In the old days, a player’s ice time would be tracked by people in the press box watching players come on and off the ice. This team of statisticians would make notes on paper as player changes occurred.
In the early part of the 21st century, the technology existed such that chips could be sewn into a player’s jersey, and his actions on and off ice could be tracked that way.
But now, the IIHF is using incredibly sophisticated technology in Denmark that renders everything else museum quality.
Here’s how it works:
- Four high-resolution IP (internet protocol) cameras are mounted high in the rafters of Copenhagen’s Royal Arena.
- These work in tandem with four peripheral cameras lower down.
- Together these cameras are connected to the scoreclock and use a complex mathematical algorithm to identify each player by jersey number and determine when he is on the ice or not and for how long.
This, in turn, means we can learn times for puck possession—by player and by team—and passes attempted and completed. And it’s all done in virtually real time, so there is no waiting for a computer to churn out the numbers some time after the game.
These numbers serve two distinct and important purposes. For fans, they offer new insight into the game and how players do what they do. And for coaches, these results can be used to better understand how their team plays and how opponents play them.
Click here to see some of these statistics.
“For us to be able to bring ice hockey to the next level, you need the IIHF and member associations to deliver the game, the broadcasters to cover it, the fans to consume it, and technology to make more engaging. the right face of our sport,” said IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner.
“Technology will always improve and develop to whatever point it can get, but if we cannot find a way to integrate the technology properly…one that is backed by a business model that caters to fans…then the technology will never have kind of impact we want it to.”
“We all have to work together to sell the game, and without finding these synergies we will never reach the goals we are aiming for. So this player tracking is a good start for us and something we want to build on in the future.”
It’s sheer genius, and it’s here, behind the scenes and on the scoreboard, in Denmark.