Book Review: Hockey Abstract

The Hockey News
Brad Marchand (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Dom Luszczyszyn
@omgitsdomi

Inspired by Bill James’ Baseball Abstract of the 1980s, Rob Vollman, one of the founding writers for Hockey Prospectus and the creator of player-usage charts, set out to create something similar for hockey, a sport that’s still lagging behind in the advanced stats world.

In the first version of Hockey Abstract, released last year, Vollman went over the basics. For his recently released second version, he went bigger and better, delivering entirely new content and enlisting two colleagues from Hockey Prospectus, Tom Awad and Iain Fyffe, to provide analysis.

The best of their work has Awad showing what makes good players good by grouping them into tiers based on ice time and looking at the differences in shot attempts and goals across the tiers. For Fyffe, it’s his deduction of what it takes to make the Hall of Fame and his prediction for which current players have the best shot (‘Sid’ and ‘Ovie’ can pretty much retire today and punch their ticket into the Hall of Fame).

Most of the book, though, is centered on everyday fan questions, but the answers aren’t as typical. Who’s the best goal-scorer? Well, that depends on who scores the most per 60 minutes, while accounting for manpower, usage, linemates and competition. Who’s the best penalty killer? Look at who suppresses shot attempts best relative to the rest of his team, while also accounting for who he’s up against.

These types of questions are a staple of Hockey Abstract. The best of them was an examination of who the biggest rat in the league was, which introduces a hilarious stat called “dirty rat penalty minutes.” The player who led the league last season is who you might expect: Brad Marchand.

How Vollman and company tackle these questions, though, is where the book really shines. Each answer promotes meaningful discussions on the topic at hand rather than rigid conclusions. Every angle is taken into account and arguments are presented in a clear, concise way that provides thorough and insightful observations about the sport. On top of that, the book is heavy on graphs and charts, making it much easier to visualize the concepts being outlined.

The book also contains analytic essays for every team that look at how each team fares in various categories including possession, goaltending, special teams and depth, culminating with a big-picture outlook of how that team stands from an analytics perspective.

With the second edition of Hockey Abstract, Vollman has created an essential resource for not just numbers junkies but also curious newbies ready to dive in to the growing world of hockey analytics.

Hockey Abstact

Five summer book suggestions any hockey fan will love

Adam Proteau
Bob Probert (B Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s the middle of the summer and you’re a hockey fan jonesing for some puck talk to get you through to the fall. Unless you’re an NHL development camp obsessive, it’s not going to be easy. But there is a way to immerse your mind in hockey at this time of year. It’s through an ancient, time-honored method called “book-learnin’”. There’s never any shortage of quality hockey books worth reading, but here’s a short list of a few that ought to be at or near the top of your list:

The Game, by Ken Dryden. Still the hockey book by which all other hockey books should be judged, Dryden’s masterpiece makes clear that the Hall of Fame goalie was an even better writer than he was an athlete. It teems with incredibly insightful hockey observations and exquisite use of the language, and is an absolute must-read for any fan. Read more

Bruins’ Rask makes young cancer patient’s wish come true, creates custom-made goalie mask for her

Adam Proteau
Tuukka Rask

In mid-March, Boston Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to delight nine-year-old Maddie Santotuosso, a Boston-area girl fighting a rare tissue cancer, when he visited her at a local sporting goods store and helped her pick out brand new goaltender equipment. The youngster and huge Bruins fan was thrilled to meet one of her idols. (Her story begins at the 9:40 mark of this video.)

However, Rask’s act of kindness didn’t end there. Read more

Movie on Swift Current Broncos saga gets first-round financing

Brian Costello
cover-sudden-death 3

If Shayne Putzlocher has his way, the movie about the Swift Current Broncos’ rise from tragedy to triumph will be ready by 2016, the 30-year anniversary of the bus accident that killed four players.

Putzlocher is the owner of production company Trilight Entertainment. He received news yesterday that he’s been approved for financing by Telefilm Canada and the Alberta Media Fund for the first stage of film creation. That involves the writing of the first draft of the book Sudden Death, written by Kamloops Daily News sports editor Gregg Drinnan in conjunction with Leesa Culp and Bob Wilkie.

Wilkie was a member of the 1986 Broncos team and was still with the squad two seasons later when it rallied to win the Memorial Cup. Culp witnessed the accident that killed four Broncos players – Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka – and was the first on the scene to assist victims.

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Book on tragic high school crash raises awareness, reminder of vigilance for parents of student-athletes

Jason Kay
driven_comp_FIN.indd

Hockey parents get a bad rap for boorish behavior, but there’s no questioning their dedication. They’ll drive thousands of clicks every winter to transport their kids to games and tournaments in faraway communities.

Some of the schlepping is done through brutal wintry conditions. At times, we make questionable decisions, proceeding when we should probably postpone, or getting behind the wheel when we’re tired. Maybe we haven’t checked the air pressure in our tires recently, which can be critical for safety on ice and snow.

These are choices we’ve made and we’re accountable for any dire consequences.

But what happens when we entrust our children’s well being during extracurricular transportation to the school system? How assured should we feel that appropriate standards are in place and they’re being regulated and monitored?

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