The NHL brought its third annual Technology Showcase event to Seattle this week, a stone’s throw from the global headquarters of Amazon. It was fitting, given the growing connections between the tech giant and pro hockey.
The league took over a private lounge Thursday evening at Climate Pledge Arena for the event, which featured a bevy of technology partners helping the NHL develop new statistics, increase fan engagement, and much more.
I checked out the action at Climate Pledge — named after Amazon’s carbon neutral initiative — and ran into Amazon Web Services chief Adam Selipsky.
“AWS has a great partnership with the NHL,” Selipsky told GeekWire. “We’ve been at it for a few years together and we really look forward to continue to expand it over time and most importantly to bring cutting edge experiences to fans that they’ve never been able to access before.”
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy did not appear to be in attendance — somewhat surprising given that Jassy is a part-owner of the Seattle Kraken, which beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Thursday.
Amazon has moved deeper into the sports world over the past several years. The company’s most high-profile partnership is with the NFL and its exclusive deal to stream Thursday Night Football games.
At the NHL showcase, AWS demoed a live cloud-based production of the game — a first for the NHL, and a new alternative to the traditional truck-based environment of live sports production. The demo was done with a remote team — graphics in Seattle; a technical director in Wisconsin; and replay operators in Toronto and Vancouver.
“There are a lot of benefits to producing a live game in the cloud — operational efficiencies, cost efficiencies,” said Dave Lehanski, NHL executive vice president of business development and innovation.
NHL technology leaders showed off a new “Opportunity Analysis” feature from AWS that analyzes real-time and historical data to assess the difficulty of a shot at the moment of release. The stat is expected to appear in live broadcasts later this month.
The NHL is also partnering with AWS for a product called Edge IQ that uses machine learning to predict the winner of a face-off.
Jassy, who previously led AWS before taking the CEO reins from Jeff Bezos in 2021, is “very involved” with the NHL partnership, according to Lehanski.
“It’s great for us,” he said.
Amazon is also working with racing league Formula 1 and Germany’s top soccer league Bundesliga, which is debuting new statistics this weekend from AWS.
Amazon is one of several tech giants teaming up with pro sports leagues and teams.
- Google recently beat out Amazon and Apple to secure a multi-year deal for NFL Sunday Ticket, giving the company exclusive rights to stream most NFL games via its growing YouTube TV platform starting with the 2023 season.
- Microsoft has had a longstanding deal with the NFL that includes the use of its Surface tablets by players and coaches on the sidelines during games, as well as other marketing agreements. It also inked a recent cloud deal with the NBA.
- Apple sponsored this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.
- Google Pixel was the presenting sponsor of the NBA playoffs last year.
- Amazon is installing its cashierless checkout technology in stadiums and arenas across the country, including Climate Pledge.
The sports deals give tech companies a way to market their brands in front of a giant and diverse audience, and also demonstrate case studies that could attract other enterprise customers.
The leagues and teams also know that to grow their fanbase and cater to evolving consumer demand, technology is playing a bigger and bigger role.
The NHL’s tech showcase demonstrated this — but the league is also adopting with caution.
“Technology keeps evolving. We’ve tried to make sure we’re on top of the evolution and not only stay current but be on the cutting edge,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking to reporters in Seattle before Thursday’s game. “We do that by using the technology around the game, not changing the game for the technology. And that’s been our mantra.”
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the other technology partners demoing at the event Thursday.
- SAP helped the league build an on-bench coaching app that provides coaches with real-time data, similar to Microsoft’s Surface tablets in the NFL. The latest version of SAP’s app generates a video playlist for every location-based statistic and new camera angles. SAP also powers NHL’s venue metrics platform that can analyze energy usage.
- Extreme Networks monitors network activity and connectivity in NHL arenas, including insights on usage during key plays.
- MLSE Digital Labs brought a physical tabletop overlaid with data from NHL EDGE, the league’s puck and player tracking technology. The plan is to bring the experience into NHL’s official app.
- Beyond Sports‘ virtualization technology is being used by the NHL to create alternate live broadcasts, such as the NHL Big City Greens Classic produced last month that featured animated characters mimicking players in a real game.
- Play Anywhere is working with the NHL to build apps that let fans engage with live game broadcasts, including free-to-play games.
- SMT helps provide player overlays, statistics, and other graphics for traditional media broadcasts.