NHL.com rolls out 'enhanced stats'

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The National Hockey League formally unveiled the new "enhanced stats" element now available on their official website, the first in several phases designed to give hockey fans additional access to information about the game.

The "enhanced stats" now featured on the league's site include metrics for puck possession, commonly known as Corsi and Fenwick, which have since been rebranded by the NHL as shot attempts and unblocked shot attempts, respectively. The new element of the site also features statistics for zone starts, primary and secondary assists and penalties drawn per 20 and 60 minutes.

The redesign offers a collection of ways to analyze players' and teams' performances, but perhaps more importantly, it offers legitimacy to the "advanced statistics" community that has long vouched for such analytics as being indicative of a player's or team's success.

"It's not about analytics, but it gives us a common foundation, a common basis, the ability for everybody to be comparing the same things," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. "It will be less and less subjective, particularly when we go to player tracking and puck tracking. What this is really doing is taking things that have been done on an ad hoc basis, that require a lot of human judgment, and getting it right."

Bettman said the league chose not to stick with the already commonly accepted terms "Corsi" and "Fenwick" because the NHL wanted descriptions that are "user-friendly" and easy to understand, posing no barrier to entry for the casual hockey fan.

The NHL did, however, acknowledge the pioneers of such metrics in text form on the new portion of the website, explaining how Tim Barnes, under the alias of Vic Ferrari, coined the term "Corsi" and that the concept of "Fenwick" is thanks to Battle of Alberta blogger Matt Fenwick. Brian King was also given credit for the term PDO, which the NHL is now calling SPSV% (shooting percentage plus save percentage), a metric that is used to quantify "puck luck."

The new elements of the site mark the beginning of a multiyear partnership between the NHL and SAP, a multinational software company. Friday's news conference detailed the further phases that will be rolled out in the years to come.

According to presenters from both the NHL and SAP at the news conference, Phase 2 is expected to include "innovative visualization" and advanced filtering options, while Phase 3 will feature player comparison tools and situational analysis.

Phase 4, the final phase, will incorporate historical data, including handwritten game sheets that have been digitized after years of sitting untouched in what Bettman described as a "file room in Toronto."

Though the league is offering all these additional statistics and analytical tools free of charge, there is a distinct possibility that the league might introduce a subscription service for at least some of the elements in the future.

Regardless, the league stands to gain financially from the endeavor.

"Look, one, it's going drive a lot more traffic to all of our digital platforms," NHL chief operating officer John Collins told ESPN.com. "It's going to better serve the rights-holders, so they have access to the data, and it's going to better serve the clubs. There are significant opportunities as we continue to build this out on the sponsorship front, with people like SAP, but there are other people playing in the technology space that have different ideas about what they can do with the data and how we can create business models that support it."

Should the NHL also utilize player tracking and puck tracking technology, there also will be additional opportunities in that domain as well, with potential second-screen experiences and enhancements of the pre-existing GameCenter Live experience. There's potential that it could also be its own subscription product, Collins said, for fans that want their own real-time data.

Collins left the door open for the league to charge for at least some elements of additional content, though it is not a part of the immediate plan.

"Yeah, maybe," Collins said. "Not part of Phase 1. It may not even be part of Phase 2. We just want to get it out there and see what happens. I think the view is that a lot of the data that we're providing isn't really proprietary. ... It's taking a lot of stuff that's been in the warehouse and making it available. But as we get further down the road, with player tracking in particular, there may be some subscription models that may make sense."

Though there are potential issues with both the NHLPA's consent, and cost, player-tracking information was experimented with at this year's All-Star Game and will be something that's considered down the road, as will a function that simulates CapGeek.com, a popular website that has since gone dormant that provided each player's contract and salary information.

"That's a discussion we'll continue to have internally and with the clubs," Collins said.

Bettman, however, sounded much more lukewarm on that possibility.

"It's not something we're focused on doing. We'd rather keep the attention on the ice," Bettman said. "It's not something we necessarily think we need to embrace."