NEW YORK -- NHL coaches will soon have access to more than 60 different real-time individual and team statistics on iPads positioned on the bench during games through an app developed by the League, SAP and Apple.
The SAP/NHL Coaching Insights App for iPad will serve as a complement to the three iPads already on the bench that provide coaches with real-time video. The app is expected to debut League-wide after the All-Star break. A set rollout date has not been finalized yet.
"There's a lot of information out there, but coaches are still writing it down on pieces of paper," NHL senior vice president, business development and innovation David Lehanski said. "They're not using it the way that they could use it because there really hasn't been a platform that will allow them to do it easily and efficiently and to quickly customize it to see what they want to see. We're also doing it because we're setting a foundation so that when puck and player tracking is fully live, now we've got the video, the stats and analytics app, and we can start pouring in the data to mesh with it so we have a true real time system."
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The app is designed for coaches only. There will be one iPad Pro on the bench at every game and one for every video coach in the NHL. The iPad Pros, which will put the real-time information at coaches' fingertips thanks to its easy-to-use multi-touch interface and portability, will be managed and stored by the League, but each team will have its own account and the NHL will not have access to the customization of the stats by each team.
The SAP technology, specifically SAP Cloud Platform with SAP HANA, plays an integral role as the processing power that translates all in-game hockey data from the arena and the NHL's system to the app.
"We're so excited to embark on the next phase of our partnership with the NHL, focused on bringing transformative technology to NHL coaches that will help them achieve optimal team performance in real-time throughout the game," SAP VP of global sponsorships Dan Fleetwood said. "Today's announcement builds on our long-standing partnership with the League and the ways that we continue to improve the hockey experience for fans, coaches and players through the power of SAP technology."
The video coaches will be given administrative rights of the team account.
"It's all about the coaches, and it's really the assistant coaches who are giving information to the head coach," NHL director of digital business development Chris Foster said. "Specifically, it's the coaches on the headset talking to the video room who are then giving the information to the head coach."
Foster said the NHL, in consultation with video coaches from various teams through workshops last season and at the 2018 NHL Draft, built the app to have player usage (time on ice) and face-offs at the forefront because that information would be most valuable to coaches during games.
On the app, face-offs are broken down by success rate per zone and side of the ice, against specific players and a color-coded visual graphic for how a player has done in his past five face-offs.
For time on ice, there is a customizable threshold coaches can input for each player, essentially the amount of minutes he is expected to play in that particular game. If a player goes over the expected minutes, the graphic turns red so coaches can quickly see that information.
"Since it's happening on the bench and really you have seconds to look down, you need some clear visual queues, color-coded queues to give you insights without having to read the actual text, that you can just in a glance look at," Foster said.
The app is customizable for coaches to give priority to the team and player stats they feel they need most.
A deeper dive into the app will give the coaches access to an array of team and player statistics, including shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts, chances for and against, and success rate on shootouts with forehanded shots and backhanded shots, a potentially useful tool for goalies too.
"With every team stat on the top there is a companion data visualization to track where the event happened," Foster said. "This is the first version that we want to give to the coaches, get the feedback, knowing that in later versions, this is where player and puck tracking will go. We wanted to build an architecture that is future proof."
Foster said the NHL will hold online training courses and provide a manual handbook to coaches so they can learn how to most effectively use the app during games.
He added providing the app and all the information on it to the teams helps to maintain competitive balance.
"Our job as a League is to get them the data and it's their job to figure out what to do with it, but the tools have to be there to allow them to do what they want to do with it," Lehanski said. "There is the debate over gut instinct versus data and is the League trying to push everyone toward data, which is not the case at all.
"Where the world is today, these guys now, their job is not even close to what it was 10 years ago. There is so much more they're responsible for managing and knowing. We want to take that burden away and make it easy as possible so they have it all at their fingerprints. We want to give them all the data they have and all the insight they can have so they can make their decisions, even with their gut, as efficiently as possible."