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NHL players don’t want data to overrule hockey sense

Updated February 2, 2019 - 7:06 pm

As the NHL embraces technology as part of its future, players want to reiterate that hockey talent isn’t defined by stats.

The league announced Jan. 25 that it will implement puck and player tracking tech, which provides real-time data throughout games, across all 31 of its arenas next season. But while the NHL Players Association is happy hockey is expanding to new frontiers, it doesn’t want the game to be reduced to numbers.

“There’s a lot more to a hockey player than just the stats,” said Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr, during an All-Star Weekend news conference. “When you look at guys like Brett Hull or Wayne Gretzky or Nick Lidstrom, they were never defined by how big they were, how fast they were, how hard they shot a puck.”

The league’s new tracking technology, which was tested for the first time in a regular-season game at T-Mobile Arena in January, is expected to be used on broadcasts, for virtual reality experiences and eventually for sports gambling. Nonintrusive sensors are placed in players’ shoulder pads and in pucks to track how fast players/pucks are moving, how much time is spent in each zone and other things.

Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch doesn’t see the tech as a good player evaluation tool, though. Tuch likened the stats’ usefulness to the advanced metric Corsi, which measures puck possession through shot attempts.

Corsi has its positives, but it also paints an incomplete picture because it doesn’t factor in shot quality. Just like the tracking data can provide insight but can’t account for instincts and hockey sense.

“For the most part, it’s good,” Tuch said.

The NHLPA appears to share Tuch’s concerns because it has an understanding with the NHL that teams won’t be able to use the tracking data they get next season in arbitration, contract negotiations or any other player decisions. That said, players are open to using the tech to benefit and grow the sport and the league.

“I guess they’re trying to evolve the game a little bit,” Knights defenseman Shea Theodore said. “Hopefully something cool can come from it.”

Black History Month

The NHL and NHLPA are teaming to celebrate Black History Month as part of the league’s new “Hockey Is For Everyone” initiative.

Events during the month include the “American Legacy Black Hockey History Tour,” a mobile museum that will stop in eight cities in February. Las Vegas is not one of the cities.

NHL Network also produced a roundtable available on NHL.com that features Hockey Hall of Famers Grant Fuhr, Angela James and Willie O’Ree discussing racism and breaking down barriers in hockey.

Las Vegas loves hockey

NBC’s broadcast of the NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 26 received a 2.7 rating in the Las Vegas market, the fifth-highest local rating in the country, according to NBC Sports.

The markets that topped Las Vegas were Buffalo (5.9), Pittsburgh (4.7), St. Louis (3.0) and Minneapolis/St. Paul (3.0).

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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