December 26, 2010

Matthew Wuest: The man behind CapGeek.com

Matthew Wuest founded CapGeek.com in May of 2009.

Ask any hockey fan about a man by the name of Matthew Wuest and you'll likely encounter a shrug or a blank stare.

 For the past seven years, Wuest has been working as a reporter up in his home province of Nova Scotia, serving primarily as a beat writer for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Little do those who don't regularly pick up the Metro Halifax realize, however, just how many times they've likely read Wuest's work.

 It was in the spring of 2009, while running his own independent website, RedWingsCentral.com, when a simple request from Detroit fans soon compelled Wuest to create CapGeek.com.

 "It all started around the cap calculator feature," Wuest said of his work for Red Wings Central. "I built the original calculator on a whim to help Red Wings fans calculate whether Marian Hossa could be re-signed at the end of 2008-09. When that launched, fans of other teams started emailing me begging me to build a calculator for their team, too. A month later, I launched CapGeek.com. Initially, it was only supposed to be a cap calculator, but I started adding layers and grew it to where it is today."

 Growth is truly an understatement. From a little-known concoction used to help inform a small number of fans about their teams' cap situations to a household name among those passionate about the sport, CapGeek.com has exploded since its inception. In July of 2010, the site received more than 3.5 million page views during the NHL's free-agent frenzy.

 Wuest compiles all of the information used on Cap Geek -- info that isn't publicly released as the NHL has always been tight-lipped when it comes to players' salaries -- from a variety of confidantes in the know, as his contacts include players, agents, and staff members of both the league and each of its organizations.

 "All over the place, but I have developed a network of trusted sources," he said when asked where all the nitty-gritty, financial details stem from. "They help me dig up contract details that you can't find anywhere and understand the more complicated articles of the collective bargaining agreement."

 Wuest, who said the time he spends tweaking Cap Geek each day is on par with what it takes to run a small business, initially began his post-college life in the computer science field before going back to school to combine his passion for both writing and sports. He says the two degrees have perfectly prepared him for all that Cap Geek entails.

 "I have bachelors degrees in computer science and journalism, and have been a sports reporter for seven years," the 31-year-old said. "It seems to be the right mixture for putting together a site like this."

 Wuest's second stint in school saw him earn high praise for his work while at Kings College University in Halifax. There, he received the  Judge J. Elliot Hudson Memorial Scholarship, as well as the Nike Bursary -- awarded to the most outstanding undergraduate student pursuing a career in sports journalism throughout all of Canada.

 Wuest's website has been a godsend to every fan passionate about hockey. The inner-workings and endless complexities of the salary cap make fully understanding each respective team's situation nearly impossible, given the infinite number of variables.

 In addition to a simple list of all salaries for every NHL team, there are a number of interesting facets of Cap Geek you won't find anywhere else on your travels throughout the world wide web.

 Wuest provides day-by-day updated figures, as factors like a player's tenure on long-term injured reserve make the everyman's attempt to crunch such numbers utterly hopeless. He has broken news on new contracts (beating many mainstream insiders to the punch in the process), provided a comprehensive list of daily transactions and even come up with a system so detailed that the common fan can find out how much it would cost to buy out any NHL player on any given day.

 Wuest even has a "Trade Machine" which allows visitors to the site to make mock deals between two teams and see how the finances would shake out. His innovations have been cutting edge, to say the least. For Wuest, knowing fans have relied on his website for answers to their cap conundrums and beyond has been immensely rewarding, given all of the time and effort he has poured into it.

 "If hockey fans depend on CapGeek.com, that's great," he said. "I've worked hard to establish it as a reliable, trusted source and to refine its features based on thousands of emails containing feedback. Visitor feedback has actually been a big key to its success."

 And that's one thing he doesn't see changing, as Wuest plans on continuing his rigorous efforts to make Cap Geek better and better.

 "Both short-term and long-term, I would like to continue to refine features, build new features and improve our historical salary archive," he said, adding that he also hopes to improve the site's mobile accessibility, making everything easily available for smart-phone owners throughout the world.

 Even prominent front-office members throughout the league have deferred to CapGeek.com when prodded about their cap situations.

 Following a trade that sent Marco Sturm from the Bruins to the Kings, B's GM Peter Chiarelli was asked what the financial ramifications were, and if the move would fix the team's current cap woes.

 "Check CapGeek.com," Chiarelli said, as both he and the horde of media members surrounding him chuckled.

 Wuest certainly appreciated the name-drop.

 "The Bruins had one of the more complicated cap positions in the league at the time, so I can't blame him for deferring to CapGeek.com before trying to break it down for the general fan," said Wuest, who now regularly contributes cap-based articles for ESPN Insider.

 "It's usually not a one-word answer when you're asked, 'How much cap space do you have?' But it's great to hear, because of the work that's been done to establish the site as a reliable, trusted source."

 Wuest's creation was something hockey fans have long been in need of since the lockout concluded and the salary-cap era was ushered in. But despite all of his mathematical know-how, the infinite amount of gratitude those fans now have for him is one number he'll never be able to crunch.