Monday, March 30, 2015

Radio hosts on TSN 1260 need to learn there is no luck in sports. #advancedStats

advanced stats ruining sports radio in #yeg
There is no luck in sports.  Anyone who has played any sport at a high level will tell you athletes make their own luck in the off-season when nobody else is around.  While losers are out at the clubs with the ladies, winners are in the gym lifting weights and practicing game skills.  There are no lucky teams in sports either.  Winning and losing is a product of dedication, sacrifice, doing everything you can to make your team better.  Calling it luck is insulting because it reduces all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears to random chance.  Lucky is what advanced stats nerds used on the tsn1260 in #yeg to describe teams like the Calgary Flames this year.  It is the phrase which makes me change the station because you lose all credibility to me when you call a team like the Flames lucky.  Lucky in reference to hockey is just the areas in which advanced stats do a poor job of describing in quantitative ways, not that you would ever hear an advance stats nerd say that.  Instead an advanced stat nerd, unable or unwilling to admit the limitations of their data will use the word lucky to describe teams that have success despite poor corsi, fenwick, possession stats etc.  They will ignore what they don't know as if it has no effect on the larger picture even though chaos theory says small things, tiny little variables which are beyond our ability account for can have a big effect.

I am not against advanced stats.  I do believe there is a place for them in all sports, especially when you consider the money being thrown around.  I am just against the way some folk will talk about them as if a player or team's worth can be determined solely by the areas numbers describe well.  You see it in twitter where some media folk will cite two or three statistics and say this player should play over another with less impressive stats.  It is illogical because you shouldn't be speaking in absolutes when it comes incomplete data.  How do you know one player with poor stats hasn't worked hard to improve and is killing it in practice whereas the player with better stats is dogging it in practice?  

Every sports team I was on had a stats person.  One year it was Wayne, who did a very interesting Maria Carry impersonation ending with a mini-mini-skirt and legs no man had business having as they were better than most women's.  In college we just called the stats guy, Stats.  Stats folk usually were not all that athletic but wanted to be a part of a team atmosphere.  Who can blame them as there is and will never be anything that will ever match the comradely, hard work and the journey that is a sports season.  The trials and tribulations of success and failure through shared experience bring people closer together.  Even on the exterior, as a stats person, it is a pretty cool experience.  Yes, Charles Barkley is 100% correct in that most stats guys never get the girl or the opportunity to  play the game.   When I discuss advanced stats nerds I am not talking about the people at the end of the benches entering the data into a computer or on a score sheet. I am talking about those who look at the raw data and derive insight into a player or team based on quantitative data.

When I think about advanced stats I see a future where all stats are uploaded in real time from the lowest levels to the highest through rink and jersey gps systems.  All sports are very much behind when it comes to using modern technology to actually determine if the ball crossed the goal line or the puck went in the net, the location of the puck to player, the velocity of the shot, and/or pass. The roles of the guys and gals who collect the raw data will change as clever developers will generate vast amounts of data instantly.  You want to know the corsi or fenwik of some kid in the WHL you will be able to pull up an app on your iphone, search the player and then see his current stats.   The reason this will happen is because even the best scouts rarely get it all right.  Giving them extra data to really help find those gems in the later round may reduce misses.  A GM could say to a scout, "this player seems to have a positive effect when he is on the ice based on the numbers, I would like you to take another look visually."  When you are giving million dollar contracts you kind of want decent hockey players.  Advanced stats can help find those who fall through the cracks, or give more confidence to the eyeball test where you see a player in person and then look at the stats after to confirm what you saw or vice versa.

I see advanced stats more as tool for a general managers than for a coach or player.  Any coach worth their salt is going to know from hours of observation in practice and previous games which players do well in which situations.  If you don't know your players better than the limited quantitative data available then you won't be coaching long.  Those who play and coach the game should be focused on the processes needed to achieve success not the after the fact data. It is the actions of hustling back on defense, making the right pass or play instead of going for glory in a tight game, getting your body in a good position to shoot the puck, etc... which both coach and player have to work together to focus on.  Every sport and every position, from player to team has a series of steps needed to climb in order to find success.  The idea is you work on those steps in practice, and on your own so when game time comes you play the game on instinct.  Instead of thinking the game, you feel and react allowing for muscle memory of years of practice to take over.  The last thing that should be on a players mind is I should shoot so my corsi looks better.  Similarly the last thing on coaches mind should be which players do I keep on the ice to have a good corsi.  Yes, advanced stats is a good measurement of progress, but again the end result is not what the player or coach should be focused on.  Winning teams and players don't scoreboard watch.  They focus on process of being successful whatever that may be.  

None of what I described above in the processes needed for success  are described well by advanced stats.  These are areas advanced stats say nothing.  There is no data describing a player's practice habits.  How hard is that player with a low corsi is trying to get better.  They don't tell you if the player did that last set of clean and jerks or did they go over to the bench press.  When their friends want to go out partying how many times did that player say no I got to get some sleep so I can be ready to go tomorrow.  Advanced stats say nothing of a person's upbringing, mental make up and will to win. An athlete and a team is very much like an iceberg.  What we see as fans on the ice, the part which there are advanced stats for is just a small part of a bigger picture thus one should be careful not make too many blanket statements.

To be fair some in the advanced stats world do talk about the limitations of quantitative data.  Unfortunately it is mostly lip service as the next moment the same people will still talk as if the numbers are the end all when it comes to who is playing good, who should play in the next game, who should play at certain times, and even if a goalie should play back to back games.  Dallas Eakins for example came across very much as a coach by the numbers coach.  It was why Eakins never played Yakupov at the end of games or when the game was close.  The advanced stats said it wasn't wise and thus Eakins destroyed Yak's confidence.  Eakins was just following the numbers.   He didn't understand that you can't develop a player and coach by numbers.  Inexperience leads to mistakes which leads to poor statistics, leading to less playing time resulting in young players not developing.
Some have argued Eakins is the reason people in Edmonton are against advanced stats.  I argue that even though Eakins made advanced stats tough to stomach most people likely kept an open mind.  It isn't like Eakins is the first coach to talk statistics when discussing the success or failure of a team.

Other than the idiotic luck statement which drove me to turn off the radio, it is how much the hosts and guests were using advanced stats when discussing the Oilers that made me keep it off for entire shows.  Instead of having one or two advanced stats people a week it was often 3 or more a day across multiple shows.  Radio hosts or media types instead of talking about qualitative observations which require depth of knowledge and understanding of the game, discussed corsi or time of possession numbers.   Often these numbers were talked about by multiple hosts and guests, none offering any insight into the processes needed to improve them, instead using the numbers to suggest what coaches or GM's should or shouldn't do.   Advanced stats were talked about so much without anything new being said, it make radio unbearable at times..  I found myself yelling at the radio, screaming for someone to offer something new and insightful.  One radio host who I shall not name stated he didn' see any improvement in the Oilers under Nelson, likely because those improvements fit under the category of not described well by quantitative data.    Instead of being able to watch a game and make a qualitative observation, this radio host couldn't see past the stats page.  Back in the day before the number craze, a team looking better on the ice didn't have an asterisk next to it pointing out the raw data hadn't improved.  We use to as fans, media and those playing or around the game believe what our eyes told us, whereas now even if a team looks good on the ice, it isn't good enough unless that data supports it..  You will still have advanced stats nerds and those on the tsn1260 jump all over the data to dampen any excitement or hope a person might have from the eyeball test.  Perfect example is how some advanced stats folk refuse to acknowledge the positive effect Todd Nelson has had on the team.  They ignore the fact the team under Nelson is working harder and playing for each other, our offensive talent is actually playing like offensive talent and not grinders and the  positive development of the players the Oilers have invest high draft picks and money.  All that matters to an advanced stats nerd is that Todd Nelson doesn't have as good stats as Dallas Eakins, the coach that made Oiler hockey unbearable to watch. This inability to believe what one sees, and the need to always try to find something negative in the data was the final straw for me.

For the advanced stats nerds it isn't enough to win hockey games, you need to have good statistics when you win or your team just got lucky.

What is your view of advanced stats?

If you wanted 15 large bags of ice to keep your 7 kegs of beer cool while you ponder the question please let me know.  We at Columbia Ice are always happy to bring the good people of Edmonton and surrounding area ice.

The Iceman
Call for ice: 780-960-7161
Follow: @ernieiceman
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

what do canoes have to do with ice delivery in Edmonton?

image of a beat up car
Not an SUV but you get the idea
Dear Ice so Nice,

I was driving down 97 street from Anthony Henday exit to get to a client near Kingsway when what looked like a bumper sport utility vehicle cut from the right hand turning lane, in front of me.

I didn't care he cut in front of my truck because  it was 3pm and my load was light.  If was early in the day when fully loaded, having to stop quickly would of caused my load of ice to come crashing forward and maybe I wouldn't of been able to stop.  Based on the collage of dents, broken driver side mirror, junior, what I called the driver, seemed to hit more than he missed.  Whatever, I don't really care, one more delivery and then I am done, I thought to myself..  Then the jackass started tailgating the guy in front with the canoe, driving in a very aggressive, somewhat erratic fashion.  Young punk, my new nickname for junior needed a lesson. The roads were good, the breaks were fine so I got as close to him as possible with still leaving myself plenty of room to stop.  I was pissed off he was trying to bully his way past the canoe.  I pretended to take a picture with the phone at the next set of lights. Young punk gets out at the light to take a picture of me. Happy to accommodate I give him a double finger salute and smile.  Apparently the young punk did not know iceman are grumpy folk, anti-social in nature and what really sets us off is when you tailgate a guy in a canoe.

Then the young punk turned into shoppers, tried to get a picture while cutting off the traffic behind him.  I just smiled and drove by because honestly what was the guy going to do?  Call my boss and tell him that I took a picture of him?

Sadly the young punk who actually had a gf in his bumper car didn't seem to learn the lesson.  Don't tailgate and try to bully the guy with a canoe
Image of canoe.
do not tailgate a canoe!!!
because you never know if the guy behind you is an iceman.  It is hard to drive with a canoe on your roof.  Give the person space.  When it comes to cutting people off on Alberta roads you just do not know what most trucks are carrying and will it shift.

One mistake I will give you the benifit of the doubt.  If your car carries many dents with multiple colors of paint and you tailgate a guy with a canoe on a Friday afternoon, watch out for the iceman, cause I am anti social with frostbite on the brain, young punk.

If you need big bags of ice or small bags of ice on a Friday afternoon and promise to not tailgate a man in a canoe, give Columbia Ice a shout.  If you call early enough we just might bring you ice.

The Iceman
Call for ice: 780-960-7161
Follow: @ernieiceman
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Monday, March 9, 2015

Don't expect the #oilers to win many day games.

Every athlete I have met has had a pregame routine.  Everything from what to eat to when to go to the bathroom is usually planed.   It is a process you develop from day one playing the sport which you design for yourself, in order to get you physically and mentally prepared to play the game.  When I played basketball for example I would always eat a high carb meal 3-4 hours before the game.  This would give my body time to digest and then rid itself of any waste in time for my pregame bathroom break.  I always listened to the same type of music.  Always stretched and warmed up the same way.  

It is this pregame routine your body and mind gets use to which makes getting up for what would be an out of the norm day games, as was the case with the #oilers, when they played Ottawa and Carolina in the afternoon, instead of at night.  All that pregame routine which players have been developing and using since they have been playing the sport are thrown out of the window.  Nobody eats the same food at breakfast as they would later in the day so the type of food changes.  Even breakfast likely wouldn't feel too comfortable on the stomach because the body isn't use to that type of food before a game.  With less time before the game it might not be possible to go through your entire pregame routine.  If you are still a little tired your mind won't be sharp when you try to visualize the game beforehand.   Your body not use to being game ready that early in the day will be slow to warm up.  Thus when it comes to teams that are young, without a lot of experience it can be very difficult to succeed at games outside the normal playing times.  When your body and mind are not in perfect rhythm the game becomes more about guts, will to win and just playing smart within yourself.  Doing well in those odd timed games is very much a mental exercise.  Something our Oilers will learn in time.  


I talk to ice about all sorts of topics.  What do you talk to when nobody living is around?

Red Bull Crashed Ice uses crushed ice to freeze track to ground.

Collage of us putting big bags of ice into grain bag.
Crashed Ice wants BIG bags of crushed ice.
Imagine a 180 pound hockey player, fully decked out in protective equipment flying down a course made of extra hard ice being chased by three other skaters dreaming of caviar and Red Bull on ice. What if this 180 pound hockey player can't stop, loses an edge on a skate and practices newton's third law of motion with ice on the track.   What you get when this happens is crushed ice or crushed hockey player.  Based on what I know of ice and Newtonian physics you are going to get crushed players more than crushed ice.

A much easier way to get crushed ice in #yeg is to call Columbia Ice, Edmonton's ice company.   Although we, like the other ice companies in Edmonton, make tube ice, we go the extra mile to crush it.  Rocky punched frozen sides of beef, we punch big bags of tube ice to make crushed ice..(wink)

image of the Iceman punching bags of ice to make crushed ice.
making crushed ice out of tube ice

By using a local ice supplier, the amount an organizer like Red bull pays on medical bills is less by using our crushed ice than asking the contestants in the race to verify Newton's third law on motion.  This is likely why when Red Bull came to Edmonton, googled crushed ice, clicked on ice suppliers and called us at Columbia Ice.  I am sure it is just a lucky coincident they chose us, however it is really nice to see an international event use a locally owned ice company.    Too often big events which want local to support them by going to the events, do not support local businesses.  Good on Red bull for being a little different and embracing the local businesses to help make crashed ice a success.  It might not seem obvious the advantage of using a local supplier for them, however I argue as a locally owned and operated business we care more about Edmonton at Columbia Ice than some US owned ice company.  We want events like Redbull Crashed Ice to succeed because it makes our city better.   When I talk to our clients, friends and family I am more likely to say hey you got to checkout that Red Bull race on March 14th because they supported our Alberta owned business.  

If you are curious as to what they use the big grain bags of ice for, you are in luck as it isn't a secret like how they get the caramel in the caramel chocolate bar.

image of industrial fork carrying ice.
bag is filled with ice to use to freeze track to ground

At the base of the course at the end on ground level, they can't drill into the ground too deep thus they use the power of ice sprayed daily with water to help freeze the track to the ground so that it could handle the Iceman.

It is very tiring going all Rocky on large bags of party ice.  I think I have gone all George Foreman in Thrilla in Manila and punched myself out.  Time to sleep...

image of iceman sleeping on empty bags of ice.
after a long day of battling ice, the Iceman needs to sleep
By the way if you are looking for ice.  Look down, there is a number, call it.  Ernie is who will answer and likely I am who will deliver the ice.  I would tell you my name but you won't remember it.  To you I am and forever will be the Iceman.   We make big and small bags of ice which I deliver.  We don't look pretty, but we get the job done.

The Iceman
Call for ice: 780-960-7161
Follow: @ernieiceman
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Sunday, March 8, 2015

JFK Jim Prentice is not, even if his words are true | #PrenticeBlamesAlbertans

I don't really get why people care so much what people in suits say.  If you listen long enough you will start to realize they all sound and act alike.  There will always be something to yell about.  Some group that thinks there is a better way.  It becomes noise after awhile where the voices and faces fade into bobblehead dolls you just want to punch.  

At first I put blame on those who voted for PC, but that was really fair because I am Albertan.  On some level I am responsible for the successes and failures of this province.  It feels like a cop out to blame the ruling party for low oil prices and not practising Keynesian economics.  Skim from the top for the times at the bottom.  

I didn't hear anyone yelling for a progressive tax system or higher taxes even though we are going to need those to keep our parents alive longer.  There was an article that said older folk use 75% more healthcare which makes perfect sense.  Odd they would need an actual study to verify logic.  Our bodies are like cars which as they age, they break down.  How much should be spent giving a person a few more years?  This notion that you can't put a price on a human life is laughable because we hate taxes.  We believe that the reason healthcare costs so much is because people abuse the system.  We paint the majority with such illogical half truths as if we want to spend hours in doctor's offices around sick people, cough, cough, cough, over and over again for no good reason... sure there are the few, but most only see the doctor when something is actually wrong.  There are way more parents to take care of than kids to pay for them.  

Who doesn't understand that healthcare costs are going to go up regardless of the price of oil? 

Did you go outside with wet hair and get frostbite on the brain?  

There are way more babyboomers alive and kicking than non babyboomers.  They will use way more healthcare because engines as they age need a little extra work.  That means higher taxes.  We should have a locked in system for the building and maintenance of hospitals and schools.  This is what happens when we all stand idly by and let people in suits cut education and healthcare because we like lower taxes.  The US fear propaganda over taxes is strong in Alberta.  

Why would you want to be a teacher or a nurse in Alberta?  The government always comes a knocking when the price of oil drops.  Even when it is high we only build signs, not actual schools.  As for hospitals.. well ducktape and surgery in sewage is fine for the men and women in suits who never end up in the ER when it is flooded or the ants come knocking two by two.  Schools can use libraries or gyms if the classes get to big.  Who cares about teacher to student ratio.

We got to maintain the Alberta Advantage.  Schools in containers and hospitals falling apart.  

I could blame the PC's,  I won't because I liked low taxes.  I was too busy on my phone trying to find an ice lady or read some random story in the news to research the consequences of continued underfunding of the key infrastructure such as hospitals and schools within our province.  I actually think that is the reason the Oilers scouting and development has sucked.  When you are taking cash calls to make salary you are not able to spend the money needed to keep up with the richer teams.  Those years where the team had no money is still affecting the team now where we don't have a not of intermediate aged home grown talent to guide these young studs.  

JFK said ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. 

Jim Prentice says look in the mirror.  

He might want us to forget Allison Redford... 

The PC party needs to look in the mirror as does every single Albertan.  We need to ask ourselves what is important.  Every one of us which works and pays taxes gives money to the government to pay for our healthcare, education, roads, police etc.  We need to tell the people we elected or didn't elect but are stuck having them as our geographic representative, what those things that matter to us.  It is pretty easy to do.  Most if not all political leaders have email, facebook, twitter and every other social network you can imagine.  

It was a stupid thing to say, at least in how he worded it.  Could of just said we are going to be fine.  Albertans have been through low oil prices.  We will have to adjust things accordingly.  It is something all Albertans are going to have to shoulder in some way.  You don't have the right to scold when your house has been in such disorder is the message behind  #PrenticeBlamesAlbertans 

They call me the iceman.  These are some of the things I talk to the ice delivery truck about.  I would talk to the ice but it is in the reefer staying ice.  If you need ice give us a call.  I am sure the number or email is around somewhere.  


Friday, March 6, 2015

Why the #oilers looked slow against the #kings?

In basketball when a guard cuts through the lane, you give them a forearm to the chest to slow them down for the defender to keep up.   The LA Kings do this without crossing the line into obstruction better than any team I have seen.  When you dump the puck in against the Kings they put big bodies in the way for your forcheckers to have to go around.  Most teams when you dump and chase might slow you down once, but the Kings seemed to have multiple guys in the way before the forecheckers have a chance to get near the retrieving defenseman.  Kings dman had more time where the puck was past the forecheck and out the zone.  Easy to skate straight ahead fast for some guys like a Taylor Hall.  It is easy to be quick in small spacings like Yakupov is learning to do.  Having both which really is the only way you are going to make it around those 220 lb pylons they call Kings to actually forecheck.  Personally I have always been a mind if you can't go around something, you go through it.  In basketball that was tricky because you could get a charge.  Hockey on the other hand allows for that type of contact.  The defense in theory is not suppose to be able to obstruct with LA gets away with because they are just in the way.  Eberle, Yakupov, Roy, RNH all looked slow because when you are a big dude, you just have to bend over, you are hard to get around.  I think at some point you got to make things bloody.  Straight lines to the puck, make the refs blow the whistle.  If that doesn't work punish whoever gets in your way with crosscheck to the liver.  If you happen to get crosschecked on the liver and need ice.  Columbia Ice is who you call., ice, compression and elevation.. no idea if you are still suppose to do that but ice will always be wonderful.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Blame Dallas Eakins for Oilers not signing Petry, not Craig MacTavish.

I use to listen to sports radio until this trade deadline really did me in.  All the various radio hosts wanted to do was rage on Craig MacTavish because hindsight is 20/20 and every single Oiler looked disinterested and brutal under Eakins.  Same people yelling now would of yelled the had MacT singed Petry to a large, long term contract at about 4.5 million a year.  Nobody wants to go back to the end year one of Dallas Eakins, look at Petry's game then and understand why MacT hesitated to sign Petry to a long term deal.  Instead people just want to scream and yell at MacT for not having perfect foresight. We have had a lot of bad teams in Edmonton lately, but at least they played hard and made it somewhat interesting.  Oilers under Eakins were painful to watch.  You left angry even when they won because there was so little life in the players. You want to yell at Craig MacTavish, yell at him for hiring Dallas Eakins who did more to harm the direction of this organization than any other couch on our history.  NOBODY really developed under Eakins.  That offensive creativity we drafted was being turned into grinders.  That is the reason MacT didn't make bold moves.  That is reason MacT guessed wrong on Petry.  The stallion looked like a dog under Eakins. Frankly until Todd Nelson gets a full season, including training camp under his belt, we really won't know what we have in all our young talent which DEVELOPS at a different paces.  Anyone from the fan, or local media says otherwise they are idiots.


PS:  MacTavish wears rose colored glasses in interviews and rarely expresses the situation accurately.  I think this is done on purpose to calm the masses who would freak out if Craig MacTavish admitted screwing up.