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Credit Your Sources

posted Nov 17, 2015, 12:28 PM by Robert Vollman
Behind the scenes, there is a lot of hard work behind every advance, innovation, and statistic in the world of hockey. While there is the odd exception, such work is rarely rewarded with any recognition, money, or opportunities; if anything it makes you a target for criticism and abuse. There’s no denying that this work is done only for the love of the sport.

That’s why it’s so important that we really invest the due time and effort to credit our data sources, and the origins of the work we are building upon.

For example, Gabriel Desjardins, David Johnson, and Andrew Thomas (and company) have put a lot of effort into developing and hosting Behind the Net, Puckalytics, and War on Ice, respectively, and without a great deal of profit (if any). Referencing where the data comes from is not only the professional and honest thing to do, but any reader interested enough to read your article is probably curious enough to want to look at the data for themselves. Tell them where it is!

In fairness, when those references are missing, it’s not always the writer’s fault. I remember a recent conversation with an analyst well-known for giving proper credit for everybody’s work, but whose editor actually stripped out his brief explanation of where one of his statistics came from, in a recent work, for the sake of keeping things tight and concise. That’s bad! This is not an isolated example, and it has happened to me, too.

And it’s not just writers and editors that need to be more diligent, but even those people building and hosting statistical websites of their own. 

Go look at one of your favourite statistical databases right now, and see if you can find references for where all the statistics came from. And not just obscure ones, but the ones everybody knows and uses. Some of them probably think that the Corsi statistic comes from Jim Corsi (it doesn’t), and wouldn’t know where Close Game stats, Quality of Competition, or Zone Starts came from if you slapped them. 

Having written hundreds of footnotes in each of my Hockey Abstract books, I know it isn’t easy to untangle the complicated history behind some of these stats, and to find the right links to their true origins. Even once it’s found, it’s not always practical to comprehensively detail this information in a format that’s easy to find and read. I get that! I struggle with that too, especially with online articles of radio spots. But, if a particular concept or statistic is important enough to use, then it’s important enough to properly credit.

I know a lot of this seems like common sense, and I know everyone probably thinks that they’re already doing a good job of crediting their sources. And some of you are! Let’s lead by example, adopt a heightened awareness of this situation, and see if we can all do just a little bit better.