Monday, January 17, 2011

1-17-11: Professional Roller Hockey

On Saturday evening I attended a night of live American Inline Hockey League action at the Z-Rink in Glastonbury, CT. Myself and the lady went with two friends, who knew the owner of the Hartford Fire Ants, who were hosting the Beantown Athletics. I had never seen a professional roller hockey game before.

The game was certainly different than what I’m used to from ice hockey. Besides being played using roller blades (and no ice), roller hockey is 4 on 4, with no off-sides or icing, and no hitting. I could see why: the limited ability for players to stop and turn suddenly would make playing on-side hockey quite dangerous (players would either constantly run into each other or would destroy their knees trying to stop suddenly to stay on-sides). Without those rules in place, the flow felt a bit more like basketball than ice hockey. The other major difference was that, instead of playing three periods, the teams played two 15 minute halves with a short intermission in between. The equipment was very similar.

Since the league is semi-professional and the games are rather short, teams primarily play double-headers or small tournaments. Games are always on weekends (since most guys work full time). The Fire Ants won the first game in a shoot-out, which was entertaining. Boston then came back from 3-1 down in the second game to win 4-3, scoring three quick goals in the second half. Hartford looked good overall, and was happy to get a win out of the night.

I was happy to see a familiar face on the Beantown Athletics in James Wood, with whom I played a couple spring hockey seasons in Milford several years ago (9 and 10 to be exact). We chatted a bit after the game. He was new to the sport, and was still getting used to the different rules and playing style, but seemed to be catching on quickly.

After the game, we ate dinner at the Diamond Pub in Glastonbury along with most of the players. The bar gave a 10% discount to patrons with Fire Ants tickets stubs. Fun time.

I was surprised to learn from Jimmy, the friend of a friend who owns part of the Fire Ants, that the AIHL is quite large. Based in Orlando, Florida, the league consists of 41 teams in eight divisions throughout the country, at the professional level. There was also a second “minor league” tier consisting of roughly the same number of teams. Each team plays the other teams within its division at least twice, and the winners of each division play in the league championship in Orlando in the late spring timeframe (all games played in one weekend). The current champions are the Huntington Beach Elite from the Pacific South division. Some AIHL games are broadcast on ESPN3, with live streaming of games (announced by a member of the minor league affiliate) is available on some team websites, including the Hartford Fire Ants.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

1-12-11: Snow Day

I knew I was going to take at least a half day today, but after waking up to find my driveway completely snowed in (plow guy has still yet to arrive), I decided to take a full vacation day. According to my buddy Scott, only a handful of people were in the office this morning. No surprise there.

New Haven got hit pretty hard. My driveway has about a foot of snow on it. Below is a picture of it taken a couple hours ago. I took a walk down the street to survey the damage. Pretty much a ghost town. One my neighbors had his snow blower out to clear his driveway. A few guys were shoveling the entrance to a convenience store down the street. The mailbox I hoped to use to mail back a movie to Netflix was nearly completely buried in a drift. So, I'm just hanging out watching last night's Bruins game (they beat Ottawa 6-0) and enjoying my day off. Hopefully the plow guy will be here this afternoon so I can get out tomorrow.

Stay safe.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

1-4-11: The New Year's Resolution Gym Crowd; SQL Project Example

Another new year, another New Year’s resolution crowd at the gym. This morning was not quite as bad as years past, but it was nonetheless more crowded than usual. The crowd usually begins to fade back to normal levels around March or so, so it’s just a matter of getting through the next 8-10 weeks. You can often tell the regulars from the “resolutioners.” Regulars tend to float between machines pretty smoothly and recognize what other people around them are doing so that it’s a smoother operation in general (a.k.a. proper gym etiquette). Resolutioners tend to have poorer etiquette simply because they’re dealing with a new personal routine. They also tend to exert more effort and fade more quickly. I am by no means a power user (I go three times a week), but I stick to my routine year-round. I also don’t mind seeing new people at the gym; I don’t say anything or give them a hard time. I just stay out of their way.

The annual influx of this resolution crowd of gym members made me think: what percentage of the resolution crowd had active memberships before the new year? I’d be surprised if it were under 70%. I don’t know many people who get gym memberships for Christmas (though that’s not saying a lot of people do), and I also don’t know how many people make it their resolution to get in shape for [insert reason here]. I think it’s great that people make the effort. I just wish they stuck with it more to make it easier for the regulars. The more you use the gym, the better your etiquette becomes (general rule which does not apply to all regular members), and the more likely it is you’ll develop a healthy routine.

While asking myself the above question, I began to think how one would determine what percentage of the resolution crowd had active memberships before the new year. I switched into SQL mode. Now, I haven’t used SQL since I took a course in Database Concepts for my Master’s degree two years ago, but I came up with the following general scheme that may be useful to a student in a database class:


- An active member is any dues paying member (under contract or month to month), regardless of attendance, for at least 3 months prior to the new year

- An active member is part of the resolution crowd if they increase their monthly attendance by at least 250% from the previous 6 months (second half of the previous calendar year)

o If they were not active members for the full six months prior to the new year, use the average monthly attendance for the time period during which they were active members


You will need two tables. One of them contains members (listed by unique ID) and their starting date of active membership. The other would be much larger and would contain members (listed by unique ID) and time stamps of their attendance. Many gyms have members “scan in” with their membership cards, so it’s safe to assume the data exists to populate the second table. Here are small examples of the two tables:

Table 1:















Table 2:






















The queries would be pretty straightforward (though I’ll need to refresh my memory on SQL queries for the exact syntax; may put the queries themselves in a future post). You’d need to select from Table 1 and Table 2 (probably use an inner join; ID would be the key) where the member is both an active member who is part of the resolution crowd (according to the assumptions above).

Nice little SQL project for any student looking for something to do. How might such a project be useful? Perhaps it would help the gym management determine how many members start attending more frequently once the new year rolls around so that they know to staff more personnel or make sure more machines are available (some may be broken; this morning four out of five stationary bikes were in disrepair) or just to be prepared for more volume in general. Maybe even use the information for marketing purposes. Maybe they like having a large resolution crowd. Who knows.