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No league's too small for Pointstreak's real-time stats

BRIAN MILNER

Globe and Mail, November 8, 2007

Picture a dedicated hockey parent who for one reason or another can't get to the rink to watch his or her kid play. When that happens, the frustrated parent typically has to rely on telephone calls or text messages from someone at the game to keep abreast of developments.

It's a picture that a small Canadian company with global ambitions,
Pointstreak.com, is determined to change.

The seven-year-old company provides real-time game scores, penalties, standings and a host of other statistical information for more than 2,000 leagues in North America and Europe, ranging from the minor professional, senior and junior ranks to community recreational leagues.

"It's something that's inevitable across the board, not only at a professional or junior level," Pointstreak president Scott Secord said. "It's not seen in the marketplace as just an elite service for the major professional leagues."

The content is gathered rinkside by scorekeepers, much as it has always been. Except in this case, the information is entered on an electronic game sheet using touch-screen terminals provided by the company or on the scorekeepers' laptops.

Officials, players, relatives, friends, reporters and anyone else armed with a computer or BlackBerry can then peruse the information at no charge.

Pointstreak makes most of its money from fees paid by leagues for the use of its statistical and administrative services.

Costs range from a flat fee of $1,000 to $2,000 a team for professional and junior leagues down to per-game charges of as little as $4 for a recreational league. If the amateurs want all the bells and whistles, it might cost them $6 a game.

"In the grand scheme of things, when you compare ice-time rental costs and all the other things that go with it, our system is very affordable for amateur leagues," Secord said.

The company offers price breaks to large amateur leagues and is also willing to share income from Web-based advertising.

Nevertheless, a system as large as the Greater Toronto Hockey League, which Pointstreak is courting and which ices as many as 55,000 games a season, can add up to a lucrative contract.

The company has made inroads in lacrosse and soccer and hopes to target two or three other major sports as part of its growth strategy. But a visit to the company's headquarters on the sixth floor of a modern glass building north of Toronto shows where its heart lies.

One wall of the small conference room is adorned with the framed hockey sweaters of people associated with Pointstreak or Cardinal Sports Management, the company's former sales agent and a minority shareholder, which shares executive talent and office space.

They include the Buffalo Sabres' No. 15, worn by chairman Gerry Meehan in his playing days, the New York Islanders' jersey once sported by Brent Grieve, now a Cardinal vice-president, and even a Dartmouth College jersey belonging to Leslie Reiart, a Pointstreak sales representative who played for the school's high-ranked women's team.

Secord, a former general manager of the OHL's St. Michael's Majors, acknowledges that hockey is the company's bread and butter, accounting for the lion's share of revenue, which this year is expected to be between $2.5-million and $3-million. That's up from $1.3-million in 2006.

Pointstreak essentially broke even in 2006 and expects to do so again this year, Secord said. Any cash left over after operating expenses is being plowed back into the business to develop new technologies and expand the client base.

This includes a push into Europe launched this year with the addition ofmultiple language capabilities. The company's foreign client list now includes Germany's two major professional hockey leagues, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga and the 2nd Bundesliga, as well as the Russian Ice Hockey Federation. During the summer junior series between Russia and Canada, Pointstreak provided game statistics in Russian.

The NHL isn't in the market because it developed its own system. But European organizations lack the necessary resources.

The good news for puck-loving Canadians, though, is Pointstreak's focus on grassroots hockey. That makes sense, considering that it was founded by a couple of recreational league players in Vancouver who were frustrated with their inability to get up-to-date stats from their league.

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