The top 7 hockey websites of the decade (that no longer exist)

Pass it to Bulis

We’re just days from the end of the decade, which means it’s time to look back at the past ten years to reminisce a little.

One of the developments in the hockey world was the development of some fantastic websites that provided something that mainstream media and the NHL themselves didn’t provide.

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This was the decade where hockey analytics went mainstream, largely due to the efforts of public analysts and the websites they created. Intriguingly, doing public analytics work and creating analytics sites became a path to working in the NHL this decade, as teams hired a number of bloggers and website creators.

Unfortunately, that’s meant a serious loss for those of us in the public sphere, as those sites have gone dark when those bloggers and website creators have been hired. So, as a retrospective on the past decade, let’s look back at the amazing hockey websites that we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying and using over the past ten years, and that are no longer available.

I’ll refrain from tooting my own horn and naming vansunsportsblogs.com, the former home of Pass it to Bulis, as one of the best hockey sites that no longer exists and instead turn the spotlight elsewhere.

Honourable mention one: Behindthenet.ca

Technically, Behind the Net still exists; it just hasn’t been updated since the 2015-16 season. It was once the go-to site for fledgling fancy stats like corsi, fenwick, zone starts, and quality of competition. For those familiar with the site, you could also dig up penalty differential and a few other more esoteric stats.

Gabriel Desjardins, the creator of the site, was also one of the premiere hockey analytics bloggers at the end of the last decade and beginning of this one. Desjardins has since moved on from hockey analytics, hence the lack of updates to his site, but his site was still one of the best of the decade.

There’s a reason why people refer to this new era of hockey analytics as the “Behind the Net era.”

Honourable mention two: Hockeystats.ca

Hockey Stats was originally going to be on this list. One of the best providers of in-game hockey analytics was taken down during the 2018 off-season, a tough blow for those that loved its combination of easy-to-read charts and numbers. Unlike some stats sites, Hockey Stats stayed focussed on its primary mission of providing game reports and did it exceptionally well.

Except, here’s the thing: after missing the 2018-19 season, Hockey Stats is back again for the 2019-20 season. You can once again get your in-game analytics reports and charts from Hockey Stats.

7 | Prospect-Stats.com

Analytics are everywhere in the NHL, but they’re a little harder to find outside the NHL. For those looking for detailed information on hockey prospects in junior leagues, one of the few sources was Prospect-Stats, which had comprehensive stats for the WHL, OHL, QMJHL, and USHL, as well as the AHL.

Prospect-Stats provided better standard statistics than the AHL and junior leagues provided themselves and provided essential ways to filter and sort those stats, including by age, so you could compare players of a similar age.

They also provided unique stats unavailable anywhere else, such as estimated ice time, expected goals, and quality of teammates and competition. While several other sites on this list have had their functionality replicated and reproduced by subsequent sites, no other site has fully replaced Hockey-Prospects.

The site was taken offline when site founder Hayden Speak was hired by the Los Angeles Kings as an analyst.

Edit: I was reminded after this article was published that Prospect-Stats had a predecessor: CHLStats.com. It had an impressive array of analytics for prospects. Its founder, Josh Weissbock, who also wrote for CanucksArmy, was hired by the Florida Panthers in 2016 as an amateur scouting consultant, bringing his work on prospect analytics to Sunrise. As a result, CHL Stats went dark.

6 | mc79hockey.com

Tyler Dellow made waves in the hockey community when he dug deep into Colin Campbell’s emails on his hockey blog, mc79hockey.

The emails were evidence in a court case involving Dean Warren, a former NHL referee who challenged the NHL for wrongful dismissal. Dellow, a Toronto-based lawyer at the time, deciphered the censored portions of Campbell’s emails and uncovered Campbell exerting improper influence over director of officiating Stephen Walkom regarding penalties called against his son, Gregory Campbell.

The words that stuck were “little fake artist,” in regards to Marc Savard. When Savard’s career was ended by a headshot from Matt Cooke, Campbell chose not to suspend Cooke, saying there was no intent to injure — the NHL had no rule regarding headshots at the time. The question was raised: if Campbell wasn’t biased against Savard, would he have made a different decision about Cooke?

Somehow, Campbell survived the scandal and kept his job — he was still the Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations when the Canucks faced his son Gregory and the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final — but it cemented Dellow’s reputation as a detail-oriented writer that found things others missed.

This remained true with his analytics work. On mc79hockey, Dellow tackled questions that other analysts and sites didn’t even seem to consider. Some might argue that’s because he tackled questions that didn’t matter, digging into minutiae about faceoffs and matchups that unnecessarily binned data, while others would argue that the little things he analysed are the essential components of how hockey is played.

What mattered most is that Dellow made complicated topics understandable with his clear writing style, making analytics palatable for a lot of hockey fans that might have otherwise dismissed them.

When Dellow was hired by the Edmonton Oilers, he took down mc79hockey. He was then let go by the Oilers in 2016 and joined The Athletic as a columnist. Earlier this year, Dellow was hired by the New Jersey Devils as Vice President of Analytics, but at least his work with The Athletic didn’t disappear like mc79hockey.

5 | Timeonice.com

One of the most useful sites of the analytics era, Time on Ice was unfortunately the least user-friendly. Time on Ice barely had a front end and, in order to make the most of its functionality, you had to know a variety of specific URLs.

If you knew those URLs, however, Time on Ice was incredible, providing a vast array of statistics, including game reports that updated in real time. The statistics it provided made it an essential resource despite its lack of user-friendliness, to the point that another website developer, Jeremy Stuckey, developed Nice Time on Ice, a pseudo-frontend for Time on Ice, that made it a liittle easier to navigate.

While Nice Time on Ice lives on, now an aggregator of useful hockey links, Time on Ice was taken offline when the Washington Capitals hired its founder, Tim Barnes, aka. Vic Ferrari. Barnes was the innovator of some of the statistics that are now ubiquitous, such as applying corsi, originally used by goaltending coach Jim Corsi to measure his goaltenders’ workload, to puck possession. In many ways, Barnes provided the foundation for hockey analytics on which everyone else is now building.

Edit: According to Bob McKenzie, apparently that accepted understanding of the origins of Corsi isn't true at all. He spoke to Barnes for his book, Hockey Confidential, and Barnes related the origin of how Corsi got its name, and it was mainly because he liked the look of Jim Corsi's moustache. The full story is well worth the read.

4 | HockeyAnalytics.com and Puckalytics.com

Two different destinations for the same data, Hockey Analytics and Puckalytics were created by David Johnson. While Johnson was a somewhat controversial figure in the hockey analytics community due to some of his contrarian views, there was no denying the usefulness of his analytics sites.

Hockey Analytics was one of the original analytics sites and was one of the best sources for WOWY (With Or Without You) data. In fact, for a while it was the only source for WOWY stats.

With Puckalytics, Johnson added a more attractive front-end for his data, and both sites were essential for fancy stats aficionados. When the two sites went dark after he was hired by the Calgary Flames, it was a tough blow for hockey writers and fans alike, who had come to depend on how easy his sites were to navigate and how comprehensive they were.

3 | WAR-on-ice.com

When Extra Skater went dark (see next entry), hockey fans wondered what they would do without it. After seeing how easy-to-use an analytics site could be, it was hard to go back to the harder-to-navigate sites from the beginning of the Behind the Net era.

In stepped WAR-on-Ice, which provided similarly comprehensive statistics in a well-designed package: game-by-game stats, goaltending analytics, corsi, fenwick, and more. Appropriate to their name, they also did work towards an all-in-one WAR (Wins Above Replacement) statistic and innovated with hockey visualizations, like their hextally tool

Unfortunately for fans of publically-available analytics, the co-founders of WAR-on-Ice were all hired by NHL teams. The Pittsburgh Penguins hired Sam Ventura and the Minnesota Wild hired Andrew Thomas and Alexandra Mandrycky, who has since joined Seattle's expansion franchise as director of hockey administration.

While WAR-on-Ice kept their data available for others to use, the site itself was taken offline. It felt like this was going to be an annual tradition: just as you get used to using an analytics site and started depending on it, it would go dark.

2 | ExtraSkater.com

For those frustrated by the inscrutability of Time on Ice and Behind the Net, Extra Skater was a godsend. Finally, there was an advanced analytics site that was not only comprehensive, but also attractive, well-designed, and easy-to-use.

Like a club recommended by Stefon, Extra Skater had everything. Game reports? Yes. Corsi, fenwick, PDO, zone starts, quality of teammates and competition, and advanced goaltending stats? Yes. Olympic and World Junior fancy stats? Yes.

All of it was available in fantastic-looking and intuitive site design that immediately became the template for other hockey analytics sites. It’s not a fluke that sites like Evolving Hockey bear a striking similarity to Extra Skater.

When the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Darryl Metcalf, the creator of Extra Skater, it was a real blow. We didn’t know at the time that WAR-on-Ice would step into the gap and eventually other sites would rise up as well that were just as easy to navigate as Extra Skater.

1 | CapGeek.com

CapGeek is unique on this list for a couple reasons. One is that it wasn’t an analytics site. The other is the tragic reason for why it no longer exists.

While CapGeek wasn’t a home for fancy stats, it was revolutionary in its own way. Started by sports journalist Matthew Wuest, CapGeek provided comprehensive and accurate contract information for every single player in an NHL system.

It was the most reliable source for contract and salary cap information in the NHL, to the point that even NHL teams used it as a resource. At a time when NHL teams were often circumspect about the details of their players’ contracts, Cap Geek was frequently the only place you could find that information. For hockey journalists and bloggers, CapGeek was essential, but it was equally essential for diehard hockey fans, even if Gary Bettman and the NHL didn’t seem to agree.

Unbeknownst to the hockey world, Wuest was quietly battling colon cancer and shuttered CapGeek in January, 2015. He passed away at the age of 35, but will always be remembered as a pioneer in the hockey world.

Since then, the site CapFriendly.com has stepped into the void. For good reason, the founders of CapFriendly dedicated their site to the memory of Matthew Wuest
 

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