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Sport & Entertainment Analytics Conference honors Tampa Bay Lightning with Innovator Award

TAMPA – The Tampa Bay Lightning collects data on everything from player slumps to player contract projections, to NHL Draft modeling, and even to microchips being attached to jerseys and pucks. So, while the Lightning is a hockey team, data analytics is infused throughout the organization.

“We use it in almost every aspect of our hockey operations,” said Julien BriseBois, vice president and general manager of the Lightning, who was the featured speaker on Thursday at the 2023 USF Sport & Entertainment Analytics Conference.

But he offered a word of caution regarding the wearable chip technology.

“It’s going to unleash a wealth of data, but we’re still in the early stages of that. We’re not using the data to make decisions yet,” he said.

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BriseBois’ hour-long conversation, led by Associate Program Director Michael Mondello at the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management program at the USF Muma College of Business, touched on topics such as using data analytics to negotiate a trade, the team’s COVID pandemic response, and advice for students interested in a data analytics career in the sports industry.

BriseBois also accepted the Innovator in Analytics Award on behalf of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“No one inherited a better team than I did in 2018,” he said. “It was set up for me to be successful.”

“I think, at all times, you’re trying to build the best iteration of the Tampa Bay Lightning,” he added. “We’re trying to be a Stanley Cup contender year in and year out. That is the goal,” BriseBois said. “Having the best player isn’t enough. You must have the best 18 players.”

The award was presented during the second and final day of the conference. The conference, in its ninth year, was held at the USF Gibbons Alumni Center on the university’s Tampa campus. It drew about 75 participants, including students from USF and the University of Tampa.

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To those student attendees, he offered this advice on getting an entry-level job at the Lightning, or at any professional sports team:

  • Develop a certain expertise to help you stand out among the hundreds of applicants. BriseBois said he was an attorney with experience in salary negotiations and that’s what helped him get the job as general manager in 2018.
  • Network so that when a job opens, someone will be thinking of you. That’s how he found Lightning coach Jon Cooper. He said he happened to be talking about what kind of coach he was looking for and that person recommended Cooper.
  • Read a lot to gain experience. “It’s fastest way to accumulate knowledge. You don’t have a lot of experience, so read to learn from others’ experience,” he said. 
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Dejan Mitkovski, vice president of data analytics at FanDuel, speaks at the 2023 USF Sport & Entertainment Analytics Conference.

The two-day conference was hosted by the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management program. The event featured industry speakers who talked about how data is collected and used within college athletics and in numerous professional sports leagues, such as the United Soccer League, The Tampa Bay Rays, and the Orlando City Soccer Club.

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