Book Review: HockeyNomics by Darcy Norman

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First there was Freakonomics. Then there was Super Freakonomics. Now there’s HockeyNomics! Economics (“the science of dealing with the allocation of scarce resources) has now invaded hockey.

Has author Darcy Norman discovered an e=mc2 like equation that uncovers all the secrets that a casual read of the commonly presented hockey statistics does not reveal?

HockeyNomics
HockeyNomics {Lone Pine Publishing}

Not exactly – but Norman delves into the world of hockey statistics like no hockey book has done before. It is an interesting spin and thought-provoking dissection of hockey numbers. He attempts to take hockey fans to a place similar to where the much acclaimed Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game took baseball fans.

HockeyNomics explores various questions not just based on opinion, but based on unique statistical analysis. In the process, the reader is often left to draw his own conclusion from the data presented. In each exploration, however, Norman has achieved what I believe to be his main goal – to challenge the reader to think outside the box and realize the daily box scores and scoring leaders far from tell us the whole story.

Here are just some of the hockey stats adventures Norman takes the reader on:

brodeur
Brodeur – Surrounded By Greatness But NO GOAL! {Photo: Christopher Ralph}

*99’s 92 goal season – Best Ever?

*Is all-time shutout leader Marty Brodeur overrated?

*Will Ovy8 or SC87 have the better career?

*Which NHL teams are best at the draft?

{Spoiler Alert: The following italicized text reveals some of the conclusions author Darcy Norman arrives at.}

 

Admittedly, I would intensely debate some of the conclusions that the respective stats analysis reveal, but Norman leaves it open to interpretation and recognizes some of the limitations based on the current stats and metrics available. Here are just a few quick counterpoints I would explore further:

 

*Gretzky’s 92 goal season was about more than just the goals. He also notched 120 assists for 212 points. In Brett Hull’s 86 goal season, he mustered 45 assists, which makes for a pretty decent Cy Young eligible season. The Great One’s 92 goal season is still superior in my opinion.

 

*Martin Brodeur overrated? Yes – you read this correctly. No – I am far from convinced. The Devils have been a very good team for quite a long time. Marty has kept on being Marty surviving several coaches and the exodus of blueliners such as Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski, as well as new era of hockey post-lockout with the subsequent decrease in clutching and grabbing. He is one of the best puckhandling goaltenders to ever have played the game and the NHL created a rule later deemed the “Brodeur Rule” mainly because of him. In terms of durability and the ability to perform under pressure, Brodeur is among the all-time elite in all of sports.

The reader is also introduced to some of the trailblazers in the hockey analysis field:

*Alan Ryder writes for the Globe and Mail and has his own website – Hockey Analytics.

*Iain Fyffe writes on the web site Puck Prospectus.

*Chris Boersma has his own website Hockey Numbers.

*Gabriel Desjardins has his own website Behind The Net.

Through work of these above stats men Norman introduces the reader to intriguing metrics, stats and models such as Goals Created, Kinda Goals Created Against, Shot Quality Neutral Save Percentage, and Player Contribution.

It was a fast, but intriguing read. I have also dusted off a place in my hockey library where HockeyNomics will reside as a reference, since there are various sections I will definitely want to re-read. Not simply a book geared towards the hockey nut, Norman explains the numbers games thoroughly yet on an easily understandable level that even the casual hockey fan would enjoy, appreciate and left craving more.

Rating: 8/10