From a desert, from the driest continent, from this land at the opposite end of the globe ...

... as remote as could be in the hockey world ...

... came one of the world’s oldest winter sports trophies.

A cool tradition, a dream of champions, and a story we owe it to our children to tell.

Legends of Australian Ice.

[ ANALYTICS ] How to read a stat

+ fall in love with hockey

"Baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions. And if I say it to anybody, I'm ... I'm ostracized. I'm ... I'm ... I'm a leper." —Peter Brand, Moneyball

The frustration evident in this quote is no Hollywood fantasy. It was from a very real world of sport that had ignored objective knowledge until only very recently. By comparison, hockey thinking in the Antipodes is still well south of medieval. It's deep in antiquity, if not the Stone Age. Sabermetric research approaches like Brand (DePosta) used have been similarly ignored in hockey here. You'll be banished just as swiftly if you dare rely on objective knowledge rather than all that old school "experience and intuition".

Yet, the fact of the matter is that we have largely now lost whatever objective knowledge the sport had accumulated here over a century. The subjective system that replaced it is unworthy even of discussion. Does that shock you? Well, I have not met a coach, statistician or official here who knows, for example, how to read an advanced metric, let alone compute it. Surely, it's time that changed? The sport here needs more healthy criticism and discussion of shortcomings such as this, not less. Fresh thinking to fuel growth and development.

Overseas sabermetricians have questioned some basic assumptions about how talent and player contributions are judged. They created quite a stir, not least because their thinking redefined the system of player advancement and remuneration. This has led to more effective team selection processes. The decision-making in pro sport has shifted away from subjective opinion, toward measurable performance criteria. Sport has become fairer. In short, the new thinking has cut out a lot of the old crap. But, needless to say, many beneficiaries of the old system prefer it.

Preserving the status quo preoccupies the sports' authorities here. The top minds in the hockey community are not involved. The sport must deal with this soon if it is ever to become internationally competitive in a sustainable way. Despite the efforts of a well-intentioned few, the only new hope comes from the emerging independent hockey schools such as Next Level Hockey Australia in Melbourne, the Melbourne Ice Academy and North Stars Academy in Newcastle.

Elite ice hockey squads here were once built by a panel of selectors. Among the first were Jim Kendall, Leslie Reid, and Norm Joseph in Sydney, and John Goodall, Cyril MacGillicuddy and Ted Molony in Melbourne. This lost selector system began almost a century ago, but it is no longer used to assemble our International ice hockey teams. International results will continue to be mostly indifferent in this sport until players are selected and coached using measurable criteria and reliable performance data from national leagues.

We need to desist from actually holding back our most talented young players in favour of others. We need to support and nurture them, just as they do overseas. We should not reserve spots in elite teams for a privileged few with connections and limited potential. We should not shelter aging players who have peaked and declined. We should make way for those with greater potential. The best have invested a decade or more of intensive junior development at great expense. Many reach maturity only to discover another brick in the wall.

Which brings us to the simple chart of AIHL Scoring Averages above. You don't need a degree in statistical analysis to understand the big picture. This chart makes perfect sense of a league that has most observers more than a little befuddled this season. The current Top 4 teams are displayed to start, but toggle the other four on or off by clicking the club titles in the legend for any combination of stats.

The average of all goals scored by each team is in the top half of the chart, game by game. The negative scores in the bottom half are the average of all goals scored against each team. The two dotted grey lines are league average GF and GA, which are currently averaging 4 goals a game. These allow us to compare individual team performance to the average for the league.

Now, just look at that! It's a whole new game.

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