NHL Using Big Data to Change the Game

With technology growing at a rapid rate, it’s no surprise that sports are starting to utilize this in-game and out of it. While big data is not necessarily a new concept, it’s a bit different when applied to a sports concept. The advantage of having this data is being able to measure things in real-time. There’s no rush for a printout of player stats when everything is done in an organized manner. With 31 teams (32nd one on the way), it’s important to see how to cater to over 200 million fans in the most efficient manner. Here’s how this factor is going to change the game.

NHL SVP of Business Development and Innovation, Dave Lehanski, talked about “growing the game.” It’s all about expanding the fan-base and improving the game. Not only that, it’s about seeing how to use technology to increase revenue streams. Speaking of technology, the league revealed in January that they were getting involved with SAP and Apple in order to give coaches some data-driven resources to monitor the game. This will allow them to get insight right through their fingertips with the           Coaching Insights App.

Lehanski stated, “For years they’d been using it prior and post-game to analyze the performance of the team to evaluate players, to scout, to evaluate trades, but the growing desire was to use it during the game,” he explained. Also, this will give a chance so that players can see a play made and get direct feedback in order to help them make better decisions for the game. It’s not about a team having a major       competitive advantage, because other ones don’t have access to the information. Lehanski goes into this further by saying, “We didn’t want to have the teams with greater resources using technology to have that type of advantage during a game; we wanted all the teams to have access to that type of data and to those solutions and now we have that.” Of course, there’s a lot of potential here. The app has a lot of value that they still haven’t completely tapped into for the long-term.

This is not only about an app, but the actual puck itself. There’s been a technology in development to track the puck and player. These analytics can be used to see how the puck can be tracked and the coordinates will be helpful in yielding great deritatives and analytics. Another concern is the actual speed. Lehanski says, “A simple example is speed: Nobody really knows how fast the puck is moving, no one knows how fast the players are moving, but we’ll be able to calculate that and with the system we’re building, we’ll be able to do it with sub-second latency.” You’ll find that this data is great for future planning. The only thing is how will this be useful?

It’s a lot of analytics to go through and actually break down to see how effective it’ll be in improving the game. Lehanski states, “We’ve been working on that with a number of companies, SAP is one of them, and now the goal we’ve settled on, the system we’re installing is to start to figure out what are we going to do with all this data, how are we going to turn it into meaningful experiences for fans and for everyone in the NHL community.” It’s all about finding how you can turn this into a valuable impact for players, coaches, and the fans.

The Coaching Insights App has the potential to getting this data and distribute it to all of the coaches. However, it’s important to cultivate this data into a useful application. Lehanski further delineates, “followers of the NHL could expect “a whole other iteration of revisions “that will allow for meaningful experiences and “create true customisation opportunities for the teams to leverage that data.” Think of how this also gets the fans involved, because they can use this data to get more interactive with the game. By knowing things, such as tracking the puck, a player, and other aspects, they’ll get a better clue of the statistics of the in-game.

At the end of the day, this could be a new and unique way to give everyone an experience. There can be a new way to create content, and a unique manner of creating live interaction with the coaches, players, and fans of hockey. Data-driven resources can make this all possible, but it’s all about nurturing it in the right manner to create a positive effect on the NHL.