The following is a post I wrote almost four years ago about MyHockeyRankings on an old blog I used to publish. Most of it is still highly relevant after all this time. I have added some additional new thoughts at the end of the post.
I spend a lot of time on the MyHockeyRankings (MHR) website. I don’t use the site because I care about the rankings of my kids’ teams, but I do see the rankings, so I am aware of what they are. However, there are many more valuable reasons to use the site that I find really insightful that I wanted to share. I will also put together my thoughts on what the watchouts and drawbacks are for MyHockeyRanks in a separate post.
To start, let’s remind you of why MyHockeyRankings was created and how it is intended to be used. As stated explicitly on their About Us page, the site was set-up to help with scheduling competitive games between clubs. Using a pretty simple algorithm based on goal differential, a rating is created for each team. The difference in ratings between two teams is their expected goal differential (EGD) between the two teams if they were to play each other (subtracting the lower rating from the higher rating). This methodology is used to normalize quality of opponent and calibrate one team versus another. I won’t go into the statistical analysis of the legitimacy of EGD, but the goal differential is only an expected value, and thus there will be a lot of variation in actual game scores. If the EGD is small, then if the two teams would play each other, then it likely would be a competitive game. If the goal differential is large (for me 4 or 5 goals is a significantly large gap) then it likely would not be a competitive game and it may not make sense for the two teams to play in the first place. This is especially helpful if there is a large tournament and the organizers are trying to group teams into competitive divisions or for leagues to draw the line between A, BB and B levels. There is a lot more detail to how and why, but that is the gist of the ratings. Well, now that each team has a rating, it is only natural to rank them. This is where much of the controversy starts with the MHR site, but we’ll discuss the use of rankings separately.
- Schedule, Scores and LiveBarn
I track about 10 different teams at various clubs, levels and age groups and I find it much easier to see the schedule and scores in one single location thanks to MyHockeyRankings than going to each individual team’s website or leagues site to find the schedule and/or score. If I want to dive into a particular game then I might go elsewhere, but being able to see which of those teams has/had games in a particular weekend is very helpful. As a bonus, having the LiveBarn icon next to a game (especially if one of the teams is playing at an away tournament) it lets me know that I could watch the game if I wanted to. This feature was remarkably helpful for watching games for a prep school team that we are considering for my daughter. Without the MyHockeyRankings/LiveBarn partnership, I might never have been able to see several of the school’s games.
2. Scouting and Researching
When heading to a tournament it is highly likely that most of the teams we will play we won’t have ever seen or played before. We have used the MHR ratings to help decide which goalie to start in which games. If on the first day of a tourney we have two games and one team is clearly rated higher than the other on MyHockeyRanking, then the coach usually has some insightful information on who to start in each game. For a playoff game one coach asked me to download the most recent games of the team they will be playing, thanks to MHR I was able to see exactly when and where to find the game on LiveBarn. Finally, as mentioned above, being able to find games from potential prep schools for my daughter and watch their play has allowed me to research potential future schools/teams for her to play on based on the quality of their teams, including the LiveBarn video identification.
3. AA vs. AAA?
I care about my kids’ hockey development not the number of letters they have for their level of play. Since there really is no standard of what is AA vs AAA (which is a topic for another post), MyHockeyRankings also helps to compare AA vs AAA teams in an apples-to-apples manner. For example, I have one of my kids playing on a AA team this season that is rated slightly higher than the AAA team in our area. This is not a surprise, and while having a higher rating doesn’t really matter, there is a big difference between the two teams. The AAA struggles to compete and loses most of their games and their players are usually chasing the puck. Instead, nearly all the AA games my kids team plays are competitive and the players are developing a lot more both on defense and offense, especially when the games are close. While MHR didn’t really play a role in the decision on which team my child would play on, the ratings have provided validation that they are playing at the right level for their development even though it has one less ‘A’.
4. Scheduling Games
As mentioned at the start, this is the original intent of the MyHockeyRankings. Last season our team played about 30 games. Which is fine, but a few more would have been nice.
Since there weren’t any local teams that were available in the Spring, we looked to find a few teams that were 5 hours away for weekend exhibition games against 3 or 4 teams. Well, of course I used MHR to find the teams which would be most comparable to our team to reach out to (even though they were a level lower by letter). Once again, this is exactly the intended use of MHR, to help schedule and ensure competitive games.
5. Triangulation Between Levels
My daughter plays on a youth (boys) team and at some point she will switch to playing with the girls. One of the challenges is for me to compare her current level of play with the boys to the girls of her age. However, thanks to MyHockeyRanking and using their methodology, I can triangulate her team’s ratings to other girls teams. Since the local girls team plays enough games in the boys division, I can determine their equivalent boys rating and see the difference to my daughter’s team. It provides an additional piece of data to inform our decision on the where and when she should play in the future. I have used the same methodology to compare between levels between teams from Squirt to Peewee, from Peewee to Bantam and Bantam to Midget. For example, how does a Peewee AA team compare to a Bantam B team? Thanks to MHR I am able to figure out the answer to this question.
6. How are you trending? Last 10 Game Ratings
Figuring out if your team is trending up or down during the season is a pretty important insight. Almost all teams improve throughout the year, but how is your team improving relative to others. Thanks to MHR you can see if the last 10 games are accretive or dilutive to your rating. Also, with the help of a basic spreadsheet you take any time period and figure it out for yourself. As a data geek, I like the ability to analyze this kind of stuff.
Finally, as I admitted at the start, I am aware of the rankings for my kids’ teams. The ranking usually doesn’t vary too much from the start of the season to the end of the season, so once it has been established, not much point paying too close attention to it. But knowing where the team ranks on a national and state/regional level is good to know as a parent. It basically helps me set realistic expectations for where my kids are in their development and what goals to help them set for the coming year.
These are the benefits I have found from using MyHockeyRankings and when used properly it has provided helpful insights for several important decisions for my kids’ hockey development. However, while I have used site for ‘good’, it is pretty easy to use the site in the wrong way. My next post will discuss the watch-outs and using the site in a manner that goes against its original intent.
2023 Update #1: Another strength of MHR has been having USA Hockey use the rankings for at-large invitations to National playoffs. This way the best teams will still participate even if they didn’t win their district championship.
2023 Update #2: I have also used the Women’s College Hockey ratings as part of the college recruiting process. It’s been helpful to see how each of the conferences really compare to each other in terms of level of play. As an example, it shows how competitive the WCHA conference is, and that finishing 6th in that conference would be first or second in a different conference. You could be playing for a Top 10 team in the country and still not make the NCAA tournament. The NCAA might want to change it’s pairwise calculation (which I don’t really understand) and just use MHR for their at-large tournament selections.