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Player, puck tracking data will enhance fan experience, Daly says

Deputy commissioner discusses World Cup, CBA, Olympics, women's game with NHL.com

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- The NHL and NHL Players' Association are scheduled to re-engage in negotiations aimed toward an extension of the current Collective Bargaining Agreemen in Toronto on Tuesday.

The League and the Players' Association also met last week with the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation regarding the potential for NHL player participation in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Most of the following questions asked to and answered by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly fall under the umbrella of the collective bargaining agreement, including some that have to do with relationships the NHL and NHLPA have with the IOC and IIHF. 

Daly sat down with NHL.com for an extended Q&A on Thursday, prior to being honored by Ice Hockey In Harlem for his and the League's long-standing support of the program:

 

We heard from Commissioner Gary Bettman at 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend that player and puck tracking is coming for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, all 16 arenas this season, all 31 next season. How will this enhance the broadcast, become an enhancement for the fans, and what are the steps being taken now to make sure it's implemented the right way so it's not a deterrent to the viewing experience?

"That's what part of this year's process is about, the testing that we're going to be doing over the balance of the regular season, the repeated testing, I suppose, we're going to be doing in the playoffs, and utilizing some of that information. We believe the enhanced stats will enhance the fan experience at least for a segment of our population. We understand it can be busy and some segments of our fan population may not be interested in advanced stats so we have to roll it out, or our distributors have to roll it out, in ways that don't impinge on the viewing experience, but make it available to people who want to consume it as an enhancement to the viewing experience.

"That's going to be a work in progress, it's going to be an evolution. Even the stats and the data we take out of the game will probably evolve over time. The stats we think are most interesting today may change a year from now, two years from now once we see how the technology evolves. But I think we're generally very excited about it. I think our partners are excited about it. Most importantly, I think our fans are excited about it. We're looking forward to testing it for the balance of the season and on an every-game basis during the playoffs."

Video: Bettman on the progress of puck and player tracking

 

Two questions I get the most about player and puck tracking are, No. 1, do I have to have it or is it something that I don't have to have on my screen, and No. 2, how will this impact players in contract negotiations?

"Well, I'll tell you with respect to the latter question, we do have an agreement with the Players' Association with respect to how we utilize player and puck tracking. It is not to be utilized in contract negotiations. I don't think it would have a huge impact in contract negotiations in any event, but to the extent that's a concern of the players we need to solve for, we feel like we've solved for it. It shouldn't have any impact with respect to how the players negotiate and go about negotiating their contracts. 

"With respect to the usage issue, I think our national broadcasters in particular are very sensitive to the issue of not force-feeding this and being very sensitive to what the viewer response is. I think you'll see the way this will be utilized in the short term will be on a very voluntary interactive basis as opposed to kind of a forced technology at this point." 

 

How do you regulate if these statistics are used in contract negotiations or not?

"Look, you can't erase a person's mind, but having said that, it's understood you can't make arguments or rely on the stats to take contractual positions."

 

There have been dates talked about, rumors about when the next World Cup of Hockey could be. Is there any clarity on the future of the World Cup right now?

"No, nothing I can offer tonight. In a lot of respects it continues to be part of our ongoing discussions with the Players' Association, which we hope to actually resume next week, so that's good news, hopefully. International calendar, the future of the World Cup and the schedule for the World Cup, that's all part of that discussion to be wrapped into those discussions. If we're fortunate enough to reach common ground on a contract extension, which certainly is our hope, then the World Cup will certainly be part of that." 

 

Do you have a different feeling about the upcoming CBA negotiations than you did eight years ago? Is there more optimism? Is there a realistic chance for an amicable agreement?

"Well, I hope so. I mean, we engaged in pretty intensive discussions over the course of this past summer. I can't tell you exactly what played into the players decision not to re-open or exercise their right to re-open [the CBA]. I would hope the constructive dialogue we had at the time, including some of the changes we were talking about making that would be part of any CBA extension, played a role in the fact the CBA wasn't re-opened. I can't say that for sure. I think on our side they did. I think it was a real constructive time period. I thought we made a lot of progress, a lot of headway. And our goal, and hopefully now that we're going to re-engage, is to continue that progress."

 

What about the 2022 Beijing Olympics? What is the NHL view of a deadline for when you need to know or inform the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and IIHF [International Ice Hockey Federation], and is there anything the IOC or the IIHF can do now to change minds within the League or the owners?

"It's not just the IOC. Obviously, a big piece of it is the IOC and one of the reasons certainly that we decided against participation two years ago was the position of the IOC. So that's going to be part of the mix. But I think beyond that, and I think the Commissioner has been crystal clear on this point, which is if they had their druthers, our owners would rather not participate in the Olympics. We just don't see enough material benefit to the League or its business to shut down our sport at a key time in the season to risk injury to the players who affect or potentially affect the competitive integrity of our season. 

"All those are downsides that have ultimately convinced our owners that in a vacuum, if they had to decide, they would choose not to go to the Olympics. Having said that, we also recognize the importance of the matter to our Players' Association. 

"So I think the only way, even if the IOC does everything we ask for, Olympic participation in 2022 is going to happen is if it really is part of a bigger negotiation with the Players' Association where we can come back to the Board [of Governors] and say, 'We're recommending going to the Olympics and these are the reasons why' part of it. Obviously, it's tied to kind of our labor situation [and] labor peace for an extended period of time."

 

But none of that happens if the IOC doesn't do its part, right?

"I think that's fair. I think this is multifactorial. But no discussion or negotiation of this type is ever simple."

 

What about China and where the League stands now on the China Games? They obviously didn't happen this season, and from everything I hear there is a desire to go back next season, but now you have the Coronavirus outbreak so you can't really make an announcement that you're going to go to China now.

"Well, that's true. Luckily, we have time. I think it's too early to say how the Coronavirus outbreak is going to play out long term. Obviously it's a concern in the present, but we have time. We still have every intention of continuing to grow the sport of ice hockey in China first and foremost at the grassroots level, but also by bringing the best teams and best players in the world to China on some basis. That still is our plan."

Video: Daly on growth in China, Europe via the Global Series

 

Let's move on to the All-Star Game. We have heard the commissioner say next year's game in Sunrise, Florida, could have an international flavor. What does that mean?

"One of the considerations we had given some thought to with the Players' Association was maybe creating a little mini-World Cup tournament during the All-Star break. We ultimately decided against that for a variety of reasons. 

"Having said that, we both recognize if we're going to perpetuate the World Cup on a long-term basis, on a regular basis, we should emphasize to the fans the true international nature of our player base and where all the great players come from, and what better platform to do that than in the All-Star Game? We're still working on what that looks like and how to do that, but we're trying to do it much more like a traditional type All-Star break format than in a mini-tournament."

 

Could the break then be longer?

"It could be. It wouldn't be materially longer. I would say our discussions in that regard are too premature to even predict that it would be shorter or longer."

 

Knowing how much the players love and appreciate international competition, this kind of leads right into my next question about the All-Star Game, and that's how do you entice more players to go when they're selected? Maybe get them to play for their country?

"Well, certainly I think that's one element. I think our players take a great deal of pride representing their countries, representing their flags and representing the people in their countries. I think adding an international flavor certainly may increase interest in participation. I also think having the event in South Florida is good for a lot of our players who would otherwise utilize that time to try to get away to a warmer location in the middle of the season at the end of January. I'm hoping certainly for universal participation from our best players in the event next year." 

 

Did it become alarming this year the number of players who backed out of going to the All-Star Game, or after being in St. Louis and seeing the players there and how they enjoyed it, did that become less of a concern?

"In a way I think it was overblown to a certain extent, maybe overblown in part by comments that I made when I was asked the question. There weren't a whole lot of athletes who declined to participate. I think all of our players really understand the importance of representing their teams and representing the League in a collection of the greatest players in the game in the world. I think you saw that in St. Louis this year. It was a terrific group of players, very talented, superstar players. I mean the benefit for us is we probably could fill out, instead of four divisional All-Star teams, we could probably double that with the number of all-stars we actually have in the League. That's a great testament to kind of the skill in the game and how good the game is right now."

 

The women's players represented themselves so well at during All-Star Weekend and seemed to be received so well. What is the future now of having women's hockey players in NHL events? Can it be beyond All-Star?

"Yeah, I think there is potential for more involvement. I haven't really thought about outside the all-star event context, but we've utilized other platforms to promote women's hockey and I certainly wouldn't rule that out as a possibility going forward. I certainly think the last three years in particular, with women's participation in our All-Star platform, shows the incredible amount of interest there is in women's hockey and the incredible amount of support hockey fans have for women's hockey. 

"We want to be helpful to promote the women's game at the highest level, and we think we have been helpful in connection with the last couple of years with the all-star platform. I would anticipate we will find an increasing number of ways to promote the women's game."

 

What about the prospect of the NHL potentially one day being involved in a women's league similar to the NBA with the WNBA? Is that too far down the road to look at now?

"Well, there is a professional women's league and our position has been very clear on that. As long as there are opportunities for women to play at the highest level it's not an area we intend to venture into. We just want to be supportive of women's hockey and that's kind of where we are now. I don't want to deal with hypotheticals as to what the world might look like in the future."

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