The NHL ice hockey league in North America is reportedly looking to install facial recognition software in its arenas in an effort to deter terror attacks.

The league and some of its 31 teams are looking to find companies that are offering to install high-definition cameras and facial recognition technology, according to TSN news site.

A senior executive with one NHL club told TSN that he expects that his team and others will adopt facial-recognition technology in the league within the next two years.

“One of the reasons we haven’t seen this adopted is because we’ve been lucky,” the executive said. “We’ve seen attacks at concerts, at the Boston Marathon, at the Olympics, and at international soccer games. If there was an incident at a hockey game, this is something that would have already happened in the NHL.”

In June, new face recognition technology from NEC that can identify suspicious individuals among crowds was successfully trialled at a stadium in the US.

As the technology continues to improve, the NHL is discussing a league-wide security review that would potentially limit the league’s financial exposure following a terrorist attack at a game.

Mike Verden, a former US Secret Service special agent who is now a security consultant in Chicago, said: “Canada is known for hockey. It’s part of your social fabric, and because it’s a symbol of Canada, hockey is a target for terrorists. It was the same with the World Trade Center in New York. That was a target because it was the biggest building in our biggest city.”

Peter Trepp, chief executive of FaceFirst, a California-based firm that sells facial recognition technology, said he met with the NHL in recent months.

“We’re very much in play with a number of stadiums, stadium management companies and teams,” Trepp said, according to TSN. “They’re looking to keep out the really bad guys and the technology has improved dramatically in the past few years. We can identify someone literally as they walk through the door. Identification happens within a few seconds. Then you can intercept them right then.”

Fans attending the 2017 Uefa Champions League final were scanned by face recognition cameras in Cardiff’s Principality Stadium as part of a police operation.

Faces were scanned at the venue – formerly the Millennium Stadium – and Cardiff’s central railway station. South Wales Police said the image was then matched against hundreds of thousands of ‘custody images’ stored by regional forces.

In addition, Dutch Eredivisie football club FC Groningen used the software and cameras at its Noordlease Stadion last season, though the images could only be compared to a database of those who had already been banned by the team.

Image: Keith Allison