Carleen Markey broke new ground with her presentation on women’s hockey aging curves in the CWHL (Canadian Women’s Hockey League) at RITSAC 2019. Her work, which was built from the scaffolding of the Evolving Wild twins’ aging curves, established that offensive production among CWHL skaters peaked around age 22 to 23. That work by Markey got me thinking about how players developed just before going pro in North America and Europe, and/or becoming fixtures on national teams.
So, I set my eyes on NCAA DI (Division I) women’s hockey.
DI schools have served as the primary pipeline of talent for Team Canada and Team USA for decades. Furthermore, DI schools have served as a valuable proving ground for many of the most talented European players in the world. With Carleen’s work in mind, I set out to analyze how skaters developed in DI hockey before they reached their peak production years and their athletic prime.
The greatest obstacle to any statistical analysis of the women’s game is the scarcity of public data. Fortunately, NCAA DI is something of an exception because of sites like collegehockeystats.net, collegehockeynews.com, and the database on HockeyEastOnline.com.
I decided on developing a game score for DI hockey to serve as an all-in-one stat that could provide a rough measure of a player’s overall impact or value. Dom Luszczyszyn first applied game score to hockey, and his work provided a framework. Creating game score for DI hockey was also appealing because I was able to apply lessons learned from working with Shawn Ferris’ NWHL (National Women’s Hockey League) game score. At the time, this sounded like fewer headaches for me. I was wrong; I had forgotten how many headaches there were the first go around.