Bob Williams, SportBusiness
The National Hockey League’s highly-anticipated puck and player tracking system will be up and running in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs and fully operational league-wide next season.
The initiative was further tested at the NHL All Star Game in St. Louis, Missouri, over the weekend, in conjunction with the league’s broadcast partners in the United States and Canada. Further testing will happen later this season.
“There will always be more and better. A lot of the ideas that are going to come along are going to be the result of what we see with what we get,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “I think it’ll be evolutionary. What we end up with in the playoffs will look different than what we get in the next regular season.”
The technology, being created in partnership with real-time scoring system provider SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT), is designed to aid the league’s broadcast partners by providing new and more accurate player data and stats. It will also aid legalized betting on NHL games, with its ability to provide data for prop bets.
The showpiece event in St. Louis also contained an inaugural women’s three-on-three exhibition match, which was well received and further shone a spotlight on the uncertain future of the women’s professional game in North America.
“It’s an atmosphere you dream about often,” participating USA international Kendall Coyne Schofield said. “You want to see a full building of people supporting women’s hockey. We know we can get there. If you build it, they will come. If we had the proper infrastructure day in and day out, we will have that many fans routinely.”
“It’s a step in the right direction that the NHL is supporting women’s hockey and they’re helping us get the exposure we need,” said Canada’s Rebecca Johnston. “I think the partnership is there. It’s not something you can build overnight. So for us, it’s just being patient, trying to continue to grow the game, getting as much exposure as we can and keep working at that.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman added: “The fact that we can shine, using our light, a brighter light on the women’s game I think is a positive for them, for the game and for young girls watching and aspiring to do the same thing.”
A number of leading men’s players were absent from the All Star festivities despite having been selected, most notably Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin. “We miss him and wish he was here, but we understand,” Bettman said.
Meanwhile, Bettman confirmed that the 2021 All Star Game will be hosted by the Florida Panthers, as had been reported earlier in the week, adding that it will have a ”distinct international flavor” without elaborating further.