On Tuesday, the National Hockey League pulled its tracking chip pucks on account of user complaints.
On Wednesday, the players rejoiced.
Count Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews among the celebrants, as he said he noticed a difference in both weight and slide when comparing the 2020-2021 pucks to those a season prior. And he would know, as he’s taken 21 shots to date this season and has only scored one goal. That’s quite a bit lower than his career average.
“Actually, [teammate Jason] Spezza was the first one to bring it up to me, and I told him that’s why I couldn’t capitalize on some of these chances I’ve had in the first four games — because these pucks are all messed up,” said Matthews.
He was joking. Somewhat.
But honestly, the backlash about the pucks was significant enough for the NHL to move swiftly on the subject.
“We held one of the regular pucks and one of the new ones, and there was a little bit of a difference in the weight and stuff, but it seemed like sometimes it wasn’t sliding as well as it usually would,” Matthews said. “Don’t know if that was the ice or pucks. We were pumped we were going back to the regular ones.”
The tracking chips were part of the league’s plan to provide even more in-game data, but it says that the pucks dropped on the 2020-2021 season didn’t receive the same “precise finishing treatments” as those dropped on last season’s playoffs.
Puck and Player tracking technology was announced by the NHL in January of 2019.
“The Puck and Player Tracking system can track pucks at a rate of 2,000 times per second in real-time with inch-level accuracy,” commissioner Gary Bettman said at the 2019 NHL All-Star Innovation Spotlight. “We’ll instantaneously detect passes, shots and positioning precisely. It will be equally accurate in tracking players; their movement, speed, time on ice — you name it.”
The league has been working on some semblance of tracking since 2013, with Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute set to the task of putting chips in pucks. At the time, both the speed and temperature of the pucks presented problems.
Luckily, any issues seemed to have been solved by the time implementation was done. And now the league plans to have a new batch of ready-to-go pucks “available soon.”
Pic: Getty Images