When it comes to the principles of successful hockey, it would seem as though little has changed over the more than 125 years of Stanley Cup competition.
Get pucks deep. Work the defense for turnovers. Go to the net. Get rebound chances.
From Eddie Shore to Gordie Howe to Wayne Gretzky to Sidney Crosby, that’s always been the path to victory.
At the same time, the game has changed dramatically. Innovations such as the helmet and the goalie mask improved safety for players. Stick and skate technology is constantly advancing as the players grow faster and stronger.
There are other changes unfolding behind the scenes that are also moving the game along into areas that will only serve to make hockey a greater and more popular entity on the sporting landscape.
Let’s look at some of those technological advances that are helping hockey to move forward during the 21st century.
Live Streaming Of NHL Games
Absent the massive television contracts of the other major North American sports, the NHL actively seeks out methods to get its games in front of an audience. Live streaming is one of the newer options for watching sports. As more people opt to cut the cord from cable and satellite TV, this audience only continues to grow by leaps and bounds.
The NHL is offering the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs on Hulu. Hulu subscribers were also able to watch regular-season NHL online through Hulu Live TV on their normal regional sports networks.
The league also provides its own streaming service. The NHL Live subscription service enables subscribers to stream every out-of-market and national game to a range of devices, including smartphones and internet-connected game consoles. Viewers can watch two live games simultaneously via split-screen or picture-in-picture mode.
Betting On The NHL
The ever-expanding online betting industry is proving to be a boon to the NHL. Once a determined opponent of any form of sports betting, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has embraced the new brand of online wagering and welcomed many of the leading online sportsbooks to partner with the NHL.
The league has done deals with William Hill, BetMGM, and FanDuel to be official sports betting and daily fantasy sports partners of the NHL.
“Times have changed,” Bettman told Forbes.com regarding the 180-degree reversal in his opinion of sports betting.
“What we’ve learned is that (sports betting) is another point of engagement for the fans. Ultimately, I think if you’re interested in sports betting, you’re going to have an increased opportunity to engage with the game. If you’re not interested, it shouldn’t impact the way you consume the game. And if you’re a sports fan who may not necessarily be a hockey fan, it will give you an opportunity, potentially, to sample something new.
“Our hope is it causes more people to watch more games. We think it will cause ratings on NBC to go up because more people will be watching.”
William Hill, which also has team sponsorship deals with the New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights, reported a 38 percent increase in NHL betting handle across its online sportsbooks.
Online betting sites are one of the largest growth industries today. Whether you’re looking to place a Moneyline wager on the Dallas Stars to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, the number of sites where you can do both of those things seems to grow larger almost every day.
Tracking The Ice
Perhaps the most anticipated technological advance in development at the NHL is their ice tracking software.
Hockey has always struggled to garner anything beyond a niche-level audience in the USA.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that the nature of our game makes it more difficult to televise it than maybe some of the other sports,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told CNBC.
With the help of sports tech firm SMT, the NHL may have found a solution — puck and player tracking. This new technology is providing the league the ability to collect a plethora of data points and provide more accurate stats on players participating in a game. It also creates opportunities to enhance the presentation of TV broadcasts using augmented reality by utilizing computer-generated images to supplement a person’s real-world experience.