If you’re like the vast majority of hockey fans, following the sport is easy when it comes to facepaint, screaming and telling the refs what to do. However, the technicalities of the game, terminology and general rules can slip through the crease of your understanding. Every Thursday, it is my goal (no pun intended) to introduce the basic concepts of the game and help you understand them. So the next time you’re sitting in the stands watching the ref waive around his arms in what seems to be a poor rendition of the Macarena, or trying to follow the commentators’ endless streams of stats, you’ll know exactly what’s going on.
Admittedly, I am that crazed fan that could tell you the birthdates of every player and where they went to highschool, but even I get a little mixed up when trying to understand player statistics. That being said, I’ve decided to start this fun little adventure off by discussing the plus-minus rating. This is one topic I haven’t spent much time looking into, but have long intended to, so I’m taking this hockey for dummies adventure with you!
The plus-minus scale is a quick way to determine, however obtusely, the affect a player’s presence on the ice affects the club in questions’ ability to score or be scored on. To understand this further, I headed to NHL.com. According to their handy “Go Figure” page, I learned that whenever a specific player is on the ice when his (or her) team scores, a plus is granted to that player. These plus ratings can be given for goals at even strength (5 on 5) or short-handed (ex. 5 on 4). Not too complicated, right? Now for the minus. Minus ratings are given when the player in question is on the ice when the opposing team scores a full strength or short-handed goal.
Now, to get your rating, find the difference! Its much like an elementary school problem. For example, if there are 26 goals in favor of the players team while he’s on the ice, and 10 opposing team goals while they are on the ice, then that player’s plus-minus rating would be 16.
Its a far cry from rocket science, but its a statistic that is continually talked about and brought up when talking about a player’s potential for goals during their shifts. Though just one facet of what coaches look at when creating lines, its a good place to start to evaluate a player’s effectiveness. The next time you hear a commentator or the friendly, beer-spilling fan next to you talking about a player’s plus-minus, feel free to comment and join in with your newly acquired knowledge!