Puck and Player Tracking in the NHL: The Basics

Photo: NHL

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Friday that the league is officially partnering with Jogmo World to deploy puck and player tracking technology in all 31 NHL arenas at some point during the 2019-20 season. The new tracking systems will facilitate a gigantic leap in the generation and analysis of hockey data. 

This data generated by the new tracking systems will be used to create new stats, analytics, and in-game graphics. Some of the first examples fans will see once the system is implemented League-wide will occur in the broadcasts on NBC and Rogers, and will likely highlight puck/player speed, puck/player location, player distance traveled, and player time on ice, to name a few. In addition to the broadcasts, this data is going to enhance a multitude of fan experiences including sports betting/gaming.

The league recently tested the system at two games recently. (January 8 & 10, 2019, (New York Rangers @ Vegas Golden Knights; San Jose Sharks at VGK). The NHL released a video summarizing some of the imagery captured during the test games.

Bettman briefly commented on a few of the data points that were yielded from the game. “Amazingly, within the confines of our 200-by-85-foot rink, Brent Burns and Jonathan Marchessault each skated more than three miles,” Bettman said. “William Karlsson skated over 20 miles an hour. “And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The applications are endless.”

System Oveverview
The NHL Puck and Player Tracking technology (developed and implemented by Jogmo) will track every movement of the puck and both teams’ players during every game. The system will have the ability to track the players at 200 times per second, and the puck at up to 2,000 times per second.

Technology To Be Implemented
The NHL Puck and Player Tracking technology will include the following:

  • 14-16 antennae installed in the arena rafters
  • Four cameras that support the tracking functionality
  • One sensor placed on the shoulder pads of every player on both teams.
  • 40 pucks manufactured with the sensor inside (for each game)

The Data Generated
Bettman noted that the league will not permit the leveraging of this new data when it comes to salary arbitration, contract negotiations, and other player-related decisions and transactions, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports. It will be interesting to see if the league can effectively police the access and use of certain data types.

The NHL and the NHLPA have a written agreement that includes “protections” for players on how the tracking data will be used. The league would not comment specifically what those “protections” are, or as to what types of data will be available to a wider audience.

Additional Points

Data Access
As we’ve mentioned before in an earlier post, the key to “Analytics 2.0” will be who will get access to what data. After a somewhat flat hierarchical past with regards to data and accessibility, the new system and the data generated will likely create a tiered access structure, with some data never making it past the league and its teams. This is somewhat understandable, as some of the data will relate to player biometrics, and is likely considered private, such as information you share with your doctor. On the flip side, the day of effective arm-chair analytics may be coming to an end, and teams will have access to greater data sets than those outside looking in.

Faster, More Accurate Officiating Of Games
The days of reviewing whether a puck crossed a goal line will come to an end. With the new technology, clear and concise determinations will be rendered in real-time. The day of the goal judge will be coming to an end. One can easily surmise that calls for “offsides” and “too many men of the ice” can be automated, triggering a penalty light at the blue line.

On Display
The NHL will be demonstrating a few features from the puck and player systems during this weekends All-Star festivities.

It looks like we are finally on the doorstep of a major leap in hockey data and hockey analytics (Analytics 2.0). We will have much more on this as next season approaches.

Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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7 Responses to Puck and Player Tracking in the NHL: The Basics

  1. Michael L. Valcourt Sr. says:

    Well a much needed break for the Washington Capitals hockey club! The second half will define the career of the head coach Todd Readon and his longevity as coach of this organization. This hockey club as presently constituted needs a veteran coach with the ability to handle these players with tender toughness. Now there may be extending circumstances why their playing this poorly at the moment! I would hate to think the fans in the DMV area would have to wait another forty years or so for another run at the Stanley Cup.

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