The NHL ice hockey league has announced plans to deploy puck and player tracking technology at games in a move designed to enhance the fan experience both inside arenas and for television viewers.
The technology was tested during Saturday’s All-Star Game at SAP Center, home of the San Jose Sharks. The technology tracks every movement of the puck and each team’s players.
The technology will see 14 to 16 antennae installed in the arena rafters, four cameras fitted to support tracking functionality, one sensor placed on the shoulder pads of players, and 40 pucks manufactured with a sensor inside.
The NHL said that the technology will be deployed at all 31 league arenas at some point during the 2019-20 season.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said: “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. Being on the forefront of innovation is good for our game, and most especially our fans.”
He added: “The theory behind player and puck tracking was to give people insights into the game who maybe would learn how the special the game is and would understand it a little bit better and so we started with the possibility of having broadcast enhancement.
“But now in the era that we’re in, the opportunities were limitless. If you’re a Millennial or a Gen Z in particular and you’re consuming sports differently than it’s ever been consumed before, we’re going to be right there for you giving you what you want.”
The NHL first started work on puck and player tracking technology in 2013. The Fraunhofer Institute and its subsidiary, jogmo world cup, became involved after initially planning on using the technology in football. However, after FIFA would not allow players to wear tracking chips, jogmo founder and chief executive Martin Bachmayer turned to the NHL.
Mathieu Schneider, NHLPA special assistant to the executive director, said: “This is going to be another huge step, I think, from bringing that experience you get in the arena to people outside the arena. What’s the thing you always say here as hockey people? It’s like, ‘I love watching the game live, but I just don’t get it on TV.’ We’ve taken one big step forward with flat screens and 4K and all these things. This, I think, can help us get to another level.”