NHL to get going with tracking tech during Stanley Cup


NHL - Amalie Arena Image: generatorstudio

The National Hockey League (NHL) will have player-tracking and puck-tracking technology active in the arenas of the 16 teams that comprise the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and in all of its 31 facilities for the start of next season. It is expected to be fully operational league wide next season.

This piece of information was given by the Commissioner of NHL, Garry Bettman, recently.

The puck and player tracking technology, being created in partnership with real-time scoring system provider SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT), is designed to aid the league’s broadcast partners by providing new and more accurate player data and stats. It will also aid legalized betting on NHL games, with its ability to provide data for prop bets.

The NHL is considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in the world, and one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are an elimination tournament in the NHL consisting of four rounds of best-of-seven series to determine the league champion and the winner of the Stanley Cup.

The NHL Puck and Player Tracking technology will include 14-16 antennae installed in the arena rafters; four cameras to support the tracking functionality; one sensor placed on the shoulder pads of every player on each team; and 40 pucks manufactured with a sensor inside for each game.

Observed Commissioner Bettman, “This will give our fans a new look into the game and our broadcasters yet another way to tell stories. Fans will be able to watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year and all games next year in a way that years ago nobody could have imagined.”

He further stated, “It’ll be as a fan and a viewer what you want it to be. You’ll be able to watch the game as you’ve always watched it traditionally if that’s what you want. There will be broadcast enhancements that the broadcasters can use either on the primary screen or on secondary screens. And there’ll be more data than ever before.”

The NHL had proclaimed during the All-Star Weekend last year at San Jose in US that player-tracking and puck-tracking technology would be executed this season. The professional ice hockey league started working on the technology way back in 2013 and the pilot run was launched during the 2015 NHL All-Star Game in Columbus. It was tested at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto and at the 2018 All-Star Weekend in Tampa Bay before the NHL carried out trials during two regular-season games at Vegas in January 2019. It was put through their paces again at the 2019 All-Star Weekend in San Jose.

Commissioner Bettman informed that the technology will generate 200 data points per second for the players and 2,000 data points per second for the puck.

“So, in terms of getting inside the game, telling stories, as a fan building in to get what you’re interested in, you’re going to be able to do more things than ever before and even imagined,” he explained.

The league will do a trial run on the system – which is a blend of sensors and optical tracking – during certain games in the regular season.

Deputy Commissioner of NHL Bill Daly said the league is yet to take a final call on which games will be chosen for the trial run.

During his annual state of the NHL address, Bettman also revealed that a lot of people were unhappy with a team official’s behavior since the topic garnered lot of attention at the Board of Governors meeting held in December 2019. Bettman and Daly said a probe was launched into those complaints, and none turned out to be of “significant concern”.

“Obviously, what we announced at the board meeting, some people have followed up and there have been some things reported to us. I’ve gotten a couple calls from clubs who have had issues raised with them. This is I think what I’ll expect when we have a platform up and running that people are going to utilize it.”

Bettman also touched on the status of collective bargaining talks with players, a potential deadline to decide about going to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the possibility of changing the All-Star format next year.

Four months since both the owners and players decided not to opt out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that runs until 2022, Bettman said the Players’ Association has taken a “deep breath” on negotiations. Though an urgent time limit has not been set, he expects CBA talks to resume with full gusto soon.

“My expectation is we’ll re-engage shortly in a more energetic way than perhaps we’ve been in the last couple of months. Perhaps knowing there’s more time than we had going into September, I wouldn’t read anything into it other than we’re both still focused on it,” Bettman observed.

The NHL’s CBA is the basic contract between the National Hockey League (NHL) team owners and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA), designed to be arrived at through the typical labor-management negotiations of collective bargaining.

Bettman rubbished the notion of a deadline for an Olympic decision set by the International Ice Hockey Federation. He maintained that it’s disruptive for the NHL to stop its season to go to the Olympics, which it did five times from 1998 to 2014 before skipping 2018, but said that sending players to Beijing was still on the table.

Some international hockey could be coming closer than Asia before 2022. Bettman hinted having a “distinct international flavor” at the 2021 All-Star Weekend, which will be hosted by the Panthers in South Florida.

The league and players cast aside plans to hold a World Cup of Hockey as soon as the winter of 2021, but Daly said there’s a working model on what might be coming at the next All-Star Weekend. Much like the women’s 3-on-3 game at this year’s Skills Competition, that event could demonstrate the US-Canada rivalry and others.

“I think we have a general understanding of what we’re talking about and what it looks like,” Daly summed up.

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