ST. LOUIS — Puck and player tracking is coming to the NHL.
The league’s new system, which promises to bring a wealth of data to your TVs, second screens, and favorite stat-stuffed websites, will be implemented this postseason and be at 31 arenas next season, commissioner Gary Bettman said during his address to reporters Friday night before the NHL All-Star Skills Competition here.
“It’ll be, as a fan and a viewer, what you want it to be,” he said. “You’ll be able to watch the game as you’ve always watched it traditionally if that’s what you want. There’ll be broadcast enhancements that the broadcasters can use either on the primary screen or on secondary screens.”
The league’s long-anticipated rollout was delayed last summer after changing its technology partner (from Jogmo World Corp. to SMT). The league has tested the technology — 14-16 antennae in the arena rafters, four cameras, a sensor embedded in both the players’ shoulder pads and pucks — at the last three All-Star Weekends, including this one.
Bettman touted the “data points” — 200 per second for players, 2,000 per second for the puck — but specifics remain in short supply.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the system will be active for certain games the remainder of this regular season. Clubs have been notified that’s coming, but the league doesn’t yet know which games will serve as guinea pigs . . . or whether the clubs will know they’re using a biscuit with a chip in it.
“I would call it evolutionary,” Daly said. “I think what we end up with in the playoffs will look a little different than what we have next season.”
The Panthers will host the 2021 All-Star Game, Bettman confirmed, adding that the event will have “a distinct international flavor.”
No details yet, but the format could play off the heated USA-Canada rivalry. That would be more likely, Daly added, than the previous NHL showcases that pitted Team North America vs. the World.
While Bettman joked about Washington great Alex Ovechkin skipping the All-Star Game — “I miss him,” he said — Daly said there’s “some level of concern” about players favoring rest instead of the midseason showcase, before saying “concern” might be too strong a word.
“We’re going to sit down with the players and see if we can raise the level of urgency,” said Daly, noting that those discussions won’t come until the summer.
Asked about the NHL’s participation in the 2022 Olympics, Bettman didn’t rule it out.
“Not to give people false hope,” he added. “I know the Players’ Association still maintains a strong preference for going. I know the IIHF still is focused on engaging with us and wants to have a meeting at some point in the not-too-distant future. From our standpoint, we believe that going to five Olympics and not going to Pyeongchang [in 2018] tells us that going is extraordinarily disruptive.
“I know it maintains itself as a priority for the Players’ Association, but having said that, we were very comfortable with not going to [South] Korea.”
Flinging pucks from a platform in the lower bowl, and wearing a backward blue and yellow All-Star hat, David Pastrnak finished ninth in the new Shooting Stars event at All-Star Weekend Friday night.
“One more day,” he said. “Then it’s back to the Black and Gold.”
It was Pastrnak’s first time at the Enterprise Center since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, June 9. He was booed almost as loud Friday as he was then, though the loudest jeers were reserved for loathed Chicago star Patrick Kane, who won the event.
Pastrnak, 30 feet above the ice with the other target shooters, finished with 10 points after he sent seven yellow pucks at wooden boxes and circles dotting the ice, each worth between 1 and 10 points. Pastrnak hit the largest target, a giant arch at center ice, 145 feet away. But he was not awarded the 10 points because his shot did not hit the net.
“Can’t go against the referees,” a grinning Pastrnak said. “It was their decision. I’m pretty sure this one would count in Boston though.”
It was a strange but welcome concept from the NHL, which continues to try to garner interest in its midseason showcase.
Settling on home ice
Bettman said the league hasn’t decided whether the Islanders, who entered the All-Star break third in the Metropolitan Division, would play their playoff games at Nassau Coliseum, or if they will play there next season. The 48-year-old building, Bettman said, is not “major league,” and could pose problems if the Isles were to make the Cup Final. Earlier this month, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran asked the NHL to move all Isles games to Nassau until they open their Belmont Park arena in 2021. The team currently splits its games between Nassau and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center . . . Daly said an outside law firm is “moving quickly” to settle the investigation into allegations made by former NHL forward Akim Aliu, who said he was the target of several racial incidents.
Zdeno Chara’s hardest shot record stands for another year. Montreal’s Shea Weber reached 106.5 miles per hour, but Chara’s 108.8 from 2012 remains unmatched.