A new year and a new decade bring new beginnings. With the professional women’s game at a fascinating point in its history and about 1,203,970,432,403 different ideas of where it should go next, there are some consistent hopes like better pay and equal treatment. Beyond that, though, I wanted to know what else people want, so I picked my colleagues’ brains about the changes they’d like to see the women’s game make in 2020.
A league-coordinated Naisten Liiga online presence
First off, the league needs its own website. Currently the top tier of Finnish women’s hockey is house online through the Finnish Ice Hockey Association; to find league news or scores one has to go there first, then follow the link. There is an active NaistenLiiga.com domain, not associated with the Finnish Ice Hockey Association, but it’s not designed to be a league home page. Rather, according to their own words, it “allows teams to fundraise without investing in their own homepages.” This could be a great resource, but it’s underdeveloped and underutilized. It hasn’t been updated since April 2019 and no teams appear to have taken advantage of it.
In addition to a website, the league needs more coordinated social media. They just started an Instagram page (@naisten_liiga, go follow them!), which is a great start. Currently the teams are largely left to their own devices and so posting frequency and timeliness of sharing news varies from club to club. With that in mind, my 2020 wish is for the Finnish Ice Hockey Associate to invest in getting the Naisten Liiga the digital boost it needs.
Comprehensive Data from the Earliest Women’s World Championships to Present Day
It’s quite a thing to be alive at the onset of something special in the world of sports — which is exactly what women’s hockey is. Which is why it’s so gutting to discover and subsequently serve as an ongoing witness to an incomplete chronicling of some of the most significant moments in the history of the sport.
Despite the fact that the first IIHF Women’s World Championship was played less than 30 years ago in 1990, we have very little data from that tournament or any of the major events before the end of the last millennium. As far as I’m aware, we don’t even have individual shots on goal for those tournaments. For the most part, the data we have is limited to the fields that are featured on an Elite Prospects stats page.
Of course, this issue is not unique to major international tournaments. The first few years of the CWHL’s history were infamously lacking in consistency. However, that pales in comparison to a much larger issue — a scarcity in statistics of any kind. If not for resources like the Who’s Who in Women’s Hockey Guide, Elite Prospects, and Jeff Craig’s’ CWHL Tracker, the limited data we have from the CWHL’s history would likely have vanished with the league’s site. However, there are precious few monks doing diligent work to preserve the history of women’s hockey across the globe. And make no mistake, tracking and keeping stats is recording history.
So, let this be a call to action to those who have the requisite skills and resources to build scrapers, to track games, and to create tools for us to better preserve and analyze statistics in the women’s game. The bottom line is we need more people like Alyssa Longmuir and more sites like Even-Strength.com. We need more people who are willing to go out of their way to treat women’s hockey stats like they matter as much men’s hockey stats, because they do.
Dedicated Communications Teams for All NWHL Teams
NWHL teams generally have someone responsible for communications, whether that person is an intern or an employee (or maybe even both). But what I would really love is for NWHL teams to have the ability to have the kind of communications teams that other sports teams have. Not a massive department of people, but maybe three or four, who could be broken up into someone whose sole job was to create digital and written content, someone whose sole job was to coordinate social media accounts, and someone to manage media relations.
This would make a huge difference in the ability of teams to create content on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and their own websites. It would allow media members and teams to communicate about injuries, lineups, and other game-day information without creating a massive burden on any one specific person. Hopefully more teams will go in the direction of private ownership, which will, in theory, allow them to hire more people to dedicate themselves to specific tasks. There are many bright minds in women’s hockey on the social media and content creation ends of things. Hopefully in the near future those minds will be eligible for full-time jobs enriching the online presence of the sport we all love.
More Comprehensive Data (aka ~Fancy Stats) for Each League
Okay this one is a bit of a reach but I appreciate how far ~fancy stats have come in the NHL. I’m not expecting exactly the same but a little bit more beyond than PK/PP success rates would be great. I’m curious about blocked shots vs unblocked because the women’s game is supposedly predicated more on possession than the men’s, which involves a little more physicality with checking being a huge part of their game. Right now much of the fancy stat work is done by TIG’s own Mike Murphy (a based stats god, imo), but it’s mostly his own manual tracking done extensively in his free time. It’d be nice if there was a way to get more automated stats (this is a wish list, not a how does this work in reality list) for all teams in the different leagues.
The SDHL and WHL are both more comprehensive than the NWHL (which is a little on the bare bones side) but I want MOAR. What does possession look like in the women’s game? Are there any patterns in correlation with teams that are atop the standings? Are some teams trying their very best but are just horribly unlucky? Diving deeper into the data can help answer these questions.
I have no idea if this is even in the realm of possibility but, especially for countries outside of North America, it’d be nice if team merchandise (either national team or individual leagues) was available for international shipping. Let’s say, for example, I wanted to purchase a Meeri Räisänen jersey but I missed out last year while she was in the NWHL, it doesn’t seem like Team Finland jerseys are available outside of Europe. On the SDHL website, it doesn’t even appear that you can buy merchandise at all.
Maybe this is a cop-out but my wish is just more of everything: more games, more coverage (by people who aren’t doing this with the 2 hours between dinner and going to bed after working a full time job all day), more teams, more merchandise, more stats, more communications, more money. The fans are there, the market is there. Just give us more!
I’ll admit it. This is really, really picky of me to point out, and totally not the teams’ faults at all. But having better lighting or better camerawork in the venues would be huge from the standpoint of someone who likes to gif goals and make highlight reels. Like, I can show you the Maddie Elia highlight reel I made this summer and even with hours of editing, the lighting is inconsistent. It’s such a perfectionist thing to focus on, but I could really use (1) better lighting, and (2) better camera angles.