Penguins hire War-On-Ice co-creator, want to build analytics team

The Pittsburgh Penguins have hired Sam Ventura, the co-creator of Penguins VP of hockey operations Jason Karmanos said Pittsburgh wants to build an analytics team and sees Ventura’s hiring as a big addition to the club.

One of the most prominent hockey analytics websites has had its co-creator snatched away by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jason Mackey, the Penguins have brought in War-On-Ice’s Sam Ventura, who created the analytics site alongside Andrew Thomas, as a consultant who will be responsible for looking over analytics for Pittsburgh.

“Growing up in Pittsburgh and being a Penguins fan, I couldn’t be happier to help out in whatever ways I can help out now,” Ventura told Mackey.

For now, the job is a part-time position – Ventura, 27, who has his Ph.D. in statistics, will begin teaching at Carnegie Mellon this fall – but there’s the possibility this could become much more for the War-On-Ice co-founder.

“Obviously, someone with his background is in demand in today’s world. He can get a job in a lot of other industries, but he has a real passion for the game,” Penguins vice president of hockey operation Jason Karmanos told the Tribune. “Given his skill set and how he handles himself, I think there’s a very real possibility that he could be a full-time employee with the Penguins in the future.”

According to Mackey, the hiring of Ventura is the start for Karmanos, but the Penguins have already retained a firm to gather data for the club. Which firm that is, however, is unknown. Since arriving in Pittsburgh, Karmanos has reportedly been helping to lead the charge in getting the Penguins to use the available analytics.

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The Penguins join other organizations, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers, who have plucked some of the mainstream members from the hockey analytics community from their homes on the internet to work for NHL clubs. But simply hiring on Ventura doesn’t finish the job, Karmanos told Mackey. There’s still work to be done, and making progress with the statistics and doing groundbreaking work can be the difference between succeeding or simply staying afloat.

“It’s not just about having a department and checking that off the list,” Karmanos told Mackey. “It’s about finding the right people that can work with all the other aspects of hockey operations that need to take place.”

And for those who love the numbers War-On-Ice makes available, don’t fear: the site isn’t going anywhere – at least, not yet. In the past, sites like have gone down shortly after NHL clubs hired their creators. However, Ventura told the Tribune the site will remain operational, with Mackey reporting Ventura and Thomas have, “taken steps to ensure will live on after they take on other roles.”