.
"The idea is we're taking a whole bunch of factors -- I think the final model has 37 factors -- and we're predicting the probability of a playoff win," said Eric Blabac, senior research scientist for SAP. "We're taking a game and giving a win probability to either team. That's based on a lot of regular-season factors, along with in-series factors that change within it, like are the teams home/away, how many time zones are they traveling, what are they doing the last five games, the last 15 games, things like that."
The third phase, expected to launch by the start of the 2015-16 NHL season in October, will include new metrics developed by SAP. A final phase will include the digitization of historical stats all the way back to League's inception in 1917 and a spoken-language search function.
All of these features, and the HANA database, will lay the foundation for another phase in the evolution of hockey statistics. Eventually, the hope is to have incredible amounts of data to mine from a system of tracking individual players as well as the movement of the puck. The NHL tested such a system with Sportvision during 2015 NHL All-Star weekend.
"I feel like what's happening on Friday is table stakes," Collins said. "We're kind of there now. People will say, 'All right, the League is waking up. The League is embracing the opportunity that has been there and the void that has been identified for a long time.' We're just there now at an acceptable level. I think the potential is limitless. The potential to use the stats to let people connect better with their favorite players and teams, to better understand the strategy of the game, the ability to see more broadly trends across the League.
"Then hopefully we get to the tracking, which is the fire hose of data. These tools in talented storytellers' hands are going to lead to some great stories. I'm excited to see how good and how far this technology revolution takes the game. I think it is one of the bigger, best things we've done since I've been here, and I think we've done a lot of good things."