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Snow excited for player-tracking technology at World Cup

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

"It’s exciting for fans because they’re going to get this entirely new narrative, this entirely new language about how to talk about players. In recent years, people have been really excited to talk about Corsi and Fenwick and things that they’re hearing and reading about. And now we could be talking about an ocean of new information."Chris Snow

CALGARY, AB -- The NHL will use player-tracking technology at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, and it has Calgary Flames director of hockey analytics Chris Snow curious.

The NHL announced what to expect with player-tracking initiatives during a news conference Wednesday in Toronto, exactly one month before the start of the tournament on Sept. 17.

“Absolute excitement, because anyone who analyzes hockey … out of curiosity and a passion or for work like we do, you’re always wanted more and better data,” Snow said. “That Holy Grail is knowing where every single player is at any given time, where the puck is at any given time, and also knowing about the speed of the players and the puck at any given time. With all that knowledge, essentially any calculation you want to attempt you could do.”

Sportvision will collect quantitative data during the tournament, which will include puck and skating speed, puck trajectory, distance traveled for players and pucks, and data points such as distance between players, and time on ice data.

On-screen pointers will identify who is on the ice during each shift, too, just one of the many in-game advances fans can expect. Data will also be made available for analysis during breaks in play, replay use, and post-game and intermission broadcasts.

“Hopefully it’s awesome. Hopefully the fan reaction is great,” Snow said.

“It’s exciting for fans because they’re going to get this entirely new narrative, this entirely new language about how to talk about players. In recent years, people have been really excited to talk about Corsi and Fenwick and things that they’re hearing and reading about.

“And now we could be talking about an ocean of new information. The conversation about the game of hockey could theoretically take a huge step forward with this, and it’s awesome for fans, awesome for everyone, and I’m just one of those people that maybe gets a little more excited than everyone else.”

Understandable.

New tracking, as Snow suggested, leads to an ocean of fresh data.

And a wealth of new information.

“It seems baseball went down this path and it seems very exciting that we’re now going down it,” Snow said. “It would open up this massive realm of possibilities to play with data.

“Even when you get a little bit more information you need to make sure it’s accurate and you think through all of the mistakes you’ve been making when you start to create metrics off it and start to assign positive and negative values to something that’s going on. There would be so much information that would come out of having this. To know where everyone is and where the puck is at every moment … your mind starts racing. It would be a great test-case to play with that data, and it would begin a long process of making good sense of it.”

The World Cup will be the starting point.

There’s no timetable established to implement such technology into an NHL regular season.

“You need the approval of all of your stakeholders … the league, the teams, the players, the players association,” Snow said. “Everyone has to believe in the benefit and the accuracy of it. The accuracy might be, within any new technology, the greatest challenge. When you put something really specific out there about performance needs to be accurate.

“These events are great opportunities to test that technology, and I think the fans are going to love to know these things about players who’ve they’ve followed.

“To have deeper discussions about that is outstanding.”

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