It’s a great day for analytics and general “wow” data in the NHL.
The league’s first game, albeit the All-Star Game, completed Sunday night with the Sportsvision chips in players jerseys and pucks. Think of this as a tactical version of FoxTrax from the ’90s—used only in replays on air that can show the route of the puck with a line drawing its path, speed of players and more. It’s not a glowing puck that’s on TV forever that sends off a comet tail when Shea Weber rips it for a one-timer.
A tremendous amount of information can be gleamed from the chips and cameras used in the arena, Sportsvision CEO Hank Adams told the Washington Post:
“We know where the puck is, if it’s over the blue line we know it’s over the blue line and for how long, very precisely,” Adams said. “When it gets into who’s in possession of the puck, that again has to be a human involved in it, because we don’t have electronics on the stick. There’s only so much you can use this stuff to replace. A human being’s going to have to get involved and sometimes make those judgment calls, but it can certainly aid and automate the collection of that data.”
So, it knows if the puck is over the goal line then. Can refs and the NHL War Room use Sportsvision technology to rule a good goal or determine a no-goal call?
The technology shows deflections, too. What comes to mind is a goal knocked in above the crossbar. If the chips reveal this much information, can it reveal the height? The opening of an NHL goal post is 48 inches tall. Factor in the thickness of the crossbar, which is 2 3/8 inches around on the outside. Can it tell where on the puck did a stick that could be above the crossbar? In other words, if part of the puck was above the crossbar but the player’s stick deflected the bottom part of the puck that was at the height of the crossbar, can Sportsvision pick all that information up and be relayed in enough time for a decision in the NHL War Room?
As you read from Adams above, sticks are not tracked but you could have enough information to deduce if a puck was knocked in with a high stick.
If a chip can be placed in a player’s jersey, I would think there could be a chip or some sort of material taped onto a player’s stick that wouldn’t interfere with grip, shooting or balance that the infrared cameras can pick up and determine deflections. I really think if the NHL and Sportsvision has all the rest of this down, they’re not too far off in creating other solutions.
Heck, we’re really at the point where if the technology can advance far enough, you wouldn’t need a linesman to call offside or icing. Though that would never happen because one, what would whistle or sound off when a computer-detected offside or icing happens? An icing horn? Stop. it. now. And you do have a union for officials that certainly would fight for job protection.
Anyway, back to the task at hand: Should the NHL use its new Sportvision technology in determining good goals?
Yes. If you’re willing to go to TV replay to get the truth and run into issues of available camera angles, why not use new puck tracking technology to determine a good goal?