Monday, October 15, 2012

Where are they now? NHL players abroad during the 2012-2013 lockout.

This is not a good time for hockey fans.  When the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL owners the the NHL Players' Association expired and no new agreement had been reached, the owners decided to lockout the NHLPA.  This has resulted in a delayed start to the season and a possible repeat of the 2004-2005 season when the entire season was scrapped.

As the lockout became more and more certain, NHL players who were originally from Europe started to head back home and sign contracts to play with teams back in their home countries.  As the exodus of players continued, lists started to be compiled to allow fans to keep track of which players were playing for which teams.  However, most of these lists have been unable to tell the complete story of how many players are playing for which leagues and teams and in which cities and countries.

Travis Hughes over at SBNation and the hockey lifestyle magazine The Fourth Period have both put together comprehensive lists of players abroad that appear to be updated on a regular basis.  

I had big plans for diving into hockey data for the 2012-2013 season, but with no hockey being played, I did the next best thing.  I tried to tackle the lists of players who are playing abroad during the lockout.  I came up with an interactive dataviz that allows you to see not only the countries where NHL players are playing, but also the cities where they are playing, the leagues they are playing for, and how many players from NHL teams are playing abroad.  The viz allows you to filter by country or city, or European league or team, or by NHL team.  You can hover over the labels along the axis of the charts in order to highlight relevant corresponding data points elsewhere on the viz.

The Data
The data for this viz came from both The Fourth Period Lockout Tracker and the list put together by Travis Hughes. for SBNation.  Unfortunately, their lists did not sync up.  So I combined the two and used wikipedia to help verify the location of the teams and leagues and to standardized league and team names between the two combined lists.  It appears that these lists are updated on a regular basis, so I plan to update my data weekly.  I use the location of the actual team that a player is playing for regardless of the league that the team is a part of.  For instance, the KHL is known as a Russian hockey league.  However, there are a handful of teams in the KHL that are outside of Russia.  So instead of counting NHL players who are playing in the KHL as playing in Russia, I count them as playing in the country where their KHL team is located.  That is why even though KHL has the most NHL players, the Czech Republic is the country with the most NHL players. 

Please leave me comments to let me know what you think of the viz and any suggestions on other hockey related visualizations you might want to see during the lockout.

As always, thank you for taking the time to check out my blog and my work.


  1. Think this is a great viz! I see your original post is from October. Is this auto-updating as players continue to move? Also, is there a way to add a positional filter on the viz tab? I think it would be interesting to see behaviors of specific positions as it pertains to where they go. Do scoring forwards prefer a particular league/contry and that sort of thing.

    1. Brian,

      Sorry it has taken me a while to reply. The data underlying this viz does not auto-update. After I posted it I had every intention on trying to update the data weekly. But then life got in the way and the last time I updated it was 11/29. I will update it again sometime this week. I wanted to add more to the front page regarding individual players or positions. I will add a position filter to the second tab when I do the data update this week.

      Thank you for your comment!