When the buffalo rookie Owen Power He scored his first National Hockey League goal, and replays from five different angles were available within seconds in a special booth at the Prudential Center as the team below celebrated. A few doors away, wearing a headset almost puts you on the ice with a group of cartoon characters re-enacting the play.
More than three years since puck and player tracking were first tested by the NHL, technology has grown by leaps and bounds to give coaches all the information they want during and after a game. When the playoffs begin next week, fans will continue to see more details about player speed, shooting speed, and other metrics; By next season, they should have access to some of that data, too.
“We will be putting more disc and player tracking data on our site in the near future, so fans will have access to it for the first time,” Brant Berglund, Senior Director of NHL Training and GM Apps, said at the league’s latest run. Technical presentation during a match between Buffalo and New Jersey. “There will be next season and maybe even as early as the playoffs this season for some of it.”
Showing how hard it is to shoot a puck — and how often a player breaks 20 mph — is just the beginning of a bunch of futuristic technologies coming to a hockey rink near you. The Next Wave includes real-time videos, instant replays available to fans on their phones, and steps toward augmented and virtual reality.
Coaches already have access to the full set of disc and player tracking data as part of the application developed for their use on the bench during matches. It includes a 2D illustration of the game in which players turn into little circles with their numbers on it and everything from average speed and top speed to the time an opponent is most likely to pull the goalkeeper when behind by a certain number of goals.
TV broadcasters may be the next to get an app like this to show you trends, with fans eventually getting all the data, more than was available before.
“You can spend a lot of time and get great information about what’s happening in the game,” said NHL Chief Technology Officer Peter Delgiaco. “We think the opportunity we have in the next couple of years by taking all of this data and creating insights and making the game more relevant with better stories and be more enjoyable for all the fans — not just the hardcore people. It’s also going to give better insights that you didn’t really know about.”
It’s not just hockey nerds who might enjoy shot heat maps or live speed data. Executive Vice President of Business Development and Innovation, Dave Lehansky, said fans in the arenas want the show more than anything.
The good news on this front is that the technology is already available and has been implemented with nine NFL teams and the Phoenix Suns of the NBA. Within the mobile app, fans in attendance can pause and rewind the game and see it from multiple angles.
“We really want to personalize the experience,” said Eric Nagy, Verizon’s director of sports partnerships and innovation. “They were there. That’s something we’re paying for now.”
There are already replay vaults full of auto clips and people cut-outs. iPad experiences come integrated with social media and gambling, where live betting opportunities are available in real time.
Below the line is virtual reality that can take anyone in-game and on ice in a 3D world that may look realistic or look a lot like a cartoon. Pack the headset and you can see a model of the game from defenseman BK SubanPoint of view.
“We can make the characters look like anything you want,” said Nicholas Westerhoff, co-founder of virtual reality company Beyond Sports. “We can go to any camera angle. Everyone can set their own camera angles. It’s like you’re making your own experience.”
The combination of the puck system, player tracking, 5G networks in every arena, and the cloud builds infrastructure that can provide a lot of real-world applications when more advanced glasses and other things are more readily available, Lehanski said.
Commissioner Gary Pittman described the opportunities as “unlimited.”
“We want to make sure that your connection to the game and your viewing experience, no matter where you are, including in the game, gives you everything you want and brings you inside the game in ways that people would never have imagined,” she said. “This is what we do.”