Working in the Shadows of the CWHL

Boston vs. Brampton
Boston vs. Brampton (Boston_CWHL/Flickr)

With the recent posting of the first Analytics for Women’s Hockey at Mike’s Mumbles it was time to look into the people behind the current statistics in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

The current CWHL Statistics Administrator is Valerie Nantel. Those that assist with tracking of statistics in game are made up of volunteers in the various CWHL locales.

A day in the life

A typical game that Valerie Nantel attends as the Statistics Administrator for the CWHL is extremely busy. There is little time to spare to simply enjoy the game.

“I am the one working at ice level (in the scorekeeper box) and doing the live stats updating (play-by-play), using Pointstreak scorekeeper app. I enter the game roster for both teams; I track SOG (shots on goal), +/-, goals, assists and penalties for both teams. I have volunteers in the stands tracking the same stats as me and we compare notes during intermissions. “

Even when she is unable to attend the current games she must remain in contact with one person from each team and follow the games online to ensure there are no issues in regards to the statistics being tracked for the game. Once a game is completed her role does not stop there. Every single game and statistic that is posted on the CWHL website is reviewed by Valerie Nantel to ensure accuracy.

Valerie’s dedication to growing the CWHL is immediately apparent in knowing how much time she much spend each week tracking and reviewing statistics.

The challenge

The majority of the work of the Statistics Department of the CWHL is done behind the scenes and is rarely praised from the outside. Valerie and her volunteers put in countless hours ensuring that statistics are available for all to view.

Brampton vs. Toronto
Brampton vs. Toronto (Krista Windsor/Flickr)

Because of this it is often difficult to find consistent volunteers to track statistics during games. Without surprise it is much easier to find volunteers for the more visible volunteer positions in the CWHL.

“The biggest challenge is the volunteering aspect.  It is not always easy to find volunteers who are dedicated, impartial and willing to work in the shadows.  You do not see and just enjoy a game as everyone else.  You have to be alert and always take notes.  You never know what is going to happen nor when.  You have to be passionate about women’s hockey and do it for the love and success of the sport, the league and the players.”

Will the CWHL be increasing the statistics tracked?

With the recent rise of hockey analytics at the National Hockey League level, also known as “fancy stats”, the question remains whether the CWHL will be entering this level of statistics.

“We also want to be able to track more stats eventually, which we are doing, but not on an official level at the moment.”

The challenge for Valerie and the CWHL in this area is the availability of volunteers to consistently track these statistics in each of the approximately 59 CWHL games throughout the season. In reality when at least one volunteer is needed for each team that is a total of 118 slots that need to be filled by volunteers.

Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota Golden Gophers (Eric Miller/Gopher Athletics)

The CWHL is always on the lookout for individuals who are passionate about the CWHL and women’s hockey. These unsung heroes are essential to the current operations of the CWHL. They are pioneers that are paving the way to make the CWHL the first fully professional women’s hockey league.

How to get involved

Recently the CWHL Fancy Stats Project was created in order to bring analytics like Corsi, Fenwick, Zone Starts, etc. to the CWHL. However this project is limited to the streamed games that are available via the CWHL website.

These statistics will only enhance the experience of the women’s game for fans and I encourage anyone with a desire to help grow the CWHL and women’s hockey as a whole to get involved. To contact the CWHL for more information about getting involved please visit their website.