Archive | October, 2012

October….

30 Oct

Last crazy monthly update…this will catch me up.

Briefly, about the team.  They lost every game in the first half of October, but did get a couple over overtime loss points.  The team scores on its power plays and is competitive against the bottom half of the teams in the league.  Practice is paying off and all of the hard work coaching.

The team still lacks that drive and heart you expect from a professional team.  They are also pretty bad at even strength….which is most of the game.  IMHO, the goalkeepers keep these guys in the game.

That started to change a bit with the luck addition of two new players.  The first is a Swedish guy working locally who was let go from his contract with Ujpest’s archrivals, Ferencvaros. I imagine that Linus won’t practice much with the team because of his other job, but he made an immediate impact with the team with his forechecking and skating skill.  He also was the only scorer in the team’s first win in a shootout.

The second is the coaches little brother.  He is 18, but scored in his first game coming from the “Elite” league:  Erste Bank Austrian League.  Unfortunately, he is out with a severe shoulder injury and his return this season is uncertain.

Nevertheless, these guys now have two wins and two draws (8 points).  Though there is improvement, they are still dwelling at the bottom of the league standings.

After my return from a glorious vacation, I was hoping to be part of the streak (2-1-0 in the last three).  Alas, I am a curse!  The boys lost a hard fought game against Ferencvaros 4 to 2.  They were outplayed all night but kept it close until 4:00 left in the second where FTC scored two quick goals.  They never recovered, but winning doesn’t come easy.

Next game: DAB Dolcer in Dunaujvaros on Friday.  These guys are a top of the league and beat up Ujpest 10-0 on Monday (you see that correctly ten to zero).  They have to push for a win, but we are hoping for competitiveness.

Ok-I am all caught up, so it will be daily posts on my sporting aspirations and my life in said pursuits.  Hope you will all enjoy!

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Live tweeting the Ujpest matches

30 Oct

I have decided to make this blog not about the moment-to-moment match stuff.  I’ll discuss the bigger picture sports stuff here that may be more general interest to everyone.

However, I do want to try live Tweeting games.  Though useless for the most part since the team audience is Hungarian and the live tweeting is in English, it’ll still be good practice.  So, if you want to know what is going on with the game, join me on Twitter on the left side of the screen or come back here for updates as my Twitter widget refreshes.

While chasing the clouds away….

30 Oct

Yes, that is an Earth, Wind and Fire song you have stuck in your head…..

The better news.  The team gets their first point in September…a shootout loss.  They are young and coachable, which is nice.  I am told to start collecting stats on blocked shots and scoring chances.  More importantly, these numbers are starting to show up on the stat sheet.  These guys are starting to score when they are supposed to (power plays).  You are starting to see the guys personality come together on the ice as well.  You know who needs to be in to take the important faceoff.  You know who is going to give you the hits.  This is good!  Progress, a taste of a win….

What will October bring????

Love was changing the mind of pretenders…..

30 Oct

Pretenders is right!  I am going to be critical here…maybe I shouldn’t be.  Maybe anyone who matters won’t read this.  The coaches stated this also though so I don’t feel so bad about hurt feelings.

I have never seen such a lack of motivation, and in professional sports, unheard of…  This hockey statistic thing I was doing was junk.  They were losing every game…some of them bad.  4-0, 5-0, 7-1.  You know what that plus/minus rating looks like?  And what are the coaches choices?  No money for other players, no farm team to bring players up from.  These guys were being paid to play hockey, with little chance to lose their job.  They simply didn’t give a shit!

During practices the atmosphere was weird….from the beginning now that I look back.  They would scrimmage four lines against each other: the reds, blacks, whites and blues.  Every time a line would score they would cheer.  Subtle, but this bothered the hell out of me.  When I played rugby, we never cheered in practice when we scored….we were expected to score.  I got yelled at by a coach in football for showboating after a fumble recovery.  Who celebrates during practice???  A no-win team….

This team needs a serious fire lit under their collective asses!  And for me….I’m trying to see how I can still help.  Nothing good is coming out in my numbers.  Being outshot by 20, no hits, no hustle plays, no “real” scoring chances.

This team reminded me much of what an old boss said to me when I griped about a new manager who was not the sharpest knife in the drawer….he said he would rather have 10 of the other guy working for him than one really good worker with a bad attitude (me).

In this case, stats didn’t matter.  This team could use 20 dudes with more heart and less talent, because the young talent on this team was getting them nowhere.  Time to change my focus to in-game adjustments.  Things to help keep the games close….that is my goal for now….  The coaches would have to keep them motivated and I needed to do what I can between periods to share my observations to help with the little changes.

…the 21st day of September….

30 Oct

About nine games into the season at this point….no wins, no ties…NO POINTS.

If you have been on a losing team before, you know how this feels.  On my junior year football team, we won two games.  My undergraduate rugby team….the same…two or three games.  You can’t help but feel for these guys.  I worked my way into the locker room for the post-game chats.  The coaches are feeling it, right….one match there was the “atta boy”, you guys are playing better.  The next match a frustrating game leads to a broken garbage bin, post kicking.  Another match, the exhausted parent giving the talk about what went wrong tonight – no yelling, no screaming, just exasperation.

The players….not much emotion.  I was surprised!  I am surprised.  After one of the speeches a player asked about the sauna and treatment schedule for the day off the next day.  I wanted to hit him with the damn goalie stick…

I remember at the beginning of my data taking experiences I tried to count hits…then I stopped…there weren’t any.  Zero.  Zilch.  Hockey, professional hockey and no hits…

So I remember Don Cherry saying a European-led NHL team couldn’t win the cup because they were physically soft compared to the rough and tumble Canadians.  I remember that during the last NHL lockout the discussions to try to attract more viewership to hockey; making it a more open game like the Europeans play.  I honestly thought this might be how Hungarian hockey looked like.

Then I started to notice the Ujpest team shying away from contact.  No forechecking.  It is HOCKEY for god’s sake!

The 21st day of September, no wins, no ties, no points……

Do you remember…

30 Oct

I’m trying to recap September in my mind with the hockey club.  Lot’s of positive stuff.  Let’s start there.

The team is very young.  The average age is maybe 20 or 21.  This is their first time at the professional level, maybe with the prior season under their belt.  Mid-month the team picked up a 33 year old guy.  It was an immediate improvement in the Miskolc game.  Pal’s line is now the #1 line on the team.

I also got my first travel opportunity with the team.  My first game was also the first game with a new coach from Finalnd, Jasi.  Jasi and Balint (the other coach) went to hockey school in Finland together.  It will be nice to get some fresh feedback with another English speaker as we share this new experience together.

The experience, from a personal level, is awesome.  Hockey game attendance, working with professional coaches and staff…and within the limits of my poor Hungarian skills, the opportunity to help out wherever I can.  The ability to shape my experience with the team is really cool.  Right now, I am trying to stay out of the way.  Attending practices, asking questions on the car rides home, game day stuff, reviewing film….

Now for the bad news…..

Sports data and stats…an intro

29 Oct

I had the opportunity to speak with a sports statistician with a NBA team over the summer.  We discussed advanced stats for basketball (sabermetrics in the baseball world).  I went back the the U.S. and ordered two books that I think any sports fan would enjoy (burgeoning sports statistician or not).

The first, yeah, I picked up Moneyball.  The book appears to be a true story about the Oakland A’s front office…characterized as a bunch of castaways that make a low budget team a continual contender through number crunching.  Oh wait, there is a movie you say….not a movie guy, but I know it’s out there.  The book is always better though, right?

Anyway, I also picked up and began reading Dean Oliver’s book Basketball on Paper.  First off, Dean Oliver is hilarious!  The book is cool read if you are a basketball fan just to see how he ranks teams and players throughout NBA history.

Well, I tried looking up advanced hockey metrics and I came across a couple of cool blogs and websites.  Yet, none of these people discuss data collection.  The thoughts behind the stats and analysis portion were nice, but it is definitely much easier to do the analysis when ESPN and the like have collected all of the raw data for you.  Don’t get me wrong, to come up with a formula for what you want to examine and be able to explain a player’s productivity is not the easiest thing to do….but when you have all the data in the world to work with, it helps.

I know this because I tried to collect the data they used during a live game.  Using Dean Oliver’s method in his book I tried to chart what happened on the ice possession-by-possession.  Initial results: immediate failure.  I thought this might be the case, but I gave it a go anyway.  Hockey is way too fast….on-the-fly line changes, several center ice turnovers….speed wise, it is basketball on steroids.  I learned quickly that there was no way in hell I could chart a hockey game the way basketball games are done.  (Pictures of my nonsensical notes coming soon).

I concentrated on charting just the Ujpest team for faceoffs (player #, wins and losses) and my own notes.  I also have a diagram of the ice where I mark shots for both teams, circles for goals and arrows for deflections.

So, I bit off a little more than I could chew at the beginning.  I peeled it all the way back….and now that I am used to the game speed…I have added some additional items to my tracking list, including hits and scoring chances.  I also have the time to high five the camera guy when we score!