How technology plays a role in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoff experience.
NHL.com/ It's June, the weather is getting warmer. But yet around the world hockey is in the news. Yep, ice hockey. In case you are not a sports fanatic or simply think hockey is just a violent sport you might not be aware that it is Stanley Cup Finals time. In fact, game 1 is tonight. The stage is set in Tampa, Florida where the Tampa Bay Lightning will host the Chicago Blackhawks. A newer NHL franchise, The Lightning, founded in 1992 and an Original Six Team, The Blackhawks founded in 1926. It's been a long road to get to the finals, with both teams just coming off a series that needed the full 7 games to finish the series. But make no mistake, this will be an exciting series with two quick teams.
The matchup of a newer team versus an NHL original will be steeped in tradition. Handshakes and the historic Lord Stanley's Cup handled with care by a gentleman in white gloves, Philip Pritchard, also known as "The Cup Keeper". While time-honored traditions and plenty of superstitions (playoff beards) abound in a sport that is as superstitious as they come, there are some new things that give experiencing the Stanley Cup Finals a new twist. And, many of these things have been brought about by technology. Let's take a look, shall we?
1. Video review. The NHL has been using video review since 1991. And currently, the are experimenting with adding more cameras for more views from better angles. This season, the NHL is experimenting with in-post cameras. If you are a hockey fan you know that it can sometimes take minutes to determine if a goal is a good goal. Did it cross the line? If so, before or after the whistle? Was it kicked in? Or as we saw in this year's playoffs, head-butted in?
2. Watch anywhere. The NHL offers live streaming, as do cable and satellite providers for viewers to tune in and watch from anywhere. If you have an internet connection you can log in and watch the game in real time. We have been known to sit with an iPad watching Blackhawks games while at our son's baseball games. Last season even the kids on the bench were sneaking over behind Dave to catch a glimpse of the game or inquire about the score.
3. GoPro on the ice. Whether you are a young player trying to idolize your favorite player or just a fan memorized by the spectacle magical players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews or Sidney Crosby perform on the ice you can sit for hours and watch this series of videos produced by GoPro. That is if you are not prone to motion sickness.
4. Statistics. One key way in which series are predicted or hype is generated is the overabundance of available statistics. In today's modern age, fueled by technology, software and databases overflowing with statistics dating back in some instances to the first season in 1917! In 2015 it is common for sport's writers and NHL teams to quote Elias Sports Bureau. Take for example during the recent conference finals, Elias told us that the two series both requiring a game 7 was the first time that has occurred since 2000! These in-depth statistics available at clicks of a mouse are changing the way the series winners are predicted. This in turn is more than likely having a great effect on how betting folks are wagering their odds in Vegas! These statistics are tracking ice time records (looking at you Duncan Keith), scoring probability, save percentages, as well as where a current player ranks amongst the NHL greats of years past. It's fun to watch a game and then say Marian Hossa scores and hear the announcer say that when Hossa scores in a playoff game, the Blackhawks are 15-0 (and that number has now gone up after the Ducks series)! Or sitting on the edge of your seat to see if the statistic that the team that scored the first goal in the game goes on to win the game (the Blackhawks did in games 6 & 7).
5. Instant replay and scouting reports. By use of iPads or tablets teams and coaches can get up to the minute statistics, replays and scouting reports to better anticipate their opponents. Today coaches and players can see the odds of a player who will deke to the left or the right. What are the odds of a player taking that last second shot and his odds of making it in? Today in sports anything a coach or player wants to know about their opponents playing habits can be seen via video clip or in online statistics to help form a game plan.
6. Social media. The NHL embraces social media on all levels. Fans, teams and sports reporters are all engaging each other during the game with live tweets and long after the game has ended. The Chicago Blackhawks engage fans inside the United Center and fans at home. They have friendly conversations and exchange banter with opposing teams via their highly popular Twitter account. This series be sure to watch for exchanges with the official Twitter account for the Lightning! And don't forget the Twitter account for the NHL.
Now, while none of the the above mentioned is specific to only hockey or the NHL it is fun to incorporate them into the most grueling playoffs and hardest trophy to win. With four best of seven series to play, a NHL team needs to achieve 16 wins to capture the cup. With hockey being as physically and mentally grueling a sport as they come, those 16 games do not come easy or to a weak team. The Stanley Cup winner is not only the most skilled team, they are mentally focused and tough with grit and determination. So, as the Finals begin tonight, take a listen to the sports anchors as they will surely be discussing current game statistics and comparing how they match up to seasons past. You just might hear something that is utterly inspiring or unbelievable! If there is a goal in question, watch the replays from all angles and see the extremes the powers that be go thru to determine a good goal. And most of all, Let's Go Hawks!