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Report: Islanders partner with Russian hockey analytics firm Iceberg

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From Russia with Numbers

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Islanders
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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s late on Thanksgiving, I’m dead tired and very much in a food coma so if this post ends up getting weird, please bear with me.

This morning, Bloomberg Technology reported that the Islanders have signed up with a Russian hockey analytics company named Iceberg that uses a proprietary platform to collect and analyze hundreds of data points during games using in-house cameras. Iceberg is also being used by Sochi of the KHL, Vaxjo in the Swedish Elite League and Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian Hockey League.

The startup is bankrolled by Vlad Martynov, former CEO of Russian mobile phone company Yota Devices and managing director of SAP in that country. In another report on the partnership from Russian tech news site CNews.ru, Martynov sounded pretty confident in his product, even through the haze of Google translate.

“We use proprietary algorithms created specifically for hockey, and began to use Microsoft Azure analytical services to provide analytics in real time, so sure of our solutions and the benefits are going to win a significant share of the emerging global market of sports analysts.”

At their site - iceberg.hockey - the company illustrates the depth of their data using various graphics and taglines (“Hockey has limited data right now. We offer to use the remaining 90%.”), but the focal point of the service is in the use of mobile in-arena cameras to capture player movement and game events every tenth of a second. They use the footage to collect over 500 data points per player that can be compiled and viewed on the go by everybody from the GM and coach to the strength and conditioning staff and scouts.

Sounds cool, right? Like Skynet setting up shop right inside Barclays Center (...just make sure they can see the game).

So, uh, what does this mean for the Islanders?

I have no idea. And with six wins twenty games into the season and their playoff hopes basically nil, I’m kinda grasping at straws for the future.

Whether Iceberg ends up helping the team make the right decisions going forward obviously won’t be known until years from now (perhaps even 2029, during the war between the human resistance and the Terminators). We also won’t know exactly what Iceberg will be telling the Islanders with all of those 500-plus stats or whether or not the team will even listen, despite whatever they’re paying for their services. The Islanders are already very cagey and quiet about whatever in-house stats they’re using.

There’s also a matter of who’s even going to be around to see Iceberg in action.

Hey, who knows? Maybe Iceberg will make the Islanders the NHL’s next analytics darling. That will make Twitter safe again at least.

Throwing the words “stats” and “hockey” together in a story makes it a thing, so we should monitor how it goes. Although you can ignore the Moneyball comparisons in the Bloomberg article because that cliche has come and gone for everyone but the most casual of casual observers. Also, it’ll be tough to find a Russian Brad Pitt for the movie version. Jack Black and James Franco are half Russian. They might work. What’s Mikhail Baryshnikov doing these days?