NHL Goes All-In With SMT on Its Player/Puck-Tracking System

Tracking will be mixed into an upgrade version of the league's HITS official scoring system, which is overseen by SMT

It’s been a long and winding road for the NHL as it looks to revolutionize the sport of hockey with the building of its own player- and puck-tracking technology. On Thursday, the league took a significant step forward on that path with a familiar friend.

The NHL announced it is expanding its partnership with SportsMEDIA Technology (SMT) that will call upon the tech vendor to oversee the full development and implementation of player- and puck- tracking, while also handling data integration, distribution, and virtual-graphics generation.

The NHL has named SMT as the new technology overseer of its player- and puck-tracking system. The league expects to have league-wide deployment of the system in all of its arenas by the start of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The news comes a little over a month after the league hit a bump in the road when it broke off its partnership with its previous technology partner on the project Jogmo World Corp., which was battling financial issues. NHL reps say that that issue hasn’t derailed any of the league’s plans to have a full deployment of player- and puck-tracking in every arena by the start of this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“Fan engagement and technological innovation are at the forefront of everything we do. Using technology to depict exactly how fast, how skilled our game and our players are, enhances the connectivity our fans have with hockey,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in an official release. “We are thrilled to expand our partnership with SMT, a leader in the sports technology industry and established partner of the NHL. Through our partnership we look forward to continuing to innovate our scoring and puck- and player-tracking systems, as well as how we bring to life limitless data points, which will take fans more inside the game than ever before.”

SMT has been a trusted partner of the NHL’s for two decades, most notably designing and operating the league’s HITS (Hockey Information and Tracking System) official scoring system, which serves as the backbone for all of the NHL’s official statistics. SMT also provides many of the high-end graphics packages used by the league’s primary broadcasters, including NBC in the United States. They also have plenty of experience with the NHL’s player- and puck-tracking project as they provided broadcast graphics and data overlays that were used during an introductory trial run of the system for the public at last season’s All-Star Game in San Jose.

In addition to HITS, SMT will further develop its OASIS platform, which executes the important work done to ingest, aggregate, and distribute data from all games and than distribute that data to NHL apps, partner stakeholders, and other end consumers. That’s expected to include gambling partners in the near future.

“SMT is proud to extend our longstanding partnership with the NHL and to support NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s vision for harnessing the power of live player- and puck-tracking,” SMT CEO and Founder Gerard J. Hall added in today’s official release. “With the installation of SMT’s comprehensive OASIS platform in every NHL arena, broadcasters, fans, and other hockey stakeholders will experience a firehose of data seamlessly integrated into easy-to-consume visualizations that showcase never-before-seen insights, predictions, and content.”

Once SMT has completed the work of installing player- and puck-tracking in all arenas, the NHL plans to gather the data for every single game beginning at the start of the 2020-21 season — the league estimates that they will generate nearly one million 3D coordinates/data points over the course of a single regulation game — and utilize it for new metrics and stats to power content on NHL platforms, apps, broadcasts, and other fan experiences.

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