NHL Suspends Player Tracking Using Microchipped Pucks
Six days before the official start of the season, the NHL announced that it’s temporarily canceling the use of microchipped pucks due to concerns about their effectiveness and performance.
The microchipped tracking was introduced in 2019 to gather real-time data from players while the game is on. The league partnered with German company Jogmo World Corporation to put microchips on player jerseys and inside game pucks. Real-time data were gathered by antennas in all 31 NHL arenas. In a way, it changed the way fans watch the NHL, how broadcasters analyze matches, how teams evaluate the performance of their players, and how gamblers place their bets online.
Players have agreed to the tracking in the same season, and the NHL has been using the technology since then. The league backed the accuracy of the radio frequency-based system and its application for 1,271 regular-season games and the playoffs in the 2019 season.
However, the NHL was forced to review its decision after several internal complaints this year. A review showing that the first supply of pucks used for tracking wasn’t finished circulated. The results from the batch used from the playoffs were the same when the player and puck tracking made its debut in the conference finals. Coaches and players also confirmed that the first 44 games that were played with the ”tracking” pucks this 2020-21 season were a little off.
The NHL will temporarily suspend the use of microchipped tracking following the complaints, but the league still expects new tracking pucks to be made available soon after testing.
”We’ll continue to work with our partners in terms of the information rollout and the uses of the information…I think that’ll continue to develop over the course of this season. But sitting here right now, I couldn’t give you exact timelines,” said Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.
In the meantime, it’s unclear exactly when puck tracking will return or when real-time statistics like players’ skating speed will be available to the public. The 31 arenas open this season were initially equipped with the necessary puck and player technology before the negative feedback circulated.