NHL: Puck and Player Tracking On the Way

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday that puck and player tracking will be introduced at the league level starting in the playoffs. It will also be integrated this weekend during the All-Star festivities at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

Testing will be done during certain games later this season. This involves a combination of sensors and optical tracking technology. There is no indication what games will introduce the testing.

“There will be more data than ever before,” Bettman said. “I believe the players will generate something like 200 data points per second and the puck 2,000 data points a second, so in terms of getting inside the game, telling stories, as a fan delving in to get what you’re interested in, you’re going to be able to do more things than ever before and even imaginable.”

The goal is to have puck and player tracking fully integrated leaguewide next season.

So what does this mean?

“This will give our fans a new look into the game and our broadcasters yet another way to tell stories,” Bettman said. “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.”

The league began work on puck and player tracking technology in 2013. It was tested at the 2015 All-Star Game in Columbus and then again at the World Cup of Hockey in 2016. It was also tested during two regular season games in Vegas in January of 2019, but this will be the biggest rollout so far before its leaguewide implementation.

The puck and player technology includes 14 to 16 antennae units in the rafters of an arena, plus four cameras to track functionality. One sensor will be placed on the shoulder pads of each player and 40 pucks will be made with sensors. This will be the case in all 31 arenas around the league.

The NHL has been working with SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT) to develop this tracking system. The goal, according to the league, is to “ingest, aggregate, and distribute data from the puck and player tracking system, and will create innovative graphics and visualizations for NHL media partners and other stakeholders.”

For those into analytics, this is a dream come true. Everything from how fast a player is skating to where the passing lanes are will be on display, creating a boon of information to pore over.

This creation of advanced metrics may well revolutionize the broadcasting of the game as we know it, providing more tools for both casual fans and more intensive viewers.

Photo credit: NHL.com

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