Over the weekend the NHL All Star game rolled out some new technology. These “improvements” are meant to help the casual fan better understand the game. Here is what we learned.

Everyone remembers the glowing puck of the early 2000’s, it was blue, it made people’s eyes hurt. It was also quickly dismissed because surprisingly it did not make the game easier to understand. Yet in 2019 the NHL thought they would give it another shot. This time a less offensive gray streamer is attached to the puck. Showing where the puck came from. This I guess is to help us see the progression of the play?

The NHL however doesn’t seem to understand how cameras work. The gray streak is a great idea if the camera was stagnant but its not. The camera pans back and forth with the play. So inevitably the perspective shifts and skews the gray streak to the viewer. Sometimes giving the illusion that the puck has come from inside the bench or even the crowd. This issue of the camera panning gets into a deeper issue with how the game is presented on TV. The game when played on the ice is vertical. Yet as a viewer we watch it horizontally. If you want to give a better representation of how the play develops they need to convey that vertically. Better cameras behind the net would give that perspective.

The second piece of technology that was rolled out was the first iteration of player tracking. In the past they have put things under the score ticker that indicate when star players are on the ice. They have also tried putting a smaller screen in the corner that shows just one of the star players. They also tried to get people to sign in to the NHL app to watch alternate camera angles that highlighted only star players. None of these stuck. So in an attempt to force you to identify when star players on the ice they have done this.

screen_shot

Now this added piece of technology could actually be helpful. It clearly identifies the star player and gives room to provide live in-game metrics on the player. However during the All Star Game it was a little out of hand since every player on the ice was a star player. Yet I think they may be onto something. The NHL for years now has been tracking its players metrics. Things like shot attempts, completed passes, shifts, icetime, number of shifts begging in the offensive zone. These advance metrics help us determine if players like a Bryan Rust are actually good or just lucky. It also helps us better determine what went wrong/right during a goal.

Also every player in the NHL wears a heart rate monitor during the game. Assuming they will use this information on screen as well. We will be able to tell what players are tired, who is well rested and who maybe peaking at the right time physically and can score a goal.

This ability to convey these advance metrics on screen will allow the NHL to create in -game betting. So for example. Ovechkin has 4 shot attempts headed into the third, but has not scored a goal. We know from advance metrics that when he has five shot attempts, or he normally scores at least one goal. So you the fan can hop on your phone and place a bet on whether or not Ovi is going to reach the five shot attempts. Or bet that even tho he reaches five shot attempts he will go scoreless.

You even will be able to bet down to the play, for example which player scored on the powerplay for the Capitals. How many times the puck is passed in between shot attempts. Even which player has the most shot attempts on that particular powerplay.

I think this feature will be great for the hockey nerd and the degenerate gamblers of the world. Yet I am not sure how this will better explain the game to the casual fan. In fact I can only see it confusing them further. Another set of numbers to learn, and just as you begin to read the little bar the camera cuts to another angle or the puck changes possession and the bar goes away.

In addition to that most NHL commentators are not well versed in advance metrics. Can you imagine Mike Milbury talking about Phil Kessel’s shot attempts during intermission? No it’s really hard to imagine a scenario where any of the regular faces would be able to incorporate this new information into their analyst. Unless the little bar is going to tell us about how Jonathan Toews leadership level is decreasing with every passing day the Blackhawks are out of the playoff picture, I can’t see anyone using this.

All and all hockey is a tough game to convey on television. Every casual hockey fan that was converted to a die hard will tell you about that person in their life that taught them how to watch the game. They will tell you about how when they went to their first game they were blown away by the speed of the game. This is something the NHL continues to struggle to bring to the television audience.

Hockey is the greatest sport with the worst league. These new additions could help they could hurt, but at least they are trying. Leagues like the NBA and EPL have done a great job of marketing their players. So if these new advancements can help the world better understand what a freak of nature Connor McDavid is then I’m all for it. Anything to grow the sport.

So until next time remember, always keep your stick on the ice.

  • Johnny V. –
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Written by Johnny Violence

The lead NHL/Hockey writer for Thoughts From The Bench.

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