mercredi 6 novembre 2013

Gloucester Rangers' Top Junior-Eligible Players - If Only

In building his teams, former Pembroke Lumber Kings Head Coach Sheldon Keefe was known to convince players to stay an extra year to make a run, especially in the 2011-2012 season when they pushed and won the RBC Cup Junior A national championship.  The Gloucester Rangers, now in year three of their rebuild, haven’t been able to convince players to stay behind as many have bolted for the ‘O’ or wanted out.  The team below is my compilation of the best junior-aged players that have donned the Rangers crest over the past few seasons.  Note how few of them are still with the club.

Remy Giftopolous (OHL)
Alexandre Boivin (QMJHL)
Nathan Pancel (OHL)
Patrick White (OHL)
Adam Lloyd (OHL/CCHL)
Jacob Jammes (OHL)
Matthew Foget
Eric Clitsome (CCHL)
Andrew Abou-Assali (OHL)
Matthew Rosebrook
Mason Nowak (OJHL)
Keegan Rowe

Scratches: Daniele Disipio (CCHL), Chad Millett (CCHL)
Zack Leslie (OHL)
Owen Stewart (OHL)
Andrew Rossy (CCHL)
Colton Keuhl
Liam Murray (OHL)
Riley Bruce (OHL)
Douglas Johnston
Gunner Rivers (CCHL)

While the players aren’t in their own particular positions (left wing or centre, for example), the team assembled above, from either Rangers picks or players who have played for them, would be a decent OHL team or an absolutely stellar CCHL team.  With a lineup like this, a serious run could be made for a national championship.

There are two points to this article, the first is that junior hockey is difficult because players personalities and pressure from parents and others (OHL teams, for example) make them want to press further and abandon the teams that put so much into them like Coach Favreau and his staff.  This isn’t helped when team management makes counterintuitive decisions and there has been a certain amount of that within the Rangers organization.

The other point, the main one, is that the organization is an excellent judge of talent.  Among their scouts is the unique Frank Barrette who found a lot of these players and pushed for their selection.  On top of that, he is greatly entertaining in the role of play-by-play man for the Rangers and someone I would consider a mentor in my learning about hockey.

Cheers to the team and players that gave me so much over the two years I was there!  Feel free to discuss my selections.

jeudi 31 octobre 2013

Canada's Big Sort

Though I haven’t delved too far into the Canadian literature on this topic, my recent read, ‘The Big Sort’ by Bill Bishop, leads me to think that there are some Canadian equivalencies to this American phenomenon.   He identified that ‘Americans could move to places that reinforced their identities, where they could find comfort among others like themselves.  These weren’t political choices, but had political consequences.’[1]  The question becomes: does this happen in Canada and if is so does it happen only within cities or across provincial lines?

Canada is like the United States in that both countries were formed by various waves of migration that settled further and further west.  An important difference finds itself in the fact that the Canadian migrations took place along a narrow band defined by two railroads with few people venturing into the fields between them.  The political identities of these places, I’ve seen argued by David Smith and others (though I wish I could find the ‘other’ articles), did not exist before the boundaries were created but came after; the only initial difference between Alberta and Saskatchewan was a line.  Since then, these places have differed considerably in economic, social and political aspects.

Now, as thousands move west, the question returns to the top: are Canadians moving to specific neighbourhoods or provinces for purely economic or also social reasons.  After all, Charles Tiebout’s seminal 1954 article ‘A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures’ argued that economic reasons would be the main reasons people would select one sub-federal jurisdiction over another.

These Canadian-movers, at least the ones I have met, have moved to new provinces for almost exclusively economic reasons: there are no jobs back home so they head West. Still, do their values influence their choice of location?  Or at the very least influence where they live in a city? “The Big Sort has been a national manifestation of the economist’s theory – a post-materialist Tiebout migration based on these non-economic goods, as people have sought out places that best fit their ways of life, their values, and their politics.’[2]

I would argue, with no data to back me up, that the Big Sort is happening to a smaller degree in Canada and it does not cross provincial lines.  People are just as likely to move into communities that are self-designated as a gathering place for their ethnocultural communities as they are to divide around values such as ‘safe streets and space’ or ‘vitality and culture’ which are my polished ways of saying the suburbs and downtowns respectively.

But people do not choose Saskatchewan over Alberta because they prefer Saskatchewan’s culture.  That day might come, but now they choose the economic opportunity that brings them there first.  At least, that is my initial thought.  People who move to Alberta for the ‘blue skies and free mountain air’ might truly be doing so because of the freedom it represents; naturally, socially and economically. And people might to B.C. for its attitude and take the cost of living as the price to pay.

The main argument emanating from Bishop’s understanding of the Big Sort is that it has had a perverse effect on democratic debate and therefore elections in the US. That is something we haven’t seen as much in Canada as there is still a high degree of volatility in the Canadian electorate, Canadians are truly less attached to their parties than they are in the US and a lot of the overwhelming majorities in certain ridings stem from such a long-time ago that they couldn’t be chalked up to these moves.  And 2011’s Liberal collapse shows that even the strongest local majorities are not set in stone.

[1] Bill Bishop, ‘The Big Sort’, Houghton Mifflin Company : Boston, 2008, p.42
[2] Bishop, p.199

lundi 16 septembre 2013

Let's Get High!

Yes, the typically weak balloon puns cannot be avoided especially as the Heritage Inn Hotel’s 2013 Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championships move to High River, AB next week.  It was a great relief to me and surely others closer to the event that it will go ahead after the terrible floods that have marked the summer of 2013 in Southern Alberta and in High River in particular.  But I’ll get back to that in a second.  First, let’s preview the contest!

Fifteen pilots have registered to compete in what is becoming a biannual event.  Aside from reigning champion Jason Adams, all others are from the West, meaning that the large balloon communities in Ontario and Quebec (even though they aren’t competitive) remain poorly represented.  Still, a good number of previous Canadian champions are in the field and the competition for Canada’s two spots at next year’s World Championships in Sao Carlo, Brazil will be intense.

I expect Adams to lead the pack as he did in Camrose in 2011.  Disappointed by his finish at last year’s Worlds in Michigan, he has worked tirelessly to sharpen his competition skills and has been throwing markers out across the Serengeti.   He won’t be alone at the top as I expect Dale Ritchie, David Gleed and Del Michaud will also have very competitive scores.  I’ve heard many people call Dale Ritchie Canada’s best ever flyer and his international experience somehow always have him hovering around the target.  Michaud and Gleed are also serious about competition and have honourably represented Canada on the international scene in the past.  Others, like Richard Clark, are just happy to see the target field. A new generation of pilots, featuring Cliff Skocdopole and Brant Leatherdale, means that the lessons Canada has been learning won’t be lost through time.

The event director is Gary Lockyer whose experience and preference for cutting-edge competition technology mean that competitors will be taking part in a truly world-class event.  Using SMS to transmit information to pilots should help lessen the learning curve for pilots who take part in international competitions.  This author will be reading the theodolite and is looking forward to the early wakeups.

An interesting part of Canada’s national championship – aside from the poor Eastern representation (it would be easier if it wasn’t so far!) – is that it is truly Canadian.  Whereas other national championships around the world occasionally feature pilots from other countries who want to practice, the Committee voted this year to only let Canadians in the competition department.  It appears as though a number of international pilots, from Europe in particular, would have been interested in participating.  Seeing as the timing of the event is favourable to pilots wanting to go to Albuquerque afterwards, letting them enter could be interesting in the future.
As mentioned, though, the real winners are the residents of High River.  Already, they should have their heads up high because of the courage and patience they have displayed since the floods.  For a few days in late September, they will be able to crane their necks even higher as they watch the colourful balloons above them and we get to admire the skill of many of Canada’s best pilots.  See you there!

dimanche 2 juin 2013

Big City Winners, Small Town Dreamers: City Size and Junior Hockey Success

Teams in big cities have had more success over the past 12 years than small town teams on the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Major Junior circuit.  More important, though, is that teams that draw bigger crowds have a better chance of winning, regardless of the size of the city.  The same thing can be said, to a lesser extent, about teams that are able to fill a larger percentage of their buildings.

An in-depth look at the past 12 seasons of Major Junior hockey in all three CHL member league (QMJHL, OHL and WHL) confirmed my hypothesis without making me ring all the alarm bells up to Commissioner David Branch’s door.  Selling tickets and being an important focal point in the community is more important than being in a big city, a finding which is both expected and comforting.  Still, year-over-year success is more likely in a big city than a small town.

The following graphs display both the number of times a team has made the playoffs and their success based on a formula that attributes five points for a Memorial Cup win, four for a league championship and one for each playoff round won and for each time the team made the playoffs.  The average over 12 years is 21.2 points in the CHL for teams having played all 12 years in the same city.

“Big” Winners: The Past 12 Years
Times in playoffs
Size of City
Small town (0 to 99,999)
Medium (100,000 to 399,999)
Big (above 400,000)
Over the past 12 years, big cities have fielded more successful major junior teams in the CHL than small towns as the above stats clearly indicate.  However, there is no clear advantage to being a big city in terms of making the playoffs.  In all three member leagues, most teams make the playoffs.  That means that the big city teams are more likely to go further in the playoffs, win a league championship and a Memorial Cup. 

The correlation of city size to success is not very high at 0.22 but it is quite simple to think of why it might be the case.  A team in a big city is likely to have a bigger rink, more fans and perhaps more revenue streams.  That likely means they can hire one extra scout, an additional trainer, keep a member of the coaching staff an extra year or two and perhaps most importantly, can offer a more substantial education package to one or two or three youngsters that might otherwise opt for the college route.

By no means does this data indicate that small town teams cannot have one or many championship runs and be successful year-over-year.  It simply illustrates that currently, they must really make a run if they are to reach the top echelons of junior hockey.  Bigger city teams have a greater capacity to be strong each year and make that extra push only when they feel all the pieces are there.  The lows are usually a little less low.

Same Story : 5 years
Times in playoffs
Size of city
Small town (0 to 99,999)
Medium (100,000 to 399,999)
Big (above 400,000)

The trend might actually be improving if only the past five years are to be taken into account.  While teams in big cities still have the advantage, it is not as important as it was over the long run and each time has made the playoffs an almost equal amount of times.

Bring People, Will Win
Times in playoffs
Attendance Average
Lots (Above 4007)
Many (2500-4006)
Few (below 2500)



The highest correlation between dependent and independent variable is between success and the number of fans attending games at 0.507.  If you bring in more fans, regardless of the size of your city, you are likely to have a more successful.  Others might see the relation as opposite: you are likely to bring in more fans if you have a more successful team, though this is not always true.  Playoff attendance is not taken into account so it is really based on regular season performance leading to playoff success on the ice and a virtuous circle.

Fill ‘Er Up to Get the Cup
Times in playoffs
High (Above 80)
Medium (70 to 80)
Low (up to 69,9)

Teams will smaller rinks might find some comfort in the fact that a full rink leads to a bit more playoff success than does an empty one though here the relation might actually be reversed.  In any case, the virtuous circle persists here.  Some teams clearly have rinks that are too small and others too large but those probably even out in the end.

A few more details on this study might be useful to include, such as the fact that I only found the Q’s attendance records for the past three years and that franchises that moved were not counted.  Still, I think it statistically confirms a lot of what observers of junior hockey already understand intuitively and might have noticed at this year’s Memorial Cup tournament where Saskatoon, Halifax, Portland and London participated.  They represent some of the bigger cities in junior hockey.

Naturally, this study brings up additional questions such as which of the three leagues is best and which is worse in this regard?  What can and/or should be done about this phenomenon?  What effect will the penalties on Portland and Windsor have on education packages and parity?  Finally, a more in-depth look into the causal links between attendance and success (which comes first) would answer some questions and might provide instruction for new team owners.

I would be happy to include more details on my methodology if there is an interest.  I can be reached at  Thank you to my dad Michel Perron for using his accounting skills and love of Excel spreadsheets in reviewing the data and suggesting fields of questioning.

vendredi 17 mai 2013

Junior Hockey – Do Small Market Teams have a Real Chance?

As the Memorial Cup opens once more, a quick look at the qualifying teams gives me some concern.  All three league champions, the ‘QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, Ontario’s London Knights and the Western League’s Portland Winterhawks, and numerous teams that were successful this year such as the Quebec Remparts, Edmonton Oil Kings and Calgary Hitmen represent big cities within junior hockey.  Should this be a concern and do small market teams even have a shot at junior success?  Over the next few weeks, I intend to find out.

This question has been bugging me for a while.  My hypothesis is that teams in bigger cities have more resources to devote to attracting players, offering better health and fitness services, ensuring easier travel and getting the best coaching staff.  Together, this makes it possible for them to reach the top of their leagues year after year creating a cycle that puts teams from smaller cities at a permanent disadvantage.  While it is not impossible for small market teams to have success and success is not guaranteed for big city teams, I think there is a relationship that goes beyond mere chance.  In order to test this hypothesis, I’ll have to dig deep and go back to my high school and university math to see if there is something to this.  As far as I know, teams don’t generally publish information like profit margins and revenues, so I’ll find to find information another way.

But how could that happen, that teams in smaller towns be at a disadvantage?  After all, they represent a majority of teams in the CHL.  It would be a concern to all three leagues if it is the case.  Each team, though, has access to the same players, the same drafts.  They play by the same rules in game and a lot has been done to punish teams like Portland and Windsor that have stepped outside the bounds to get players into their dressing rooms.  Yet, can more be done if there is indeed a problem?

To study this question, I will take a look at teams’ results over the past 10 years to look at trends and evaluate the correlation, if any, between city/region sizes, their support of junior hockey and results.  Success will be evaluated based on the number of Memorial Cups, league championships won and playoff rounds won as well as the number of times the team has made the playoffs.  To determine the size of regions and the support of teams, appropriate statistical information will be used when available.  It is unfair to assume that all teams in big cities have access to more resources because of a phenomenon common in junior hockey: when the team is not the highest level of hockey in town, it does not necessarily attract as much attention and support.  Junior hockey teams trying to establish themselves in the Toronto and Montreal regions have felt this consistently for many years and there was a time when Ottawa risked losing its junior team as well.

I hope to publish my research results and methodology near the end of this year’s Memorial Cup.  I’m not trying to shake up junior hockey but I would like to see a little bit more parity and some other teams get a real chance to go all the way.

jeudi 9 mai 2013

4 Year Anniversary of Leaving Iceland

I was a little busy to be writing about my April 29 anniversary of leaving Iceland this year on the day on which it should be remarked.  Catie and I were driving from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg on our way, eventually, to our new home in Calgary.  I would never have predicted or likely agreed to such a change a few years ago, but if this annual report as shown anything, it’s that my life has become unpredictable year over year though the end goal never changes.

After assuming the role of Interim Manager of Programs and Outreach at the Forum for Young Canadians and seeing the ‘interim’ tag get dropped, I got hard to work on what I saw was the biggest task there: increasing the participation in the program.  Together, volunteers and I drove over 20000 km and met and called thousands of people to increase the number of participants by 16%.  That means 16% more young people who got to live the experience that clearly impacted me high school and beyond.

When I wasn’t busy with that, I became even more ambitious with my journalism getting involved with television covering the Ottawa Fat Cats and lots of hockey from atom to university level.  In April, I even helped out with the web broadcast of the Women’s World Hockey Championships!  Perhaps the most exciting for me was getting into radio.  I was on a local sports talk show during the summer and around Christmas joined in the coverage of Ottawa 67’s games interviewing future NHL stars and the coaching staff.  
While their on-ice season wasn’t great, I learned a lot and was happy for the opportunity.

Another exciting activity during the year was when I invited myself onto Canada’s national hot air balloon team.  When you are willing to do what it takes to help people, they will offer you the opportunity.  I was offered the role of theodolite operator – measuring the winds on the ground – and I was amazed at the level of competition over in Battle Creek, MI.  Thanks so much!

As the year passed, it became evident that Catie would not find a librarian job in Ottawa.  With deep cuts to libraries, there were simply too many people with over 15 years experience floating around for a new grad to get a job, great as she is.  When a metadata librarian position opened in Calgary, Catie immediately knew it was for her and six months later, she has just started her dream job.  At the time, I hesitatingly agreed to move with her if she found work, knowing what a difficult situation it was and that she wasn’t going to let go of her dream.

I’m here now, despite my initial anxiety, and excited for my own Albertan activities starting with being a windreader at this weekend’s Rimbey Hot Air Affair two hours north of town. 

On our drive out west, we stopped in at Joel Fridfinsson’s new house for a great welcome.  It felt like coming full circle as we celebrated four years since that time across the hallway from one another by sharing stories of the past.  Yet, we also created new memories with a trip around New Iceland and recollections of our meetings since 2009.  We hadn’t missed a beat.  That type of friendship will be counted on from my rocky mountain home.