There’s a lot of bad hockey writing in the world, and we probably spend too much time and energy anguishing over it. Today we fix that. Pat Holden and I want to share with you some of our favorite hockey writers and why we love them. Accentuate the positive, ya know?
We heartily recommend that you follow these folks, and in general we promise to tout the good stuff more.
We’re gonna leave out the giants like Elliotte Friedman, Bob McKenzie, Greg Wyshynski, and Bruce Arthur because they’re automatic must-reads already. This list is for the less prominent names, and it is in no particular order.
The special thing about Rob, I think, is his accessibility. He’s the author of Hockey Abstract, he pioneered important metrics like Goalie Quality Starts, and he literally invented the player usage chart (which we here call the Vollman player usage chart), but Rob is great because of the effortless way he discusses all that stuff. He’s never argumentative and he’s always credible. He’s the best ambassador for smartening up hockey that I can think of: friendly, helpful, with knowledge both broad and deep. — Peter
Must read: Hockey Abstract
Muneeb is the secret weapon of Japers Rink. He’s like a respected fishmonger whom all the cooks go to when they want the really good fish, except Muneeb has data not fish. He has other stuff too.
One of my favorite things about Muneeb is how can approach a well-worn topic from new angles. He’s implemented fresh visualizations for game-by-game possession and for season-long line combos, he’s looked at penalties in new ways, and he’s gone deeper and further on Brooks Orpik than anyone else ever, period. One day soon an NHL team will buy Muneeb’s exclusive services and on that day they’ll become a better team. — Peter
Must read: Brooks Orpik’s Contract, Corsi and Context
Maybe I’m biased, but I think the Caps have a strong community of writers, as evidenced by there being multiple Caps people listed in this article. Given that he writes for the Capitals themselves, Vogel has a huge platform and unrivaled access, but we shouldn’t take for granted how delicately and responsibly he handles them. Vogel is reasonable (especially when everyone else isn’t) and impressively thorough. After so long in the business, he’s insightful as a matter of routine. Writing for such a large audience comes with challenges, but Vogel navigates them gracefully. We are lucky to have him.
Also, he’s got killer taste in music if you follow him on Twitter. — Pat
Must read: Seventeen Years in the Rear View
The son of a Long Island legend and a player in his own right, Bourne could probably get by as a hockey writer purely on nepotism and experience, but that’s not the case. Bourne has ambition. His Systems Analyst series began as a cheekily-annotated goof on noteworthy plays throughout the league, but he added to it plainspoken insight about tactics that bridged the gap between gamer (him) and gawker (us, or at least, me, since Pat actually has got moves). Systems Analyst led to Unique Team Traits, which were the thirty smartest articles you read that preseason. Bourne writes about strategy and personality and culture, but he’s also a student of the game — adopting and reasoning with nascent analytics. He’s the protoype for new cross-curricular sportswriting. — Peter
George Plimpton always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, or, at least he was the right person to be in an interesting place at an interesting time. The same could be said for James Mirtle, who covered the Toronto Maple Leafs when they finally hit rock bottom. And when they hit the rocks below that.
Mirtle doesn’t write using the “voice from nowhere.” He probably knows that credulity wasn’t warranted by the old regime in Toronto. Mirtle is an opinion writer as much as a straight reporter, but his opinions are buttressed by objective evidence and delivered soberly. If you’ve been slogging through the equivocations of meeker sportswriters, Mirtle’s frankness will be refreshing. There’s no bluster and no vulgarity — just the thoughts of a sane man watching an insane team. Dude needs to write a book. — Peter
Must read: Randy Carlyle’s firing was long overdue
Jen used to be a lawyer, and you can tell by reading her work. It’s sharp and athletic, combining data and tactics to create arguments of overwhelming force. But her goal is rarely to change your mind; Jen seems more interested in expanding it. There’s a ferocious intellectual curiosity present in her writing that is bracing to read. It’s like, instead of being dictated to, you’re learning next to Jen as she explores the mysteries of shot suppression and zone exits.
Lots of sportswriters write to convince their readers of something. Jen just wants to share neat ideas. It wouldn’t work if she weren’t whip-smart, so it’s a good thing she is. — Peter
p.s. Jen has started her own analytic firm, LCG.
Must read: Shot Suppression Is The Name Of The Game
There is a small list of writers who I’ll read everything they put out, and Travis Yost is at the top of that list. Yes, I think I just called him my favorite hockey writer. He’s got a combination of wisdom and concision, getting right to the point without sacrificing meaning and without meandering.
He’s also an entertaining follow on Twitter, if you can look beyond his horrendous food takes. His new podcast, the Hockey PDOcast, is the only podcast I’ve ever subscribed to on iTunes. It’s informative and entertaining — so, basically his Twitter without the food takes. If you want to become a smarter hockey fan, Yost must be on your radar. — Pat
That’s all we’ve got space for, but there are so many more great writers out there. Lightning round.
And we must not forget the departed writers who have been silenced by the icy grip of league employment: Tyler Dellow, Tim Barnes, Cam Charron, Corey Sznajder, and more.
Hey, did we miss anyone who you think is great? Tell us about him or her.
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