Puck and player tracking are taking big strides forward in the NHL | Sport

When Buffalo rookie Owen Power scored his first NHL goal, the repeat from five different angles was available in a matter of seconds in a private suite at the Prudential Center as the team celebrated below. A few doors down, giving a headset, puts you virtually on the ice with a set of cartoon characters recreating the play.

More than three years since puck and player tracking was first tested by the NHL, technology has grown by leaps and bounds to give coaches almost 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 measurements; before next season, they should also have access to some of this data.

“We’ll be putting more puck and player tracking data on our website in the near future so fans will have access to it for the first time,” said NHL senior director of coaching and GM applications, Brant Berglund most recently in the league. tech showcase during a match between Buffalo and New Jersey. “It will be there next season and possibly even as early as the playoffs this season for some of it.”

Showing how hard someone shoots the puck – and how often a player hits 20 km / h – is just the beginning of a series of futuristic technologies coming to a hockey arena near you. The next wave includes real-time video and instant playbacks available to fans on their phones, and steps toward augmented and virtual reality.

Coaches already have access to the full complement of puck and player tracking data as part of the app developed for their use on the bench during games. It includes a two-dimensional illustration of the game with players turning into small circles with their numbers on them and everything from average and max speed to when an opponent is most likely to pull the goalkeeper when it is behind by a certain number of goals.

TV stations could be next to get an app like it to illustrate trends where fans are finally getting their fingers in all the data more than ever has been available before.

“You can spend a lot of time getting good information about what’s going on in the game,” said NHL Chief Technology Officer Peter DelGiacco. “We think the opportunity we have in the next few years to take all this data and create insights and make the game much more relevant with better stories and be much more entertaining for all fans – not just the hardcore folks “It will also provide better insights that you did not really know.”

It’s not just hockey geeks who can enjoy heat cards over shots or live speed data. Executive VP of Business Development and Innovation, Dave Lehanski, said fans in arenas want accessible iterations more than anything else.

The good news on that front is that the technology is already available and has been implemented with nine NFL teams and the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Inside a phone app, a fan present can pause the game and rewind and watch it from multiple angles.

“We really want to personalize the experience,” said Verizon, Director of Sports Partnerships and Innovation, Eric Nagy. “Was there. That’s something we’re pushing for now.”

Already in place, replay vaults are filled with automated clips and others cut by humans. Along the way, iPad experiences are integrated with social media and gambling, with odds available in real time for live betting.

Down the line is virtual reality that can take anyone into the game and onto the ice in a 3D world that could look realistic or more like a comic book world. Put on a headset and you can see a model of the game from defender PK Subban’s point of view.

“We can make the characters look like anything you want,” said Nicolaas Westerhof, co-founder of virtual reality company Beyond Sports. “We can go to any camera angle. Everyone can actually choose their own camera angles. It’s as if you are creating your own experience.”

Lehanski said the combination of the puck and player tracking system, 5G networks in all arenas and the cloud builds the infrastructure that could create tons of real-world applications when more advanced glasses and other things are more readily available.

Commissioner Gary Bettman called the possibilities “limitless.”

“We want to make sure that your connection to the game and your viewing experience, no matter where you are, including at the game, gives you whatever it is you want and brings you into the game in ways that people had never imagined. Bettman said. “And that’s what we do.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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