Monday, 25 December 2017

Merry Christmas, CWHL!

It always makes me laugh when leagues that are struggling to make a footprint outside of their immediate markets decide it's a good idea to block those on social media who promote them in non-immediate markets. The CWHL apparently took some sort of offence to me asking them legitimate questions about the Vanke Rays' problematic statistics when it comes to Chinese-born players. The end result? They'll no longer talk to me.

It all started after Vanke's 12th game of the season where Vanke defeated Boston 5-1. Vanke finally got a goal from a Chinese-born player as Xin Fang scored at 9:46 of the second period on power-play to make it 4-1. She would also add the fifth goal - her second of the night and on the season - at 10:15 of the third period.

Many went on social media and gushed about how great it was to see Fang become the first Chinese-born Vanke Ray score a goal. It is a huge accomplishment, and one of which Fang should be proud. It's something that will be written into the CWHL record books that no one can erase.

However, let's take a quick flashback to June 6, shall we?

"It is a very historic moment for Canadian women's hockey and for women's hockey across the world. The CWHL is extremely happy that we will be expanding to six teams and that sixth team will be in China. It's an opportunity to grow the game for women, which is important for all of us," Canadian Women's Hockey League Commissioner Brenda Andress told the IIHF's Martin Merk.

It took the collective twelve Chinese-born players on the Vanke roster twelve games to dent the twine. Only one of those twelve players has a goal to speak of, and only three Chinese-born players have points. In contrast, the top six scorers on Vanke - Cayley Mercer, Ashley Brykaliuk, Hanna Bunton, Brooke Webster, Emma Woods, and Emily Janiga - have scored a collective 45 goals through 13 games while the Chinese-born players have scored just two. Or, to put that in percentages, the six North American-born players have scored 95.7% of all of Vanke's goals. To make matters worse, the North Americans have amassed 96.1% of all the points - goals plus assists - scored by Vanke players to date.

Grow the game?

Explain to me how having six North Americans score 45 of 47 total goals and 100 of 104 total points on a roster that features twelve Chinese-born players is "growing the game" because I'm not seeing it with the Vanke Rays. And because no one can explain that, I did what any self-respecting inquiring mind would do: I went to the source for answers.

Of course, I received no answers. I honestly didn't expect an answer because that would be an admission from the league that these numbers were a little out of whack, but I was hopeful someone would at least drop a prepared statement about working with the Chinese Hockey Federation to improve the abilities of the Chinese-born players, leading to better results in the future... or something like that. But the radio silence from the league was damning if nothing else.

The Rays are now thirteen games into the league, and Elaine Chuli has played every second of every game this season for the Vanke Rays. Even against the lowly Boston Blades - who are 0-13-0-2! - Chuli has gotten the call in all four games. There is absolutely no reason why Tianyi Zhang should be forced to sit for all thirteen games if the league is truly trying to grow the game.
Look, I get that these tweets have an accusatory tone to them. They're supposed to be accusatory since one of the league's reasons about going into China was to help the Chinese Hockey Federation improve their players and to "grow the game". As I tweeted above, the optics are ridiculous when one looks at the Vanke Rays' stats sheet, and I'm starting to believe that while the league may have had good intentions to grow the game, the results are entirely different.

So what does the league do in response to my critical tweets? They block me on Twitter. And while I get that it's within their right to do so, I question this line of thought considering the promotion I do for the league in my non-traditional market. I talk about and promote the league via my radio show, this blog, and over social media, but to start blocking me over a couple of critical tweets is extremely thin-skinned. Yes, I said it. No, I'm not sorry.

It's not like I pointed something out that was confidential or took place behind-the-scenes. I watched a few games. I literally went to the stats page and did a couple of quick calculations. I paid attention to what was said in June and what's happening on the ice in December. In the end, I concluded that things simply don't add up.

Maybe I'm way off here. Maybe my conclusions are entirely wrong based on the statistical and visual evidence I collected. Maybe there's more going on that I'm not aware of when it comes to teaching the Chinese players how to play hockey at a high level. I'd like to believe that, but I don't see it based on the evidence I have. If you know differently than what I've seen and calculated, please point out my mistakes. I'd love to be smarter about what's happening in China.

You know what could have alleviated those concerns fairly quickly? A response to my tweets.

As a result of the CWHL's actions over this last week, I am making this pledge here and now for all my readers. I will never again write about the league on this blog. I will never again speak of the league on my radio show. I will never again make any mention of the league on social media. The CWHL, for all intents and purposes, no longer exists.

I will still support the players who play in the league, but there will be no mention of the league's name nor it's abbreviation when speaking or writing about the players. For all the promotion I gave this league without ever asking for anything in return, that ship has now sailed because the CWHL doesn't have the common decency to reply to a tweet.

The worst thing about being talked about? Not being talked about. Merry Christmas, CWHL. You earned a pile of silent nights from me.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: