The beauty of hockey is in numbers, which makes advanced statistics an incredibly valuable tool for those who want to better understand and appreciate the game. Despite its undeniable usefulness, however, many people still despise or – at best – avoid it because they don’t know how to handle it. I’m one of them. That’s why I decided to leave my comfort zone and learn about this whole new world that was completely alien to me up until a few months ago and surprisingly enough, I enjoyed it more than I expected!
It didn’t happen overnight though, so if you’re finding yourself where I was not too long ago (i.e., confused as hell), then keep reading and you might find some useful tips that will hopefully make your experience less painful.
1. Let go of the notion that you need to know everything before getting started.
You don’t! The truth is that everybody learns at a different pace and there’s no such thing as “too late” when it comes to something like this, so just do what feels right for you and don’t try to compete with other people by showing off how much you know (or think) about hockey stats. Chances are that they will be more than pleased to help and share what they’ve already learned if and when needed, so don’t be afraid to ask questions if necessary because nobody will judge you for it – at worst, they’ll probably laugh at your lack of knowledge or curiosity, but again: nobody will judge you, so feel free to look silly!
2. Find the stat that you’re most comfortable with and then stick to it.
This is important because it will give you a sense of consistency while familiarizing yourself with new terminologies and basics at the same time. For example, I started by watching highlight videos on YouTube while taking notes every time one of the commentators commented on a stat-related subject (i.e., who was on a hot/cold streak or which player had an impressive Corsi rating). I did some research online to get familiar with how some common stats were calculated before moving on to other ones, but in general, I’ve found out that this approach works really well for me because I can quickly see how my new knowledge applies in real life.
3. Don’t be afraid to use Google!
I can’t stress this one enough because it will save you a lot of brainpower when looking for simple answers, so don’t hesitate to look things up when necessary. Personally, I find that when it comes to very basic questions I’m usually good at figuring things out by myself, but every now and then there are always specific topics that just don’t click in my head no matter how hard I try to understand them on my own, which is what makes Google the best thing since sliced bread (or Grapes?). It’s quick, easy and its search engine never fails! When it comes to finding more elaborate information, however, I’ve found that the best approach is to ask a friend who knows more about it than me because their responses tend to be more thorough and they’re usually able to answer your questions with links that you can follow if needed.
4. Watch videos on YouTube or read articles on websites such as Extra Skater.
It seems counter-intuitive at first, but in reality, watching games live via streaming services such as NHL Game Center LIVE (or TSN GO in Canada) simply doesn’t give you access to all of the relevant stats when compared to looking them up online during or after a game has ended. For example, didn’t you ever wonder how players like Bobby Ryan and Max Pacioretty managed to score 40+ goals last year despite having mediocre shooting percentages? Well, their ability to turn low-danger scoring chances into high-danger ones might have had something to do with it because this is information that you simply can’t find out by watching the games live. Similarly, websites dedicated to advanced stats are usually the best source of up-to-date news and trends when it comes to NHL players and teams. It’s also worth mentioning that if your more comfortable reading than watching videos/listening to people talk then Zats Not Funny! Is your place on the internet during hockey season – just don’t tell anyone ok?
I know right! Did he really just write over 1300 words about advanced hockey stats? You bet your ass I did!
Anyways, the long and short of it is that this subject is relatively simple (at least in my opinion) and once you get past all of the initial hurdles then everything else will start to fall into place like magic. So don’t get discouraged or give up if you’re struggling with it because I’m sure that if you put in some quality time then there’s no doubt that you’ll be well on your way to becoming a bonafide stat nerd by the time opening day rolls around.