Commissioner Gary Bettman says the National Hockey League is experimenting with player tracking technology that can provide broadcasters and fans with more details of game action.
“We’re not exactly sure where this will all take us, ” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Ultimately, we are hoping to deliver the kind of data that will create insights and tell stories that avid and casual hockey fans will enjoy.
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“We are attempting to embark upon a journey that hopefully will enable us to create and then maintain a digital record of everything in our game and compile a complete digital history.”
The technology was tested during last month’s All-Star game in Columbus, Ohio, with chips put in jerseys and pucks to track everything from speed and movement to shift length and ice time.
Sportvision, the same company responsible for first-and-10 lines in football and “K zone” strike-zone mapping in baseball, has worked with the NHL for six years to get to this point. With this technology, teams, players and fans can see how fast a player is skating, his top speed and average.
The league and NHL Player’s Association must come to an agreement before there’s even a consideration about having player tracking in place for real games. It’s much more available data, and with that comes some hesitancy on behalf of some players.
Stumbling blocks exist, but the expectation is the technology will be ready for games by next season or after. Some things, like hits, giveaways and takeaways will remain subjective, and video review will still be necessary to determine goals.
Mathieu Schneider, a former defenseman now working as special assistant to Fehr, voiced excitement but some trepidation.
“This is the first step, but these are the discussions we’re having with the players right now, ” Schneider said, “Will coaches coach by statistics sitting on the bench with an iPad? There still needs to be that sense from the guys that it’s not going to get overused or used improperly.”