Ice Hockey has advanced a lot since the 1800s, where players would use tree branches and frozen dung pucks to slide along the ice of a frozen lake. Boots were strapped on with leather, and deer hide was stuffed with hair as protective pads. Nowadays, the idea seems almost hilarious. We’re much more used to composite sticks, state of the art protective clothing, and even motion-tracked pucks.
Remember Wooden Hockey Stick Heads?
Instead of frozen lakes, even in hot states, we play in climate-controlled rinks. While the leap from the 1800s to today seems almost unfathomable, the leaps that technology is currently making are taking us to a place that hockey has never seen before.
Clothing and Equipment
One of the fields where technology caught on the quickest was in apparel and equipment. Players now are bigger, stronger, and more massive than ever, but their gear, although more durable, is much lighter. Carbon composites are commonplace for sticks, as they’re incredibly strong, yet lightweight and flexible. This means that they can exert more energy into shots than wood ever could, and its superior strength under pressure means it’s far less likely to splinter.
Moreover, the protective elements have also been modified massively to decrease weight where possible. Bauer Hockey’s protective gear is blazing the trail in this department. They use 3D scanning technology to precisely map the dimensions of the player’s body. Once the 3D image is generated, Bauer can build elbow, shin, and shoulder pads according to a player’s precise measurements.
High spec foam is used to reinforce critical areas of the body, including delicate areas of the back and neck, which need to be protected from trauma. This means that the old-school foam is no longer necessary in the remaining protective pads, creating a light protective layer, which allows for greater freedom of movement.
As it stands, the weight to performance ratio of carbon composites is pretty much unbeatable, so it looks like this advancement is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Wearable technology is allowing hockey players to reduce their kit weight to a mere fraction of what it was twenty years ago, in turn enabling them to take their performance to heights that weren’t possible before.
Advancements in tracking technology could lead to some of the new greatest games in history. The most widely used tracking technology comes into its own in-game. Cameras are not so high tech, but using them to influence decision was hotly disputed before it was allowed. Referee cams are only a relatively recent addition to the game but have proved invaluable in helping difficult decisions and in allowing fans a closer look at the heart of the game.
Never before have we been able to scrutinize gameplay so closely, meaning that for the eagle-eyed fan, it’s almost like getting free sports betting tips. Watching individuals and teams play in such detail, can allow us to see who is at the top of their game.
A more advanced tracking technology comes in the form of chips which are inserted into the back of the hockey jerseys and also into the puck. This enables us to view statistics such as the speed with which the puck travels, the force with which it is hit, top speeds of players, distances travelled, shot directions, and team possession statistics.
For the casual fan, a lot of this technology won’t be essential, though it can be useful for settling disputes on perhaps who is the team’s best passer or most on target shooter. For coaches, however, this information is invaluable. Being able to collect empirical data on how the team is performing can help to identify areas of weakness. Patterns can be observed that lead either to success or failure. Studying games in this way can become something of a science, but it is a fantastic way of getting the upper hand.
This data can help with training regimes, spotting which players need to focus more on speed, strength, and dexterity. Looking at performance numerically can even help decide things as crucial as which player is best suited to which position.