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Introducing “Even-Strength,” a breakthrough in the world of women’s hockey analytics

Put on your thinking caps, because there’s a revolution happening in women’s hockey analytics

The Ice Garden’s Alyssa Longmuir is one of four minds behind Even-Strength.com, a new women’s hockey analytics site that launched on Sept. 29.

She was kind enough to take some time to explain what Even-Strength is all about in a recent interview with The Ice Garden.

Even-Strength is a massive undertaking that started as an idea that Longmuir had about a year ago. When Her Hoop Stats launched last year, it made NCAA women’s basketball analytics available to the public for the first time. Longmuir was inspired to do something similar for professional women’s hockey, and because most of the data that we have available comes from the NWHL, she knew just where to start.

“We’re not just shoving the box score in,” the very Australian Longmuir explained. “There’s shot maps, player-comparison tools, filtering by situation — what a blessing, I never thought I’d be able to say that — as well as other advanced stats that were previously unavailable to the public.

“I don’t know if anyone, anywhere has ever made these things before,” Longmuir continued. “I don’t know if organizations have been doing them internally, we can’t really say, but we’ve never publicly had access to things like Point Shares, expected goals (xG), and eTOI (estimated Time on Ice) before.”

So, what exactly does all of this mean for the world of women’s hockey analytics?

It means that for the first time, there will be a go-to analytics database that fans, players, coaches, and members of the media can turn to. It also re-affirms the belief that we’re currently witnessing a revolution in women’s hockey analytics.

This summer huge strides have been made in the field by Longmuir and others, including her collaborators at Even-Strength: Jake Flancer, CJ Turtoro, and Matt Barlowe. Much of those breakthroughs, new tools, and groundbreaking work is featured on Even-Strength.

Longmuir hopes that it will answer some long-standing questions about women’s hockey as well as enhance the experience of fans.

“I hope the site encourages more and more people to start getting involved in women’s hockey and statistics — the statistics are there now if you have a question,” Longmuir shared. “Before you had to do a lot of legwork ... there’s so much legwork you have to do every single time you have an analytics question.”

So, what about all of those fans who are not quite ready to start evaluating and comparing their favorite players? Longmuir made it clear that Even-Strength is not meant to divide fans, it’s meant to enhance our understanding of a major team sport that we simply don’t know enough about.

“I think it’s a universal problem in sports with analytics and obviously something that is now a bridge that women’s hockey is going to have to cross. [Fans] are going to have to do decide what route they want to take. Just look at what’s happened to men’s hockey — it’s obviously a different ball game with different people — but still, there’s the analytics crowd and the ‘it’s just a game’ crowd. They just want to watch and be fans of the players and they don’t care what the players are doing.

“So, yeah, it’s a fork in the road, and people are going to have to decide which side of the fork they’re aligning with. But the fact that we get to decide — for all those people who care about analytics — is amazing.”

Bias is a tricky thing not just for fans, but also for members of the media. We may not think we are biased when we watch a hockey game, but we are. We’re human. We can’t help it. The numbers, however, don’t lie as long as they’re accurate, and for Longmuir and her collaborators, getting the numbers right is a priority.

Longmuir is looking forward to polishing her model for xG this year among other things. She also wants to include CWHL data on Even-Strength, but until the CWHL makes more statistics like shots on goal and blocked shots available to the public it’s simply not going to happen.

The Even-Strength crew has plans for other tools and visualizations, which is why they have launched a Patreon for the groundbreaking site. Be sure to check that out and visit Even-Strength.com today to see what the site has to offer.

You can follow Alyssa on Twitter at @alyssastweeting and follow Even-Strength at @Even_Strength.