The hockey analytics community will descend upon SFU Harbour Centre for the first ever Vancouver Hockey Analytics Conference this Saturday.
Similar conferences in have been held in Ottawa, Tampa Bay, and Washington over the past few years, but this is the first time such an event has been hosted on the west coast.
What is particularly interesting about this type of conference is that isn’t a closed off event where only media and certain members of the analytics are able to attend.
“We were interested in bringing together various communities; hockey teams, fans, academics to this relatively new field” said Tim Swartz, a professor in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at SFU.
Interest in the event has been overwhelming with registration being filled months ago, and there is still has a long wait list of people hoping to attend.
A panel of local media including Jason Botchford from the Province, Thomas Drance from Sportsnet, and David Ebner from the Globe and Mail will discuss the use of analytics in the mainstream media. Other topics that will be discussed throughout the day include player evaluation, data scraping, and tactics in hockey.
“All of the sessions interest me” said Swartz. “As an academic, it will be interesting for me to hear the media side and what teams are actually doing. Finding common ground between academic problems (which tend to be technical) and practical problems are of interest to me.”
Over the past few years, there has been a slow rise of the use of hockey analytics by hockey teams at all levels. Last summer in particular was regarded as the ‘Summer of Analytics’ as NHL teams scoured the market for some of the best and brightest minds with hopes of trying to find a new way to look at things.
With teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, and Florida Panthers leading the charge, it is now common to have departments of hockey analytics and old school scouting working together hoping to find some diamonds in the rough while maximizing their spending. In a world where every team is limited by the salary cap, any slight advantage can yield tangible results.
At this moment, there is no list available of which NHL teams will be in attendance.
The full schedule of topics and speakers can be found here.
Many years ago the hockey analytics movement was met with serious apprehension but it has quickly found its place within the hockey world and appears to be making more of an impression with each passing week. Conferences like this allow a collaboration of thoughts and ideas to come together and grow well after the event.