Gary Bettman and the NHL held a press conference early Wednesday morning to discuss the World Cup Of Hockey. In this press conference they talked about ads on jerseys, digitally enhanced dasher boards for more ads (and more money), and other miscellaneous hockey talk. Most importantly, Bettman announced that puck and player tracking will be tested during the World Cup of Hockey tournament.
The NHL tried this experiment once before during the 2015-16 All-Star Game, however, it sounds like they’ve made some adjustments and are taking another swing at it. Sportvision, the same company that does play tracking for the NFL, MLB, Olympics, etc are currently leading the charge. If this new technology can be perfected, it will be a huge step forward for hockey analytics.
They’ll track puck and player speed, distance between all players etc. Will be used during broadcasts.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) August 17, 2016
Player tracking testing at the World Cup is just another stage in the long testing process. James Mirtle reported that it may take a few years before this type of advanced tracking gets implemented into the league. At the World Cup, tracking will be used to measure player distance skated, player speed, TOI, and spacing between players. Other ways it could be used is measuring pass accuracy, zone positioning, and pass reception rate.
A tracking chip, as seen above, will be sewed into the back of the jerseys, and another small chip will be built into the pucks as well. The NHL is preparing 750 tracking pucks for the World Cup. If and when they get flipped into the crowd, the fans will get to keep them! I picture this being the start of a horror movie where the robot pucks come alive during the night time and start taking over the world. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you’re excited you caught a game puck and the NHL starts following you around in your daily life.
“This is probably the best simulator that we have in this very dense period of time to do so. So we will take our time after the tournament to evaluate the data, evaluate reactions from the fans, evaluate reactions from the players and evaluate how the system itself performs before we move onto anything more permanent.” – Stephen McArdle, NHL Vice President of Digital Media.
The New NHL
The NHL has described the purpose of player and puck tracking to better educate the fans. It will give broadcasters more tools to describe the “story” of hockey to the fans watching through their TV’s, and increase the viewer experience. It will also help with player development, analysis, and coaching.
This is great and all, but the one thing I can’t stop thinking about is seeing Connor McDavid’s player movement stats. Imagine seeing his player speed data compared to Anton Lander’s? Or seeing a players stats develop over his career? This is much more entertaining to me than plain old Corsi.
The most immediate benefit of this technology, is goal line calls. Did the puck actually cross the line? Let us look using the tracker! The possibilities of this technology is endless. Until we start taking things too far by measuring saucer pass height, player perspiration rates, and gatorade consumption.
If anything, this has showed us that advanced stats is still in its infancy. Who knows what this game will be all about in 20 years.