June 16, 2017
In sports, stats are king. During the average National Football League Broadcast, it’s not uncommon for commentators to contextualize a game, a player, or even a single play in the larger history of the game using some sort of statistic. This is prevalent in all sports, but hockey may soon have a new method of tracking these statistics during a game.
In October 2016, the World Cup of Hockey tested out new data tracking technology. Furthermore, new technologies were implemented in other areas of the game to improve the player, coach, and fan experience.
The hockey tech was developed by SportsVision, a sporting technology company who have implemented some icon sports technology over the years. Their most successful application is known as the “1st and Ten” which creates a virtual yellow line on the football field to indicate where the first down marker is. In baseball, SportsVision provides the technology to track pitching speeds and visually display the batter box and ball trajectory commonly shown during the broadcast.
New Experimental Hockey Tech
Data Tracking Technology: Perhaps the most impressive technology tested during the World Cup of Hockey involved data tracking. Using a combination of infrared cameras and tracking chips, the hockey technology was able to generate information on a few intriguing data points, including puck and player speed, distance traveled, puck trajectory, player ice time, zone time, shots, shot distance, shot direction, and possession.
Referee Cameras: Another new technology in play during the Cup was referee cameras. These cameras provided a new and unique perspective on the action of the game and allowed the fans to view the game from the vantage of someone on the ice.
Hiccups in the Data
While to a large extent the tracking technology worked as expected, there were still hiccups during the Cup. The major issue was collecting player ice time and possession metrics. When a player committed a foul and was asked to sit in a penalty box, the cameras could not locate their infrared tags and continued to track them on the ice while they sat in the penalty box.
Another issue regarded possession. When two different players were in close proximity and fighting over possession of the puck, the tracking system could become confused as to who actually had possession. This confusion yielded discrepancies in the statistics.
To Invest or Not…
After the Cup, the decision is now up to the NHL whether or not to invest further in this product. One of the major concerns is cost. In order to use this data tracking technology, NHL teams would need to deploy new, expensive infrared cameras in their stadiums, and the league must weigh the cost against the benefits. With the Stanley Cup 2017 just wrapping up, we’ll have to see if widespread adoption occurs before the next season.
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