By: Ian Thomas
The NHL and NHLPA will roll out a number of technology-based features during the upcoming World Cup of Hockey in September, including player and puck tracking and digitally enhanced dasherboards. The two-week tournament will also feature jersey advertising, with each of the eight team’s jerseys featuring a patch of event sponsor SAP.
DATA TRACKING: Starting Sept. 17 in Toronto, the tourney will be the first time the NHL will be using player and puck tracking in non-exhibition matches, with the previous test taking place at the ’15 NHL All-Star Game in Columbus. The league and NHLPA are working with Sportvision, who also operated the test in Columbus. With infrared sensors both on the back of the player’s jerseys, as well as in the puck, the system will be able to track data points including puck and skating speed, puck trajectory, puck and player location and skating distances. The data will be used primarily by broadcast partners ESPN and Rogers, who have the capability to feature graphics live, on replay and in analysis, according to NHL Exec VP/Digital Media and Strategic Planning Stephen McArdle. Working with SAP, the league and the union will use tracking data for editorial uses. Unlike in Columbus, where Commissioner Gary Bettman followed the player tracking experiment via an iPad, there will not be a tool for fans to directly interact with the data during the tournament.
DASHERBOARD ENHANCEMENTS: The World Cup of Hockey will also mark the first time the league will use the digitally enhanced dasherboard tech during a live game, which will provide the ability to digitally replace in-arena TV-visible dasherboard ads with different advertisements. The tech, provided by Europe-based Supponor and typically seen during European soccer matches, will be implemented on the main two cameras, which will likely cover about 85% of the broadcast, according to NHL Exec VP/Global Partnerships Keith Wachtel. It will also allow the league and the union to tailor advertising specific to each broadcast feed, with specific Canada-, U.S.- or European-only sponsors of tournaments appearing only on their regional-based broadcast, alongside the tournament’s global partners, allowing for specific-region and country based messaging. For fans in-arena, the boards will have advertising akin to what is seen at a typical NHL game.
HEAVY SPONSOR INTEREST: Meanwhile, the event has brought in more than $25M in sponsorship revenue, according to a source familiar with the deals. In addition to previously announced deals with adidas, Air Canada, Canadian Tire, Honda, Molson Coors, PepsiCo, Rogers Communications, Scotiabank, Tim Hortons and Visa, the league and the union will announce that autoTRADER.ca, EA, Esso/Exxon Mobil, Geico, Pizza Pizza, SAP, Sonnet and Upper Deck have all signed deals. Additional European and Asia specific sponsors are expected in the coming weeks. The NHL declined to comment on financial terms of any of the deals, including terms for the SAP patch. The NHL and NHLPA have forecasted the event could bring in more than $120M in total revenue, according to sources. The NHL and the union will split all revenue and expenses from the event.
AND FOR THE FANS: The league and the NHLPA also are planning an extensive fan village to coincide with the tournament that will feature more than 10 days of live music, interactive games, cultural and food events related to the participating teams and viewing parties for the all of the games. The village, which will be sponsored by Scotiabank and will be free and open to the public, will be held in Toronto’s Distillery District, with the viewing parties relocating to Maple Leaf Square for the tournament’s final matches.