NHL is looking to NASCAR for player tracking technology
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

While NASCAR and the NHL haven’t merged, the two may soon be sharing technology to improve both sports in the near future.

Friday at the Board of Governors meeting in Florida, the NHL made it known that they are working with technology companies to invent player-tracking technology, but it won’t come from a chip on a player’s jersey or in the puck.

They are looking to invent a technological standard that doesn’t exist—yet. But the NHL believes it can be invented and implemented by the 2019 playoffs.  No pressure.

The NHL has previously experimented with this sought of premise before, first at the 2015 All-Star Game in Columbus and again at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey Tournament. It was at that tournament that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to Sports Illustrated‘s Shayna Goldman.

“Ultimately we are hoping to deliver the kind of data that will create insights and tell stories that avid and casual hockey fans will enjoy,” Bettman said. “In short, we are attempting to embark upon a journey that hopefully will enable us to create and then maintain a digital record of everything in our game and compile a complete digital history.”

For the World Cup tournament, Sportvision was the company the NHL was partnered with in 2016. In that tournament, the NHL used 750 pucks that met all the specifications in the NHL rulebook, but the pucks also had tracking technology embedded in the puck itself. Player jersey’s also had a chip in it. Cameras around the arena where the tournament games were being held had the infrared technology to work with this tracking system.

On Friday, Dan Rosen of NHL.com reported that the NHL is again going forward with this tracking technology, but with a twist. It would rely on camera-based technology,

“We’re in the process of working with some technology companies to invent technology that doesn’t currently exist,” Bettman said, “because it’s more complicated to do this than in any of the other sports for a whole host of reasons which relate to the attributes of our games, the physical contact, the sticks, the speed and everything else,”

The kind of data the NHL is looking for now is the same as was done in 2016. The league wants to track real-time data on a players time on ice, shots, time in each zone, speed, skated distance, possession time and puck distance time. The league has said the broadcasters will benefit most from this data.

Another hurdle is to get the technology in every arena. There is a huge difference from using this technology in a two-week tournament such as the World Cup of Hockey and using it in 31 arenas over a full season.

In terms of tracking, the NHL and NASCAR are working on the same things. NASCAR has a telemetry box where all this data is recorded and sent to the teams on the pit boxes and to the broadcast team. The NHL needs to create a much smaller yet as powerful recording mechanism, not just at one venue a week, but at 31 venues in a week’s time.

” … we’re committed to doing it,” said Bettman, “and we’re investing a fair amount of money to do it.”

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