For hockey teams looking to draft the next Connor McDavid, it can be a million-dollar decision. To quantify and decode the statistics, teams can now enlist the help of HockeyData Inc., an analytics company based out of SFU Harbour Centre.

HockeyData recently acquired its first National Hockey League (NHL) client. The company signed a contract with the Washington Capitals after reaching out to the team with their services.

SFU Beedie School of Business student Cole Gawenda launched the company only one year ago with business partner Garret Hohl as a passion project.

“We realized there was no one providing analytics for leagues and players and teams below the NHL. [We] saw the hole and knew we would be able to fill it,” Gawenda said.

Since securing the contract with the Washington Capitals, the company has been utilizing the data to find the best way possible to help the team reach their goals.

HockeyData records statistics on hockey teams and players that can be used to better gauge a player’s impact on the game. The services provided by the company also give real-time stats to accurately measure players’ expected outcome in goals for and against, relative to ice time.

“With teams, the data provides them with an opportunity to improve players [and] to target players out of their organization,” explained Gawenda. “[We help players] develop themselves and their skills and how they play the game, and what opportunities and routes will work best for them and their career.”

The idea to open a hockey analytics company came after Gawenda started looking for ways to combine career opportunities and personal interests.

“I was always more interested in the stuff off the ice than [the stuff] on the ice, who was on the team, how the [general managers] went about their business, and I always looked at the stats,” he noted.

He and his business partner enlisted the help of one of their investors from CKM Sports Management Ltd. to provide business know-how, locate contacts, and acquire start-up funds. They also worked with venture connections at SFU to help get their idea off the ground and steer the start-up in the right direction.

HockeyData technology has the ability to track any game from any league, which is key for teams trying to figure out which player to draft into the NHL. “[We help] agents try and find the true worth of their client to comparable players to maximize their potential,” Gawenda said.

However, the founder said that the advantages of the tool don’t stop there. You can even use HockeyData to one-up your friends in your fantasy hockey league.

As Gawenda enters the fourth year of his degree, he said that the things he is learning in the Beedie program continue to apply to real world situations with his company. HockeyData was named at this year’s SFU Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize Forum and was also recently recognized by the Canadian Financing Forum.

Gawenda hopes that HockeyData will be able to create a better sport and game experience.

When asked for his advice to other student entrepreneurs, Gawenda said: “Find something you enjoy doing, so it doesn’t feel like work. Find something you love and be prepared to put in a lot of effort, because it’s not easy going from nothing.”