NHL to unveil player-tracking for All-Star Game

The NHL will use Sportvision to track real-time player movement and stats at the 2015 All-Star Game. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

The NHL is preparing to take a glimpse into the future by using player-tracking technology at the upcoming all-star game.

Officials from the league and NHL Players’ Association will be in Columbus for testing early next week, according to two sources, with the goal of employing the Sportvision system during the Jan. 24 skills competition and Jan. 25 all-star game at Nationwide Arena.

That would see computer chips placed in the sweaters of each player, plus the puck, to chart what is happening on the ice. As a result, everything from how fast and far a player skates to how hard he shoots and positions himself would be measured in real time.

A previous test was conducted in late October at SAP Center in San Jose, where junior players and former Sharks played a game while outfitted with Sportvision, and was considered a success.

The NHL is still hoping to introduce the chip technology league-wide next season, although it has yet to receive approval from the NHLPA to do so. It would replace the real-time stats that are currently compiled by hand at every game — an outdated system that produces inconsistencies from building to building.

Sportvision would essentially standardize how stats are measured across the league while also providing a voluminous amount of data that is not currently available.

“We believe it can bring a lot,” NHL chief operating officer John Collins told La Presse in September. “Not only for training and coaching applications, but for the fans. It allows us to understand the game better.

“Also, it should make it easier for fans who never played hockey to understand why these guys are so talented, and what it takes to play the game.”

While the all-star weekend might not be the best gauge of individual player performance — the effort level tends to be somewhere less than 100 per cent during that event — it should still show the power of a technology that many believe will revolutionize the sport.

The Sportvision system traces its roots to the NHL’s much-maligned glowing puck from the 1990’s, but has since been used to enhance football, golf and baseball telecasts.

The remaining 36 players heading to Columbus for the all-star game will be announced next week. Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons and five Chicago Blackhawks — Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford — have already been voted in by the fans.

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