SFU-grown hockey analytics company lands first NHL team client

The NHL playoffs are in full swing and as the players focus on the Stanley Cup, SFU Beedie student Cole Gawenda is already looking ahead to next season, and how statistics on American Hockey League (AHL) players might impact the better-known NHL—including its first NHL client team, the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals are one of eight teams currently in this season's second round of playoffs. 

Data from the SFU team at HockeyData Inc. may assist with future planning as the team goes forward. “Our process involves tracking every individual player's events based on time and location throughout a game,” explains Gawenda, operations manager. “We track each player's performance and provide this data to the team, which allows them to gain a greater understanding of players in the American Hockey League.”

HockeyData Inc. was formed in early 2016 to provide data and analytics to teams and agents completing projects related to the NHL Draft. The company has more than 20 part-time and full-time staff.

With support from SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection, the company is housed in office space at SFU Harbour Centre as well as on West Georgia Street.

Using a proprietary hockey event tracking system, created with support from the National Research Council’s (NRC) Industrial Research Assistance Program, the system tracks every event that occurs on the ice, while increasing automation capabilities by using machine learning and big data processes.  

Gawenda says the data is valuable as there are more than 1,000 players in the AHL. “It's costly for teams to hire scouts to evaluate each individual player,” he notes. “Our data allows the teams to envision trends, focus their scouting evaluations on specific players, and adjust their opinions based on the additional information we can provide.

"Our mission is to supplement the team's existing evaluation tools with our tracked data.”

The company has grown its marketing efforts over the past year. “We have a great sales team, who worked hard throughout the season to show the value that our data offers to representatives from teams, like the Capitals,” says Gawenda.

Some company highlights:

• HockeyData was recently named ‘Best Presenting Company’ in the start-up spotlight category of the Canadian Financing Forum, which features presentations from Canada’s most promising technology companies. With attention to both information and sustainable technology companies, the forum matches North American corporate and venture capital investors with entrepreneurs on their way to building world-class tech companies;

• The company was also named one of 2017’s Top Emerging Tech Companies by the Ready to Rocket program, which recognizes B.C. technology companies with the greatest potential for revenue growth. It also took the Most Scalable Start-Up prize in SFU’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize Competition in February.