May 12 2014

NHL Plans to Test Player Analytics Technology This Fall

After giving in-game data analytics solutions the cold shoulder, the league is warming up to the idea.

After the NBA made headlines for being the first professional sports league to go all in with player analytics, the NHL is following suit and greenlighting a trial of a player-tracking solution, according to a report from The Globe and Mail.

If the test, slated to kick off this fall, goes well, the NHL could roll out the solution across the entire league by the 2015-16 season, according to its chief operating officer, John Collins.

The two solutions that the league is evaluating are SportVU, by Stats LLC, and Sportsvision. SportVU is best known for its groundbreaking deal with the NBA, which made it the first professional sports league to track and quantify every game.

“Hockey is next. The sport is ripe and ready for analysis,” Brian Kopp, a senior vice president at STATS LLC told the The Globe and Mail.

It’s worth noting that although the NHL is just now coming around to the idea of adding data analytics to its toolkit for its teams, some teams, including the Chicago Blackhawks, have been swimming in the data for a while.

The Washington Post recently reported on how the Blackhawks’ belief in data drove the team to work on maintaining puck possession as much as possible.

“Having the puck generates more offensive zone time, which creates more scoring chances, which gives more opportunities to score goals,” the article notes. “Over the long term it is one of the best indicators of how a team will perform over the remainder of its schedule, regardless of the point in the schedule you choose to start from.”

In the past four years the team has won the Stanley Cup twice, and it’s considered the favorite to win this year among Vegas bookies, too, according to the Post story.

With results like that, it’s no wonder it’s proving hard for other teams in the NHL to go on ignoring the data.

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