Monday, November 14, 2011

Circle November 15 on your NHL calendar

On Tuesday evening, November 15, the New York Islanders will become the 30th and last NHL team to have played 15 games so far. And although the NHL’s long season seems to have barely begun,mid-November and the 15 game mark (the average team will have played 17 games**) has proved to be a surprisingly accurate predictor* of which teams will make the playoffs and which teams will not.
In the six post-lockout seasons, at the 15 game mark:
  •     78% (77 of 96) of the teams in the top 8 in each conference have made the playoffs. Every Stanley Cup winner has been in the top 8 at this point.  
  • 85 % of the teams in the top 4 have made the playoffs. Five of six Stanley Cup winners have been in the top 4 (the Bruins were 6th in the Eastern Conference last season at 15 games).
  •     Just 17% (8 of 48) of the teams in the bottom 4 have made the playoffs even though the average difference between 8th place and 12th has only been three points at the 15 game mark.   
Although they are generated by an infinitely more complex system (millions of simulated games), the odds posted at parallel and confirm the historical data :heading into play on Nov. 15, they show the Blackhawks (1st in the Western Conference) with an 85% playoff chance and the Avs (12th) with a 23.7% chance.

    The NHL will have completed  a mere 21% of the 2011-12 season as of November 15 and to me  it’s somewhat amazing that, if this season follows the historical pattern, the parameters of the final standings have already been outlined for us if not etched in stone.
    One of the reasons is certainly that the league’s vaunted competitive balance is actually an illusion. Over the past six seasons, five teams have dominated play in 5 of the 6 divisions, winning 22 of the 30 possible divisional titles. Compare that with the notoriously unbalanced NBA where the top 5 teams have won 17 of 30 possible division titles during the same time period.
    The picture becomes somewhat clearer when you add the perennial also rans (Columbus, St. Louis, Toronto, Florida, the Islanders, and Atlanta/WPG) who as a group managed to make only four playoff appearances in the last six years.
    The “loser point” instituted to promote competitive balance may also play a part here since it tends to keep losing streaks from turning into pointless streaks. But the jury is still out on that one:in a previous study, I found that the “loser point” slightly favored pursuing teams during the last quarter of the season.

* For this post, I used the standings as they regularly are published, ie, total points with ties broken by # of wins, then winning pct. With teams having played an unequal # of games, it might seem that using team standings pts per game would be  more appropriate but the differences are actually slight, plus/minus 2 to 3 %.
**Using 10 game intervals, the next highest pct. 84%  occurs at the 55 game mark, approx. Feb 15.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

CAN Will Atlanta Ever Support Teams in 4 Pro Sports?

Atlanta, despite being staggered by the worst economic downturn of our lifetime, is still an economic powerhouse.Metro area GDP ranks 10th among US cities and 17th among all the cities of the world. If Atlanta was a country, its GDP would rank it alongside that of Finland, a country which, incidentally, supports 14 professional ice hockey teams and arena seating capacity for hockey of over 100,000.
Despite its economic prominence, the Atlanta area sports economy has underperformed for many years. That underperformance does not begin or end with the Atlanta Thrashers. Combined revenues of the four professional sports teams and two major college programs in the area show that the Atlanta sports economy lags behind its peers (nine other US metro areas) by about 23%. Put another way, if the Atlanta sports economy produced per household revenues of, dare I say it, the Phoenix area, total revenues would increase by about $128 million dollars per year.

  • The four Atlanta  professional sports teams rank last among the ten comparable cities in ticket revenues per household.While the Thrashers' plight is well known, the Falcons rank 6th in gate receipts and the Braves rank 7th among the 10 MLB teams.
  • College sports take 22% of the local sports dollars, the highest percentage of any of the ten cities included. But that figure is probably understated since significant sports dollars from the Atlanta area also flow to SEC and ACC football programs in the neighboring states of Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida.
  • UGA football has greater total revenues than the Atlanta Thrashers.
  • Other metro areas, however,  also have college programs that produce strong revenues and professional sports coexist nicely. No one thinks of the SF Bay Area as a college sports mecca but the combined revenues of Cal and Stanford are greater than those of UGA and GTech. And the Bay Area supports 5 professional sports teams with ticket revenues more than double those generated in Atlanta.
  • The New York Yankees have gate receipts that are more than double those of all four Atlanta teams combined.
  • Surprisingly, the Denver area (half the size of Atlanta) produces the highest revenues for sports on a per household basis .Boston is second.
  • Maybe it's the food: Atlantans spend more of their food and drink dollars in restaurants than folks in  any other US metro area. 
  • Sorry, we've already got religion: Sociologists have compared sports fandom to religion in that it bonds people together. Georgia ranks among the top 10 US states in church attendance. Denver and Boston which produce the highest revenues per household for sports, are in states with very low church attendance (massachusetts is last). And Canada, where hockey is a religion, ranks even lower.
  • Lack of familiarity with hockey has often been cited as one reason for the Thrashers' failure. But Georgians are plenty familiar with tennis-USTA Southern Section, based in Norcross, has 25% of all registered tennis players in the US- and professional tennis went missing from the Atlanta sports scene in 2001 due to lack of support and was gone for nine years until last year's revival of the Atlanta Tennis Championships.
    (Figures below represent reported revenues for 2 major college programs in each area (from U.S. Dept of Education) and estimated revenues for professional teams (from Forbes). They do not include revenues from national tv contracts for either pro or college teams and thus are "local revenues". Household size is from US Census.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Anson Carter Rumored As Part of Possible Thrashers Ownership

Rumors have ex-Bruin Dancin’ Anson Carter, now living in Atlanta, as part of a group interested in buying the Thrashers. Long interested in a career in the music industry, Carter, 36, wrapped up his hockey days with Lugano (Switzerland) in 2007-08 - from Kevin Paul Dupont, Boston Globe hockey writer's Sunday column

Here is some info about Carter's life after hockey from a Michigan State site:

"Carter resides in Atlanta with his wife Erika, two daughters Mikayla and Malia, along with Zeus their great dane. He is the founder of Big Up Entertainment, and he’s also the Chairman/ Co-Founder of an apparel company called SOMB. SOMB stands for “shirt off my back” ( SOMB is a premium, eco-friendly apparel line built on a one for one model. SOMB donates a full school uniform to a child in Africa every time it sells an item of clothing."

Carter's partners in SOMB (which is based in LA) are listed as Anders Bard, Will Bennett, and James Williams, "a movie producer, a Wharton Business School grad and an investment banker"

Bard's film credits include "I Love You Man" (co-producer) and "Along Came Polly" (starred Ben Stiller and Jennifer Anniston). I have no idea if Bard (or Williams or Bennett) are involved in this rumored group but if you look at Bard's facebook page, the picture he's chosen to represent him shows him at an ice rink, striking a pose next to a youth hockey player (his son?). Bard grew up in Montreal, worked for Jerry Bruckheimer and has played in Bruckheimer's legendary (?) Hollywood hockey games.

Anson Carter was a personable and popular player everywhere he played. Having a personable minority group member as part of an ownership team would score big with the NHL powers that be and in theory at least would have a positive impact in Atlanta.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Data Visualizations for NHL Trophy Buzz

Calder Trophy Jan 25

Vezina Trophy Jan 25

Hart Trophy Jan 25

Norris Trophy Jan 25

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kovalchuk Trade Rumors

Comparing the Jan 18 data on Kovalchuk trade rumors with the most recent data (Jan 25), focus has shifted off the Boston Bruins as a destination, probably because of the ripple effect of a Boston Globe column dampening speculation.

Kovalchuk Rumors Jan 25

Kovalchuk Rumors Jan 18