This week, Sean Tierney had the opportunity to exchange emails with Tom Poraszka, the creator and site manager of General Fanager. Poraszka answers questions on how the site operates, the importance of salary cap sites for fans, and future site features.
Sean Tierney: Beyond the sleek Twitter avatar, most people don’t know anything about the General Fanager team. Can you speak a little about yourself and your own background with hockey? Who works with you to keep the site running and up to date?
Tom Poraszka: I’m an avid hockey fan, and have followed the sport really closely all of my life. I started General Fanager as a hobby that I didn’t really expect to grow into much more than that. I chose the logo based on one of the fan traditions in sports that I have always found entertaining – when fans wear paper bags over their heads as a sign of embarrassment for the state of their franchise.
I feel that as fans this signifies that even at their worst, we support our teams and we can have a sense of humour about it. I wanted to bring an element of that to General Fanager, and thought it was a great iconic visual to use for the site. Fans that come to General Fanager have a great interest in the sport and in their teams, and we hope as fans of their teams they don’t have to relate to the paper bag for any extended period of time.
I work primarily on the site, I built it, collected the data, and am the primary source updating new contracts and adding new features. I have brought on a couple colleagues and friends to help support, and will have a team supporting through the peak periods over the next few weeks. As the site grows, we’ll continually evaluate and grow the team as needed to provide the best support we can to fans.
ST: General Fanager has burst onto the hockey scene as a leader is salary cap and draft information since the launch only weeks ago. The site already boasts 14,000 followers on Twitter and is frequently cited by hockey industry experts. Why do you think the General Fanager site has been so well received?
TP: I think the presence of a site like ours was important to the hockey community. I think it’s more a testament to how incredible CapGeek was more than anything we’ve done. It shows that even something that offers a fraction of what CapGeek did is extremely important to fans and the community. We are doing our best to continue to grow and build the site to hopefully fulfill the expectations and be worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as CapGeek.
We value the community’s input and will continue to try to cater the site to what people want the most. This for us is something we’re passionate about, we’re fans first and want to give other fans features and tools that will allow them to better participate with their teams, and analyze their team’s roster and transactions.
ST: General Fanager features player and team salaries, free agent information, an updated NHL draft page, CBA information, and a guide to offer sheets. What other features do you plan to add to the site? What is the next feature fans can expect to see?
TP: Our buyout calculator should be coming in the next few days and the tool similar to CapGeek’s Armchair GM is also in the works. We’re trying hard to get it launched in advance of July 1st. We also are working hard on some additional features that are new and unique. We’re hoping these will be engaging to fans. Those will probably be coming later in the summer, after free agency settles down a little bit, but we’re excited to see the reaction to them.
ST: You work tirelessly to interact with users online, especially on Twitter. In fact, your site recently added left- and right-handedness to your “free agents” section after an online request. Why is it so important for you to be responsive to these requests?
TP: First and foremost, I am a hockey fan and I know how essential a site like ours is to understanding the sport and your team’s transactions. We want to make the site as useful and helpful to fans as we can. Additionally, we see the site as a community effort. A lot of the data has been reviewed by fans from all over, suggestions for new features have come from fans. The site truly feels like something that has fingerprints on it from NHL fans worldwide. For these reasons, it is important for us to actively engage with our fans and respond to feature requests. People are taking their time to make the site better, and we truly appreciate it.
ST: Where does General Fanager go for its salary information? As new signings happen each day, which sources does your site rely upon for the latest free agency news?
TP: We sourced a great deal of our original seed data from CapGeek, as well as some of the other existing sources (War-on-Ice, NHLNumbers, Spotrac). Since launch, we collect salary information from numbers reported by NHL teams and media members, but we also have established some key relationships that help us obtain contract information that isn’t reported. These sources have asked to remain anonymous, but they have been able to help provide information that isn’t available publicly anywhere else. We reference many sources, and continue to use sources like War-on-Ice but confirm all of our contract information with our anonymous sources to ensure our data is accurate and reliable.
ST: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has spoken of the NHL’s lack of interest in providing salary information for fan access. In contrast, Boston Bruins President Cam Neely has spoken of the information void that was created when Matthew Wuest’s Capgeek went offline. Why do you feel a publicly-accessible salary cap site is important?
TP: An internal system works for the NHL and those that have access to it. But the salary cap is so essential to the sport and every roster move, that without information about each team’s situations, it is difficult to understand the position teams are in, what they are able to do, or why they are performing a certain transaction.
Offering this data to the public allows everyone to better understand the position teams are in, it allows fans and media members to dream or speculate about possibilities. Part of following a team is dreaming of the potential for a Stanley Cup, and by understanding the team’s cap situation, fans are able to dream of the potential transactions that could be made to help realize that goal.
We also imagine that the internal system is probably pretty secure, and may not be easily accessible to people in the industry when they’re on the go. For this reason, a public resource that is as accurate as possible is probably of interest to NHL organizations as well. Additionally, I would think that not everyone in the organization has access to it, but some that don’t might still be able to better perform their jobs if they had quick access to league salaries and contracts. This surfaced as well when GM candidates were being interviewed this summer and didn’t have access to salary cap information. A public source that is as accurate as possible would address all of these situations.
A number of CapGeek styled sites have emerged to fill the void left when Matthew Wuest’s groundbreaking site was forced to go offline. Paying homage to Wuest and his innovative work, Poraszka’s General Fanager has quickly positioned itself well. The site combines many of the features fans loved about CapGeek with promises to add even more exciting features soon.
At the speed Poraszka has moved already, it’s not hard to imagine that General Fanager will soon emerge as the clear choice for engaged fans looking for information about salaries, the draft, cap-compliant roster variations, and much, much more.
What do you think, hockey fans? Can General Fanager assume the salary cap and hockey info throne? What features do you hope to see added on this site in the future?