Does Doing Good Make You Play Better?
According to NHL.com, the NHL Foundation Player Award is “awarded annually to the NHL player ‘who applies the core values of hockey – commitment, perseverance, and teamwork – to enrich the lives of people in his community.’” Similarly, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy is annually “given to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy contribution to his community.” Oftentimes, it is easy to forget that hockey is, at the end of the day, merely a game, and these two awards serve to recognize players who have used their status as professional athletes to improve their communities. What struck me most about these two awards is that they are awarded entirely independently of in-game statistics. Instead, they are solely judgments of an athlete’s contributions to his community. Despite this fact, I was curious to see whether or not a player’s contribution to his community was at all linked with his professional performance.
The purpose of this article was to investigate whether a player’s in-game performance improved during the season in which he won either the NHLFPA or the Clancy Trophy. In order to do this, I looked at three rudimentary statistics, points per game (PPG), save percentage (SV%), and point shares (PS) (defined in the “Methods” section), across three seasons: the season before he won (a.k.a “Pre”), the season in which he won (a.k.a “During”), and the season after he won (a.k.a “Post”). In other words, if a player won one of these awards in 2014, I compiled his points per game, save percentage, and point shares from 2013 (Pre), 2014 (During), and 2015 (Post). Since points per game is a statistic exclusively for forwards and defensemen and save percentage is a statistic exclusively for goaltenders, each player was evaluated by examining two statistics.
From this, I decided to create two sets of comparisons. The first compared the “During” and “Pre” seasons in order to determine whether a player’s performance improved during a year in which he was contributing significantly to his community. Then, if improvement was seen, I compared the “Post” and “During” seasons to determine if this improvement was long-term or if it diminished over time.
All of the data for this project came from www.hockey-reference.com, unless otherwise cited. I ultimately decided to use the aforementioned statistics as measures for player performance as they best represent a player’s individual contributions to a game given the limitations of the website’s available data. Currently, more advanced analytical statistics exist like “Corsi For%” and “Fenwick For%” that provide a more accurate look at a player’s on-ice contribution. However, the NHLFPA and Clancy awards precede the introduction of these statistics, and as a result it would not be possible to compare all recipients.