Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The time I nearly stumped the internet

Two weeks ago, I was working on a piece to anger Red Wings fans, and I wanted to research and write up ten playoff performances. However, I ran into a problem: I couldn't figure out how many points Scott Niedermayer had scored in the 1995 Cup Finals. This wasn't super-critical to the piece, but I was planning on breaking down ten playoff performances, and it seemed like an answerable question with the wide resources of the internet, right? Well, barely.

Sure it's easy enough to find out what Scotty scored in the entire 1995 playoffs, and the scores of those Finals games, and even a game-by-game re-telling. But I searched and I searched and I found nothing that could resolve what seems like a very answerable question.

Frustrated with fruitless web searches, I then turned to some of the biggest hockey minds around the blogosphere: notably die-hard Devils dude Wyshynski and the guys from Fanhouse -- McErlain, Mirtle, GÅ‘lbez, Ciskie, J.P., etc., and the best I got from that group of hockey know-it-alls was either "Wait a day -- I'll check my hockey yearbook tonight" or "Why not write a nice-sounding letter to the league?"

I had nearly given up in the disbelief that a seemingly an easy answer was nowhere to be found on the web, when finally deep in a set of search engine results I was directed to The Professional Hockey Server: Hawaii's NHL Page, which is apparently hosted at the University of Hawaii in Hilo.


Fear not, mainlander. Hawaii has your answers.

So after a few more clicks, the answer I sought was found here, in a day-by-day scoresheet breakdown of the '95 playoffs, with the four games I cared about being the last four on the page. Question answered. Scott scored 1 goal and 3 assists in the '95 cup finals. Hawaii 1, Mainland 0.

And while that was helpful, it raised a whole new question: Why the hell is the only internet source for 1995 game logs maintained on the Hubble server of the University of Hawaii? According to the FAQ, it all appears to be the doing of one Richard A. Crowe, Ph.D., who was quite the busy fellow while compiling NHL stats in the late 90s:
"There are other things in life besides maintaining hockey statistics. In fact, I am an extremely busy individual. I teach physics and astronomy classes 6 hours a week, maintain a research program on spectroscopy and photometry of variable stars, manage a large education/research grant, sit on a division personnel committee as well as an outreach committee, serve as a member of the Board of Directors of a local networking organization, play clarinet in the Hawaii County Band 30 hours a month, regularly sing in the UH Hilo Chorus as well as practice piano, and support a young family of four."
Here's a peek at his process, back in the day:
"The scoring data is entered at the keyboard using a Fortran program (SCORESTATS) and then I run another Fortran program (BATSEARCH) which checks for consistency with the information available in the newspaper box scores. SCORESTATS simply puts in the number of games played by the respective teams rather than for individual players. BATSEARCH takes 180 minutes to execute, but when it is completed, both regscore03.html and scorerstat03.html are updated and list GP for individual players, not teams. The latter file will then also include Shots, Game-Winning Goals, and +/- statistics for individual players. The updated files should usually be available after 7:00 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time."
Sounds rigorous. At any rate, the point of this post is twofold:

1) To point out another resource on the internet for those interested in looking at basic boxscore stats going back in time. For the record, here's my list of resources:
  • 2002-03 to current: NHL.com Statistics page. A really nice site for queries about the last five years.
  • 1997-98 to 2001-02: Boxscore Central. You have to know/guess the date of any game in question, but the boxscores include basic +/- and shot stats for each skater.
  • 1994-95 to 1996-97: Hawaii's NHL page. A bit difficult to navigate, but the answers are in there.
  • pre-1994: Write a nice-sounding letter to the league.
2) There's an overriding theme at BoC about die-hard hockey fans emerging from non-traditional markets, but I don't even know if we're in the same ballpark of out-of-market fanticism as Dr. Crowe. Does anybody know the story of this guy? I'd love to hear it. Displaced Canadian? Spontaneous Hawaiian puckhead?

At any rate, I wasn't on the search for hockey stats back in 1995, but I certainly am grateful for this guy's decade-old effort nowadays. Congratulations, Dr. Crowe. In an era of an expanding NHL and an emerging internet, apparently the leader of real-time hockey statistics resided in the hockeyless paradise of Hawaii.

Take that, mainland traditionalists of the 90s (you know who you were)!

16 comments:

Sarah said...

Dr. Richard A. Crowe got his PhD from the University of Toronto and spent the first few years in Hawaii as the "Canadian Resident Astronomer" on some joint Canada-France-Hawaii telescope project. So there is some of his story.

Also, I could have answered that Niedermayer question for you. Never underestimate the power of your local librarian... especially one with access to Lexis-Nexis and historical NY Times.

Earl Sleek said...

So the lesson is: once you stump the internet, Sarah's got your answers.

Thanks for the Crowe tidbits. I wonder if his French counterpart minded him abusing the Hubble server for semi-automated NHL stat-digging programs.

RudyKelly said...

There is another option: just make it up and hope that no one notices. It's always worked for me, 1973 Conn Smythe winner Yvan Cournoyer.

HockeyTownTodd said...

OK, here is my vote to move the Coyotes to Hawaii just for Dr. Crowe.

Earl Sleek said...

There is another option: just make it up and hope that no one notices.

That's certainly fair. I should point out, by the way, that my own research program on spectroscopy and photometry of variable stars is on hold for further funding.

OK, here is my vote to move the Coyotes to Hawaii just for Dr. Crowe.

"Hey, why's this telescope pointed at Phoenix?"

Cheechew said...

Wait! you guys actually research your stuff when writing? I thought you made up stuff like I did.

Morbo said...

Fortran!!!??!! OLD. SCHOOL.

Sarah said...

So the lesson is: once you stump the internet, Sarah's got your answers.

My co-worker's family has a saying that "it's not lost until Hannah can't find it."

I think your comment is going to be my new motto. =)

Earl Sleek said...

I think your comment is going to be my new motto. =)

Hooray! Another day of semi-usefulness for Sleek!

And as a bonus, I'll only charge you 3 cents per use of that motto :)

What can I say? I'm a student of the greediest league on the planet.

Marl said...

Fortran!!!??!! OLD. SCHOOL.

No shit. As an IT guy myself, I'm now forwarding a boatload of respect to Dr. Crowe.

Earl Sleek said...

As an IT guy myself, I'm now forwarding a boatload of respect to Dr. Crowe.

My Fortran-appreciation probably isn't on par with yours, but I'll tell ya, I'm impressed as hell that the Hawaii County Band meets 30 hours per month!

MattM said...

Physicists love Fortran. All sorts of giant legacy code bases for modeling the universe that they've been using and modifying for 40 years are written in it, so it's what they know. Apparently porting these things to a more modern language is entirely out of the question.

Doogie2K said...

It's always worked for me, 1973 Conn Smythe winner Yvan Cournoyer.

Either you're an idiot-savant, you already knew that, or you looked it up. Two out of three times, you're full of shit! =)

Itlan said...

I maintain a "Must have hockey links" over at HockeyBuzz.com. Someday I hope to move it to my own website...
http://www.hockeybuzz.com/boards/thread.php?thread_id=37959

Earl Sleek said...

Itlan, that is going straight to the sidebar resources. Let me know when you migrate it, though. I feel dirty linking to Hockeybuzz.

Anonymous said...

Hawaii needs an NHL Team.Hell, if the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes can exist.Anything is possible.