Photo by Jeff Vinnick, courtesy of the Vancouver Canucks


Creating the formula for a championship pro hockey team

April 07, 2016

By Tyler Gallop

How do you formulate the perfect professional hockey team?

Today, National Hockey League (NHL) executives look to the numbers. From analyzing the smallest details of a player’s performance to identifying a team’s optimal game pace and lineup structure, finding that winning formula all comes down to the big data.

To help NHL teams and other sports organizations understand how to analyze this data effectively, a group of SFU faculty, coaches and students who have a passion for sports and analytics have formed the Sports Analytics Group (SAG).

By examining the underlying sports analytics, SAG’s goal is to develop new formulas and algorithms to help better understand what makes teams and players fail or succeed.

To showcase the power of analytics in hockey, SAG will host a sold out, one-day hockey analytics conference on April 9 at SFU’s Harbour Centre. The conference will feature NHL analytics consultants, hockey enthusiasts and big data experts discussing the latest in hockey analytics research and development.

“The main goal of this conference is to promote the vertical integration of big data and sports analytics,” says Peter Chow-White, SFU communication professor and SAG member.

“From casual fans to sports executives, we want to show how big data can work within sports to improve every aspect of the game.”

Throughout the event, talks will explore free agent salaries, team-strength strategies, goaltending tricks, player ratings and more. A workshop on “data scraping” will teach participants the techniques for effectively collecting massive datasets.

The event is one of numerous SAG initiatives. Composed of some of Canada’s brightest minds and experts in sports analytics, SAG works with organizations across the country to help implement big data tools in the world of sports.

“The talent we have here has made SFU an innovation centre for sports analytics,” says Chow-White.

“We’ve become one of the top universities in Canada for research in the field, and with events like the hockey analytics conference, we want to showcase just how important data is to sports.”

To learn more about the Sports Analytics Group (SAG), visit

Although the hockey analytics conference is sold out, details can be found here.