NHL: Interviewing The Creator Of HockeyDB, Ralph Slate

NHL logo (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NHL logo (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

When fans want to know the stats of their favorite player in the NHL, or any other league, they will go to a site named HockeyDB.

I recently got into contact with the owner of HockeyDB and had some questions for him. Like many other hockey fans, I use HockeyDB quite often when looking for a player’s stats. The site lists stats for a variety of leagues across the world, not just the NHL.

With leagues ranging from the NHL to Junior A, he has information for thousands of current and past players. For over 20 years, the site has been bringing knowledge to hockey fans across the globe. Now it is time for the interview.

The Interview

Q: How many people work for HockeyDB?

A: Just me!

Q: How do you update player’s stats so quickly?

A: Almost all leagues publish their data electronically. I have developed applications over the years that do the updates.

Q: Do you ever have any players contacting you to edit their information?

A: Yes, all the time. It often centers on vital stats (height, weight), though parents are the ones who usually send those along. The stats I have are almost always spot-on since they are done electronically.

The historical stats have more room for interpretation, sometimes, especially for Junior A players, I have to merge two profiles because the Junior A team mangled a player’s name and I didn’t match it with that player’s other stats. And of course, there are always people who lie to try and get included on the site. I require impeccable documentation to add data that is submitted to me.

Q: How long is the process in order for a player to be added to the site?

A: I wouldn’t really call it a process. Keep in mind that since I track players down to Junior A levels, players show up a few years before anyone knows about them. They get added because they appear in a game with a minor team.

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Adding them to a minor team might take a while, it depends on the information that the team makes available. For example, right now I have a list of dozens of players, mostly Junior A leagues, that have appeared in a game, but the team is not reporting anything other than their names.

As an example, there is a player named Matthew Seed that the Central Canada Hockey League put on their roster a few days ago. He played 1 game, and they did not report his birthdate, height/weight, or hometown. I have not yet added him.

When the season ends, if they still haven’t supplied that information, I will finally add him, because once the season is finished, I don’t leave players out. Sometimes mid-season, those straggler players are typos, so I don’t add them prematurely.

By the time someone turns pro, I almost always already have them. An exception is the low pro leagues, particularly the Federal Hockey League. I have no idea where they get some of their players.

Q: Looking at how successful your site has been at tracking players and keeping up with all of their stats, have you ever received a job offer from the NHL?

A: No. But that wouldn’t interest me anyway. I enjoy doing the site, it’s really fun. And it’s really fun working for myself rather than for someone else. I’ve turned down people who have wanted to buy the site over the years. I actually have a day job, so the site is my escape from that.

Q: How long have you been working on the site for? Is there any changes or additions that fans should be looking forward to?

A: The site officially debuted on November 30, 1996, announced via a post on the old Usenet (the old-school version of Reddit). Lately, I have been improving the search functionality – not a very sexy change, but necessary since cell phones make spelling errors more common.

I continue to add new leagues and teams, going back to the early 1900s.  I expect to work to add more in-depth women’s hockey this summer. Also, I work constantly to find player press photos, especially of more obscure teams and players. I have always envisioned the site to be historical in nature, despite its real-time nature.

Q: Which current players do you think will become stars in the NHL?

A: I’ll go with Charlie McAvoy of the [Boston] Bruins. He’s a workhorse out there, and he’s only 20 years old. Defensemen usually get better with age.

Q: Is there any other information or fun facts that you would like to tell the readers?

A: I’m not sure how many people realize this, but if I have more than one photo of a player, clicking on the player’s photo will cycle through them all. Sort-of an easter egg.

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