As the NHL begins filtering in player and puck tracking technology as soon as next season, one of the player association’s primary concerns is making sure it fits comfortably on players.
So far, so good, according to the league’s guinea pigs: the Golden Knights.
“I didn’t really notice,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “I didn’t really feel much.”
The league tested new tech during the Knights games against the New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks on Jan. 8 and Jan. 10 at T-Mobile Arena by adding sensors to the players’ shoulder pads. The league wants to use player tracking data to enhance broadcasts, create virtual/augmented reality experiences and create new opportunities for sports betting.
The sensors are there to pick up things such as how fast a player is skating or how much time he spends in the offensive or defensive zones. They also were used in specialty pucks during the two games to learn how fast a player’s shot was, among other things.
“I didn’t notice anything other than the pucks,” defenseman Deryk Engelland said. “The pucks were maybe a little bouncy it seemed like in those two games, but other than that, it wasn’t really noticeable.”
Forward Alex Tuch, who also said he didn’t notice the sensors, added that he hopes the league uses the new tech to grow the game and get fans interested. But he said he wasn’t sure how useful it would be for players.
He pointed out that there are times he might need to skate 17 mph to get around a defenseman, but other times 14 mph might do.
“I think it’ll be good for the game, but it’s not like we’re going to sit there and analyze each shift,” Tuch said. “There’s going to be good things and things you really don’t care about.”
Engelland agreed, saying that while the stats the sensors generate could be fun, they’re also useless without context.
“It’s not a big deal to me,” he said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to your play on the ice, not how fast you’re skating or how hard you pass a puck. If you’re reliable out there and doing your job, that’s all that matters.”
The NHL is rolling out more new tech after the All-Star break, as the league is giving coaches iPads with access to real-time stats on the bench. Each iPad will come with SAP/NHL Coaching Insights App, an app developed by the NHL, SAP and Apple that tracks 60 individual and team statistics during games.
“It’s supposed to be good information, but I haven’t paid attention to it. But we will in the near future,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said.
Ducks fly again
The Anaheim Ducks won for the first time in 2019 on Thursday by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-1.
The Ducks snapped a 12-game losing streak (0-8-4) — the longest in team history — that started with a 3-1 defeat to the New York Rangers on Dec. 18. They then won their second straight with a 3-2 victory Saturday at the New Jersey Devils to improve to 21-19-9.
The longest losing streak in Knights’ history is three games.
NHL’s new tech
Three applications of puck/player tracking tech:
1. Make broadcasts better
The NHL wants to provide the data it gets from tracking players to broadcasters in real time in the hopes it will create a more engaging and informative experience for viewers.
2. Virtual reality experiences
Once the league has advanced data on a wide variety of skaters, they can design experiences that make fans feel like they’re playing on an NHL ice sheet.
The league has a sports betting partnership with MGM Resorts International, and the data could be used to create a multitude of prop bets that give fans another reason to tune into games.