NHL to embrace age of analytics

NHL to embrace age of analytics


NHL to embrace age of analytics


It’s known that data is power, and the NHL is essentially jumping on board with that concept, as they’re getting set to implement some changes on the technology side that will completely change how fans, players, coaches and scouts view the game.

The NFL, NBA and MLB have already made strides to embrace analytics, and finally, after 24 years of planning, the NHL is looking to do the same. It’s taken six years of development, which will hopefully result in a seamless transition, as the league looks to implement trackable pucks during games, providing fans and coaches with tons of ways to track their favorite stars. Below is an infographic from NHL Betting site Betway.

It’s an interesting method, as the technology is fitted inside the puck, and will result in loads of analytics to look over. Not only that, players will also wear shoulder pads that will collect data, in combination with sensors located all around rinks as well. The league appears to feel strongly about this endeavor, as NHL Senior Vice President of Business Development David Lehanski believes it can help drive revenue, while also increasing fan engagement. It will also help educate fans as well, possibly even converting casual sports fans into hockey fans in the process, which would be great for the growth of the game.

There are four main areas where analytics could come into play, so we took a look at each one of them below.

Player Health And Fitness

Dec 31, 2019; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins (90) and left wing Nick Foligno (71) celebrate the win after the game against the Florida Panthers at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Wearable tech is one of the hottest trends in this day and age, with health devices and smart watches being found on users’ bodies. But they’re not only fashionable, as they can also come in handy in the age of analytics as well. Trackable pucks and sensors on players can help coaches manage their players’ performance during games.

This will allow coaches to know how their players are feeling, and is extremely important in working injured players back in the lineup, as they may not have the stamina that their teammates possess. The NHL has seen nearly 51 percent of its players miss at least one game due to injury each season, so if coaches have better tech to help them manage minutes, they can limit overplaying their guys, and can possibly result in less stress on their bodies. Hopefully, that will lead to a decline injuries as well.

Identifying New Talent

Dec 31, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett is seen out on the players bench talking with Referee Ian Walsh (29) as they played the New York Rangers during the second period at Rogers Place. Oilers won the game 7-5. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL’s stars are consistently making headlines, but it’s a team game, and contests aren’t won or lost by one or two players. Instead, the organizations that consistently have success are the ones that have been able to uncover and develop unheralded, X-Factor type contributors.

And given that each team plays 82 games each season, it’s hard to take the time to hone in and focus on exactly who those lesser-known players are. But now, with sensors tracking all players, it will be much easier for coaches to collect and sort data, showing them who’s playing at the highest (or lowest) level.

This technology should also help scouts identify young talent in the minor leagues as well. Rather than traveling all over the world to watch young players in person, the data pooled from tracking systems could potentially give scouts everything they need at their disposal, without ever having to even leave their desk to look it over.

Real-Time Performance Assessment

The NFL and NBA are arguably the two fastest sports in the world, but the NHL is just behind them, and is just as entertaining as the other two.

As such, it’s difficult for players, coaches, fans and referee to track the game in real-time, while keeping the bigger picture in focus. Now, with the implementation of big data, roughly 2,000 data points per second will be transmitted across all tracking devices. This will show a number of different metrics, including distance skated, puck speed, possession and more — immediately live-streamed to coaches’ devices during games.

This data should help coaches figure out how their players are performing during games, and can help them figure out which lines are getting the best results for them — quickly. Identifying mismatches is huge in sports, and this technology could certainly help accomplish that.

Fan Engagement

Jan 1, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; The Dallas Stars celebrate the win over the Nashville Predators the 2020 Winter Classic hockey game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

One of the areas the NHL is looking to improve on is fan attendance. The numbers clearly show that average attendance across the league has declined, and there’s a hope that giving fans access to big data can help incentivize them to hit up games.

Already, MLB and the NBL are giving fans access to data via an app, which delivers stats to them in real-time. And, not only that, it can help provide them with a more enjoyable gameday experience, educating them with seating charts, parking availability or even help them locate the nearest restroom.

Keeping fans engaged is a big challenge the league is faced with, but big data does appear to be the solution to it, as well as most of the other issues the NHL has been dealing with. Analytics will help change the game in a huge way going forward, and the league will be better off for it.

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