Curling's stats pioneer headed to Hall of Fame

Brian Cassidy faced skepticism when he started documenting curling shots 30 years ago, but is now being honoured for his efforts.

Brian Cassidy has spent 30 years analyzing and documenting curling shots

Brian Cassidy has been tracking curlers' shots for 30 years and is being inducted into the Hall of Fame for his efforts. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

ST JOHN'S — When Brian Cassidy first started analyzing and documenting how curlers were executing on the ice, there was a high level of skepticism.

"Typically you'd hear the players say the only numbers they cared about was the final score," Cassidy said. "And they didn't think there was useful information we were collecting."

It wasn't until media started catching onto the numbers Cassidy was compiling that players started to pay more attention. But he admits it wasn't an easy sell. Cassidy said when he started tracking shots about 30 years ago it was a "mish-mash" of information and not very organized at all.

"It wasn't an advanced science at that time," he said. "One of my tasks was trying to organize the material and present it in an orderly manner so the media and the teams could understand it."

Everything changed in a hurry about ten years ago, when Cassidy said players and teams became fixated on the statistics and started using it to their advantage and to improve their curling game.

"As we raise the bar and organize the information better, the media gets the information out there and the players pay attention," he said.

For his tireless stat-tracking, Cassidy will be inducted this week into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame for developing the game's first statistical scoring program.

"It means the ultimate acceptance of a job well done," Cassidy said at this year's Brier. "I've doing this for about 30 years and I now understand the work I've done is very appreciated."

Cassidy also won the Curling Canada Award of Achievement in 1992, and was appointed to the Governor General's Curling Club in 1996.

The proof is in the numbers

If there's one man who knows the statistical formula for winning a curling game, it's Cassidy. He's the results manager at the 2017 Brier in St. John's, making it his 81st curling event he has tracked the numbers for.

That number includes 21 Briers, 19 Scotties, 20 juniors, world and mixed events, as well as being the results curling manager at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"I think it helps to tell the world statistics are important and it is useful and if you do the job well you will be rewarded," he said.

And Cassidy said about 90 per cent of the time the teams who are rewarded in a curling game are the teams that have a combined better percentage over their opponent.

"Equally or more important is the percentage of the team. If I can outshoot my opponent at each position I'm probably going to win the game."

That's probably not overly surprising, Cassidy said. But he follows that up by saying there's an odd miracle shot in a curling game here and there and can skew the stats.

"Sometimes a Hail Mary shot will pull the game out from a lower percentage."

The biggest change for Cassidy over all these years for is the technology in tracking all the numbers. He said the early days were a paper-shuffling nightmare.

"We repaired a lot of photocopiers," he said. "I'm delighted that we are now past that and we can email our results."

 But for all the technological advancements, Cassidy and the scoring team still write down all the numbers, pen on paper, should the computer ever let them down.


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