Four Ways the NHL is Using Technology to Enhance the Fan Experience

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The basic elements of hockey haven’t changed much since the game gained popularity in the 1890s. Get two teams together on ice, drop the puck, and poof! We’re off to the races.

What has dramatically changed is the way fans watch and experience the sport. The NHL today is a $5 billion league with a growing worldwide audience. In fact, 22 million people in China tuned-in for the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Yes, China...Not exactly the first country that comes to mind when you think of hockey fever, but this does demonstrate the awesome global love for our sport.

With all that money and all those fans, you better believe the NHL is leaning on technology to constantly improving fan’s experiences. Here’s a look at four ways the league is doing it.

Live streaming broadens audience reach and Fan Experience

Online live streaming is creating massive exposure for all of North America’s pro leagues. The NHL is no exception, thanks to the league’s own streaming model and Hulu.

The NHL Live subscription service allows users to stream every out-of-market and national game to a range of devices, including smartphones and internet-connected game consoles. Viewers can watch two live games simultaneously in split-screen or picture-in-picture mode.

NHL Live subscribers get more than just regular-season matches. The service also delivers international contests, the All-Star Game, and Stanley Cup playoff matches. NHL Live comes in several subscription tiers starting with a $29.99 per month package.

Hulu subscribers will have the chance to watch the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs through the popular streaming service. Regular season NHL games are available online through Hulu Live TV on their normal regional sports networks.

Puck and player movement tracking

Hockey is a fast sport. At the NHL level, player’s skate speed can exceed 20 mph and 100 mph slap shots are not uncommon.

Hockey’s speed presents challenges to two groups–fans watching the game, whether in the arena or at home, and officials tasked with gathering in-game data.

The NHL is partnering with SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT) on a new puck and player tracking system, dubbed Oasis, that aims to make life easier for both groups.

The system involves embedding RFID sensors into pucks and the jerseys of all NHL players. The sensors transmit puck and player data to computers in real-time. SMT then distributes the data to the NHL, media partners, authorized betting operators, and other stakeholders.

Oasis will enhance fan experiences during live TV and streaming broadcasts, sports betting, free-to-play apps, fantasy hockey, and AR/VR platforms. The NHL will also use data accumulated from the system to create new advanced statistics for a variety of league platforms.

The league expects full implementation of SMT’s technology to be completed by the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. SMT has overseen the NHL’s real-time scoring system since 2007.

New sports betting markets deliver mobile options

It’s no surprise the NHL is one of the most popular leagues thriving at newly opened sportsbooks in the US. An increasing number of states in the nation now authorize sports betting, which is giving many American hockey fans their first opportunities to wager on games.

Mobile sports betting apps offer a convenient and fast way for tech-savvy fans to cast their picks.

These apps deliver the traditional sports betting experience directly to smartphones and tablets with an even greater variety of options. Fans can choose from dozens of different wagers available for NHL betting, including puck lines, totals, period lines or props, enhancing the fan experience.

Virtual assistant fields questions about new Seattle franchise

For decades, hockey fans in the Pacific Northwest have clamoured for an NHL team. Their pleas were finally answered in December 2018 when Seattle was awarded the league’s 32nd NHL franchise.

While the soon-to-be-named team will begin play in the 2021-22 season, fans are already anxious about tickets. To handle the onslaught of inquiries, the team management group partnered SatisFi Labs, a leader in AI-powered knowledge management.

SatisFi created a virtual assistant chatbot that answers common questions about ticketing timelines, deposit methods, and payment plans. The chatbot has helped the Seattle team efficiently sort through more than 32,000 ticket deposits and seat selections.


Fan Experience Main Photo via Markus Spiske.