Monday, 20 November 2017

How About A Little Respect?

The above screenshot is taken from this article linked from The Ice Garden, a blog that stated in its very first post that "[o]ur mission, plain and simple, is to tell the stories of all the women in hockey". While The Ice Garden has the occasional piece that stands out, I'm not really concerned with the majority of the coverage found on the blog. Hey, it's a blog, so there will be hits and misses when it comes to article quality. However, I do have a serious issue with the article linked above for one major reason.

As you may be aware, I am a staunch supporter and advocate of the Canadian university women's game. I think these student-athletes are some of the most dedicated players on the planet when it comes to upholding high GPAs to go along with being elite hockey players, so perhaps you can excuse me when I get excited about some of the news and highlights that come out of U SPORTS women's hockey. But what I will not stand for are writers who get a big stage like The Ice Garden and yet can't show these student-athletes something as basic as respect for the athlete.

Take a good, long look at the image to the left. The team in white is UBC, a team found in Canada West. They are a team that Lethbridge's Alicia Anderson would normally see four times over the course of a Canada West regular season. Again, take a good look at that image. Click on it to blow it up because I want you to really take a look at the team in the navy-and-yellow jerseys. Do you see the multiple instances of the letter "Q" on their jerseys and the goalie's mask? I'm not sure where one would find a "Q" in "Lethbridge" or "Pronghorns", but that isn't Lethbridge and that's not Alicia Anderson.

If you're clicking on the article, you will now see a picture of Alicia Anderson standing with her back towards you, but that's because the incorrect image of Stephanie Pascal was pointed out to the author of the article. Pascal and her Queen's Golden Gaels met up with UBC in the two teams' opening games of the U SPORTS National Women's Hockey Championship last season, a tournament in which Lethbridge didn't take part. So this leads me to one of three possible outcomes: the author has no clue who Alicia Anderson is, she has no clue what the Lethbridge Pronghorns look like when on the ice, or both. In all three cases, it should have been pretty obvious that the "Q" on the jerseys and Pascal's mask meant this wasn't Anderson or the Pronghorns.

Once you finally got past the fact that you weren't looking at Anderson and began reading about her, there were some striking trends that emerged that were similar to an article about the Regina Cougars that this person wrote a week ago. I called that article out in "The Final Word" of Week Six's edition of The Rundown, so let's review:
It's five paragraphs long, it mentions four players from the Cougars, it doesn't explain any reason why the Cougars are contenders aside from crediting their earning splits with Alberta, UBC, and Saskatchewan as a reason why, and the author thinks the fourth-place team only has weaker teams to play.
Oddly enough, the article posted on Saturday about Anderson has five paragraphs, doesn't explain any reason why Anderson is having the success she is, and somehow leads one to believe that Anderson is the best goaltender in Canada West despite her leading in just two categories, one of which is more reflective of the team than her. Similar to the article written about the Cougars, I have to ask at what point does the rest of the team factor into her success?

Line by line, I feel like this is the writer's first real writing gig. I have a deep appreciation for that, but the fact that she's missing major details or making serious errors in her writing should be caught by any editor with the ability to read. In any case, I was expecting some analysis in this article to explain and justify why "The University of Lethbridge Pronghorns are on pace to more than double their 2016-2017 wins and Anderson is a major part of that". According to the author, the reason for this is because Anderson stops pucks! Amazing, right? A goaltender who stops pucks - who would have thought that?
Anderson has been integral to the Pronghorns’ success this season. Relied upon to stop a large volume of shots, she always keeps her team in games. In the last series against the University of Alberta, Anderson stopped 90 of the 93 shots she saw. As a result the Pronghorns earned four of the six possible points in the series against the higher ranked Pandas. Winning games that they were expected to lose because of exceptional goaltending is the reason Lethbridge currently sits in a playoff position.
Yes, she's been integral. She's the starting netminder and the only goaltender to play for the Pronghorns this season. Thanks, Captain Obvious. And one can spew statistics about stopping 90 of 93 shots, but that didn't cause the Pronghorns to take four of six points off the Pandas.

I'm quite certain that there were some goals scored, some defence played, and, yes, Anderson made saves. Attributing the four-point weekend to one person is a little disrespectful to the other 19 women and the coaching staff of the Pronghorns who played a large part in game-planning for the Pandas. It's not like she stood back there alone and stared down the entire Pandas roster. I'm not sure who this author is speaking for when she wrote "[w]inning games that they were expected to lose", but if you had asked the Pronghorns, they didn't expect to lose. Yes, if there were odds on the game, they would have been in Alberta's favour, but that's why they play the games.
The only goaltender with 10 starts this year, Anderson is the bedrock of the Pronghorns’ team. She has started in every game and has played a Canada West leading 587 minutes of hockey. In that time Anderson has made 378 saves and allowed just 15 goals. She has almost 100 more saves than Calgary’s Kelsey Roberts and has surrendered seven fewer goals than Mount Royal’s Zoe DeBeauville has in her nine starts.
What does her starting every game mean? Do the Pronghorns not have confidence In Jessica Lohues? Is Anderson trying to set some new record? And the idea that she's started every game equates her to being "bedrock" for the team seems like a logical fallacy when you consider that the top-three scorers on the team - Tricia Van Vaerenbergh, Alli Borrow, and Katelyn Breitkreuz - have played every game as well. Do they not count for something?

The statistical comparisons that the author is making are rather nonsensical without context. Anderson has nearly one hundred more saves than Roberts, but Roberts has played two less games. Anderson averages 37.25 saves per game compared to Roberts' 35.20 saves per game. That doesn't seem so outrageous now, does it? And yes, she has surrendered less goals than the starting goalie for the last-place team in the conference, but so has everyone else. In fact, DeBeauville trails all qualified goalies by ten goals in terms of the number surrendered. Who has the next most? Manitoba's Rachel Dyck and Lethbridge's Alicia Anderson.

Perhaps the author meant to draw on the fact that Anderson sits with a goals-against average of 1.43 - good for fifth-best in the conference - while giving up just 17 goals on 447 shots in 12 games. Comparably, UBC's Tori Micklash has a 1.49 GAA, surrendering nine goals on 156 shots in her seven games of work. That comparison shows how good Anderson has been while shouldering her immense workload compared to players of the same ability. But just randomly throwing numbers out there for shock effect? It doesn't work when one can easily Google those numbers.
If that wasn’t impressive enough Anderson’s .960 save percentage leads Canada West and her 1.53 GAA is good for fourth among qualified goaltenders. Her 10 games give her the largest sample size, which suggests that this isn’t just her riding a hot streak. Anderson is simply this good in her second year of U Sports hockey.
Her save percentage is among the tops in the conference, and her goals-against average improved against Manitoba to 1.43, but fell to fifth-place. The author stated that Anderson was the best goalie, but then points out she is fifth in GAA. And her "largest sample size" comment seems to indicate that those numbers are good enough to warrant "the best goaltender" title. The only problem is that there's another goaltender who has better stats than Anderson's stats as of today.

Calgary's Kelsey Roberts recorded her third and fourth shutouts of the season over the weekend, leaving her with a 4-5-1 record in ten games, a 1.23 GAA, and a .966 save percentage. Because the sample size is so small, there are bound to be wild swings in statistics based on good weekends and bad weekends which is exactly the opposite of what the author was indicating. Roberts' two shutouts pushed her past the conference's best goaltenders in both GAA and save percentage - the two stats that determine best goalie normally - because the sample size is small. If this was later in the season, Roberts' two shutouts would still count, but they wouldn't have the same effect as they did early in this season. That's the effect on small sample size versus larger sample size.

Oh, and if you're going to use the internet to compile these articles, the least you could do is get eligibility correct.
Anderson stands out from her peers not only statistically, but also in the athleticism, intelligence, and determination she displays in net. No other goaltender in the Canada West Conference is asked to do as much for her team as Anderson is. Given her workload, her consistency this season has been nothing short of exceptional.
This should have been the statement with which the author started the article. It's factual in its approach even though every other goalie is asked to stop pucks as well. From here, the author could have used Anderson's athleticism, intelligence, and determination as factors for her incredible stats, and I'd agree that her season has been pretty exceptional. Instead, we got this at the end when most people probably had already closed the article because there was really nothing to keep you on the page other than a few numbers and sensationalistic phrases.

I appreciate people wanting to hone their craft, but the lack of respect in posting the wrong image that didn't feature the athlete in question, the lack of respect shown towards Anderson's teammates and coaches in helping her, the nonsensical statistics, and the overall poor quality of the article in general should be reviewed. These women deserve much, much better than what was shown on The Ice Garden, and I hope this examination is read by the editors and writers there because Alicia Anderson's story needs to be told better. After all, your "mission, plain and simple, is to tell the stories of all the women in hockey". You failed to do that here.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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