This website ranks youth hockey teams, even for 9-year-olds

It was after midnight in mid-November, and Neil Lodin, the founder of MYHockey Rankings, was crouched over a computer in his sparsely furnished home office, feeding the beast.

The results of more than 10,000 youth hockey matches were received over the weekend and are awaiting approval. Lodin had to delete duplicates, resolve complaints and monitor for statistical anomalies. Most of all, he had to rank the teams.

Lodin, 54, worked in the Indianapolis suburbs. His son, Ian Lodin, 27, was preparing the website for hours from his 360-mile apartment in Pittsburgh. They worked in silence, except for the clatter of their keyboards, to update their weekly rankings of about 13,000 traveling youth hockey teams, ranging in age groups from 9 to 18.

Until dawn on Wednesday, crowds of youth hockey coaches, parents and players will be online, eager for what Lodins will serve.

“There are people all over the country talking about them or their kids getting up on Wednesday morning and checking the rankings,” said Neil Lodin, a former computer programmer who created the algorithm that powers his site.

MYHockey Rankings – now as much a part of North American youth hockey as hot chocolate and hand warmers – has been called a lifeline by coaches who rely on it to help them plan games against teams with roughly the same level of talent. Scouts use it to identify teams to monitor.

Adversaries, including a blogger who called MYHockey Rankings “the worst youth hockey website ever”, complained that the rankings fueled a parent-led sports culture and focused on winning over player development.

“These rankings are as close to the biblical ones as you can get on the youth hockey scale,” said Sean Green, who coaches a squirt team (ages 9 and 10) for Allegheny Badgers outside of Pittsburgh. However, he said, the ranking could be devastating. “Development must be key, but the problem is that once ranking is included, development comes out the window.”

MYHockey Rankings attracts 340,000 unique visitors and 10 million page views per month when the season is in full swing, according to Lodins, and daily traffic increases to 500,000 page views when new rankings are published each week.

“I think part of it is fun to watch,” said Darren Palaszewski, who coaches a 12-year-old team in Amherst, a suburb of Buffalo, New York. “It’s the only thing you have to quantify to see where you are.”

Aesthetically, MYHockey Rankings is astounding. Its interface is cumbersome and soft.

But the site has a set of team statistics in its database, all of which were excavated from Lodina or generated by thousands of coaches and parents who voluntarily provide information to keep their teams in the standings.

The site contains information on a total of 24,000 teams, including high school, junior and college teams. During the hockey season, as more games are played and results are collected, Lodin expect to have enough data to appropriate the ranking of about 18,000 teams.

Visitors can find records of team wins and losses, their schedules, how many goals they have scored or conceded during the season, and the projected goal difference for each game they could play against any opponent in the system.

But most people come for the charts, which for many have come to determine the value of the team, for better or worse.

Neil Lodin insists this was not what he set out to achieve 18 years ago when he began analyzing data from teams in a handful of Midwestern states.

In 2003, according to Lodin, Ian Lodin played hockey in the suburbs of Indianapolis in a team that regularly rolled opponents, thanks in part to a particularly talented player. At the request of Ian’s coach, Lodin set out to find a way to identify suitable competition off the road.

“It wasn’t about being the best,” Lodin said. “We had to find out who would give us competitive games.”

He compiled a list of each tour team in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan in his son’s age group. He then spent weeks recording the results he found, combing each team’s websites.

“One of the things I started doing was watching who was playing with whom and trying to say, ‘Okay, we played with this team and we beat them by five, and they lost by six to this other team, so that’s “It must be good,” Lodin said.

Growing up in Minnesota and studying math and computer science at the State University of Minnesota, Moorhead soon came up with a formula for ranking teams.

He began sharing his calculations in online youth hockey forums. By 2006, he had sent so many requests to apply his formula to other Midwestern teams that he launched the MYHockey Rankings. (The curious amalgam of capital letters is a slant to the original name of his initiative: “Hockey Ranking in the Midwest.”)

The site is funded by advertising, as well as by memberships that offer privileges such as the ability to add lists and statistics to players. Individual memberships sell for $ 30 a year, while those for youth hockey associations range from $ 69 to $ 299 a year.

Lodin left computer programming in 2012 to work on the site full-time, and Ian Lodin joined him four years ago as director of business development.

Most of Neil Lodin’s time is now spent managing the offshoot business, MYHockey Tournaments, which hosts tournaments in 19 cities in the United States and promises to “bring together the best-matched competition.” He will not disclose financial data for the two companies.

Lodin’s algorithm calculates the average difference between each team’s goals and the strength of the graph and assigns a numerical score of 99.99.

The rankings of narrowly ranked teams are usually divided by hundreds of percentage points, with each percentage point equal to the difference of one goal.

So a team with a rating of 99.99 is expected to beat a team with a rating of 98.99 with a goal. A game between teams with a rating of, say, 99.99 and 99.55 is expected to move in each direction.

For practical application, consider the level of peewee, children aged 11-12 years in the United States.

Teams in this age group were recently ranked from 1 to 1397, with the Chicago Reapers AAA team at the top with 99.99 and the Ohio Troy Bruins B team at the bottom with 60.19. In theory, the Reapers would beat the Bruins by 40 goals if they ever stood up.

Within both extremes, however, there are groups of teams whose ratings suggest they would be competitive. For example, there are 63 teams with a rating between 75.00 and 75.99.

Of course, the actual results of some matches are beyond their predicted goals. When this happens, the information is fed back into the system and Lodini generates new ratings and rankings.

But in general, the biggest fans of the site and the harshest critics agree that the ratings are usually quite an accurate barometer for most matches.

Chris Collins leads Bishop Kearney Selects, an elite program in Rochester, New York, with four teams of teenagers and a six-figure travel budget.

“As a program director trying to schedule four teams and choose where we spend money and send our teams, this is an extremely valuable resource for me,” Collins said.

Even USA Hockey, the national governing body of sport, turns to Lodins every year for information that the organization can use to award the widest range of offers for its national tournaments for 14-year-olds and up.

“Let’s face it,” said Ken Martel, director of the player development organization, “the site has gathered a lot of really good data.”

At the same time, Martel said, he fears that the weight given to the rankings by some coaches, parents and youth hockey associations has had a toxic impact on player development and the cost of the game.

Stories abound in youth hockey circles of organizations that recruit promising players between the ages of 11 and 12 who live hundreds of miles away in an attempt to bolster their rankings.

In extreme cases, they end up creating super teams that can only find suitable opponents by traveling huge distances to other super teams.

“You have teams because of these rankings that will not play teams in their area,” Martel said. “They will pass six teams or get on a plane, God forbid. You just made hockey more expensive. ”

Hockey is already the most expensive youth sport, with parents spending an average of $ 2,583 per child per year, according to the Aspen Institute’s sports and community program, which publishes an annual report on the state of youth sports.

Because the algorithm takes into account the average differences in goals, teams can beat opponents who are expected to win, but still fall into the standings because they do not win with a big enough difference. The opposite is also true.

Therefore, some coaches place weaker players even in unilateral victories, which is detrimental to their development. It is known that the parents criticize the coach for pulling the goalkeeper in a tense match and passing a goal with an empty net, which destroys the predicted goal difference.

For Martel, such cases suggest that things have gone too far.

“We should not rank children at the national level at the age of 9,” he said.

None of these anecdotes surprised the Lodinis, who said they maintained a list of coaches and teams known for trying to play their system. Ian recently caught a coach trying to snatch the result of a match the team won three months earlier. Both teams agreed that the demonstration match would not be considered in their standings, but the winning coach refused because the difference in victory would help the position of his team.

“There are some people who do funky things,” Ian said.

Neil Lodin said that funky things are an exception. He responded to critics of the site as a whole, citing a single statistic: the average winning margin of games in the system.

“That number has dropped over time,” he said. “This tells me that the sport is becoming more competitive, people know who they are playing with, they avoid 11-0 matches. I think that’s good. “

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.