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Bettman, McDavid, Matthews talk technology at Apple Campus

NHL Commissioner, Oilers, Maple Leafs centers celebrate how innovation has transformed game

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

CUPERTINO, Calif. -- The Apple Campus, an iconic part of Silicon Valley, sits less than 10 miles from SAP Center, the home of the San Jose Sharks and the heart of 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend.

It was here in the Town Hall room where iPod was introduced. And it was here where NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and two of the League's cutting-edge stars -- Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, 22, and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, 21 -- talked about innovation, technology and sports Thursday.

A day after Apple employees lined up for hours to see the Stanley Cup at Apple Park down the road, about 300 who signed up online packed the auditorium for the panel discussion, some wearing NHL jerseys, including McDavid's and Matthews'. The event was available to Apple employees around the world on a digital stream.

On stage before a black backdrop with a white Apple logo, McDavid and Matthews sat with Commissioner Bettman and Phil Schiller, Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing. Each wore an Apple Watch.

"We love the collaboration that we have with Apple," Commissioner Bettman said. "It has helped transform the game without changing the game itself."

Think different? Think of how different the experience has become for everyone from officials to coaches to players to fans in sports because of technology. Think of Apple and the NHL, how they have evolved with the game and how the game has evolved with them.

The NHL was the first in major league sports to use video review and the first to centralize it. Officials use iPad for video review. Hockey Operations monitors each game in real time in Toronto, while the Department of Player Safety does so in New York.

"The game has never been as fast as it is," McDavid said. "You get out there, and these guys are flying around. We have two refs that are looking to call penalties, we have two linesmen, and it's not enough. You can't bring more refs. So what are you going to do? You've got to turn to technology. I think we've done a good job of it."

Coaches and players have iPad on the bench and away from the ice. McDavid uses iPad to help with defense, and not always defense against an opponent. Sometimes it's defense against coach Ken Hitchcock.

"I usually use it to prove to Hitch that it wasn't my fault," McDavid said, drawing laughter and applause for the audience.

Matthews uses iPad to study opponents' tendencies on face-offs. When coach Mike Babcock is upset and yelling at an assistant, Matthews knows what's next.

"Our assistant coach is coming up with the iPad telling us what we're doing wrong and stuff like that," Matthews said.

Soon teams will have the SAP-NHL Coaching Insights App for iPad -- developed by the NHL, Apple and SAP -- providing 35 player stats and 30 team stats in real time.

"What these guys do and the other players in the League do every night on the ice is simply amazing, and to have the ability for players and coaches to get even greater insights into what's going on in the game, to make the adjustments that make a team more competitive and successful, is great," Commissioner Bettman said.

Fans watch games, check stats and more across all devices, and they will experience the NHL Puck and Player Tracking system for the first time at the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills on Friday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS) and the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

NBC and Rogers will include elements in their main TV broadcasts. For those who want more, NBC will provide a second-screen digital stream showcasing live puck and player data on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Both NBC feeds will be piped to screens inside SAP Center, and some puck and player data will be shown on the center-hung video board.

"Everything we do starts with the game, starts with the players, and what we try to do is innovate and create around the game itself without disrupting the essential elements of the game so when can enhance the fan experience," Commissioner Bettman said. "Our collaboration with Apple and things like the Coaching Insight, which we do with SAP and their cloud platforms, are all designed to make it better for the players, make it better for the coaches and most importantly make it better for the fans. So we're grateful for all we do together."

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