When we posted our article about the documents we received from our public records request relating to Hockey East’s use of the Hockey East Power Index, we had a whole lot of people reach out with a litany of responses.
Some people gave us well wishes. Others pontificated on whether our story was worth reporting on.
Still others raised some interesting questions about what went down. Those questions deserve answers, and we’re going to do our best to answer them here.
Why did you do it?
We, like a lot of Hockey East fans, have been trying all season to get definitive answers about the Hockey East Power Index once it came into existence. We obviously knew that Hockey East was going to use a magic formula to determine seeding—and standings—for the league, and we knew bits and pieces about what the formula factored, but we didn’t know the whole picture or the equation, and that was important.
We made an effort to get the formula through other channels—we reached out to Hockey East for the formula in a number of ways, and it was made very clear to us that and many people across the league that the league had no intention of revealing the sourcing. This led to a lot of confusion and uncertainty, and thus some questions of legitimacy of the season. We want to shed some light, so we tried this angle.
Why was knowing the particulars of the formula important?
A lot of reasons. First of all, coaches and players have the right to know how they’re being evaluated. This season, after all, was run just for them and their experience, so having some clarity on that was important.
More-so than that, this has an effect on the game itself. If coaches don't know how an overtime win versus a regulation win will be weighted, how can they intelligently game plan? We also saw that in this, a year without Pairwise, the Women’s National Tournament Committee factored in standings in creating its tournament field.
In other words, those calculations have real consequences, and keeping the formula in the dark has drawbacks.
Is what we did legal?
Yes. Public records laws exist for this very reason. We requested the records from public universities in accordance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ laws, and any information we gleaned was from those documents we obtained through the request and from any publicly available information.
Are you surprised with what turned up?
A little. We were really just hoping to gain access to information on the HEPI formula, which is why we only placed requests for UMass Amherst and UMass Lowell. Obviously we got that, but we also got the other information, and that wasn’t what we were expecting. It certainly shined some light on some dissent within the Hockey East ranks. We were surprised in particular that we were clued into the issues that Nate Leaman and Greg Carvel were having with the formula, since we aren't sure if that was directly responsive to our request.
Was this preventable?
Yeah. I think at the end of the day people just wanted some answers that Hockey East just wasn’t willing to give, both outside and inside member institutions. We had someone refer to our article as “much ado about nothing.” The thing is, they are right, and that’s kind of the point. The formula is highly reasonable, bordering on good. There was no reason other than choices that were made to keep it secret. The issue is that when they kept the formula close to their chest, the story shifts from the formula to the process, and that’s where things get dicey.
At the end of the day, a league’s primary function is to facilitate a championship and declare a legitimate winner, and there isn’t much more to it. That means the method in which that is done is important for legitimacy, and Hockey East let it get to the point where legitimacy was compromised, which is how we ended up with the public records request.