The National Hockey League has pushed pause on its puck tracking project.
From the NHL:
The National Hockey League announced today that, effective with tonight’s games, the League will be using game pucks without the imbedded tracking technology. The decision was made after concerns were raised about the puck’s performance during the first few days of the 2020-21 season. A review by the League determined that the first supply of 2020-21 pucks did not receive the same precise finishing treatments during the off-season manufacturing process as were used during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It is expected that a new supply of the League’s “tracking pucks” will be available soon and, after undergoing appropriate quality control testing, will be back in use for all games. In the interim, the League will use the official game pucks from the 2019-20 season and will continue to utilize player tracking technology for all games.
Puck tracking was launched for the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and rolled out to all arenas prior to the start of the 2020-21 season.
“The puck [will generate] 2,000 data points a second,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, prior to the previous postseason. “In terms of getting inside the game, telling stories, as a fan delving in to get what you’re interested in, you’re going to be able to do more things than ever before and even imaginable.”
While the NHL has lauded the new technology as a goldmine for additional data, there’s been little buzz about applying the new gear to improve the game on the ice. Think of the possibilities:
Puck tracking could tell us exactly when – or if – the puck has crossed the goal line. No more poring over various video angles and no problems if it’s covered by a glove or pad. It could also be synced to the clock, so no more ambiguity as to the precise moment the puck cleared the goal line.
Puck tracking could tell us the precise height of a deflected puck. With deflections required to be at or below crossbar-height on a goal, it’s a simple calculation to see the vertical height where the change in direction took place. No more parallax angle challenges or estimates of the height of the deflection based on whatever replay angles may be available.
Puck tracking could tell us if a puck out of play deflected off the glass. If we’re going to keep that rule, let’s use some of this data to immediately determine if it went straight out or tipped off the glass as it left the playing surface.
Puck tracking could also tell us the exact millisecond the puck cleared the blue line on a potential offside. Sync that with the cameras and you have an immediate frame of reference to see if the play was onside. The positional data gives the league the time, they just need to check the position of the players’ skates.
Let’s hope whenever puck tracking returns — and, rest assured, it soon will — we can actually use it to improve the game on the ice.