As the NHL’s EVP of Business Development and Innovation for the past 18 years, Dave Lehanski has been navigating the league through a complete technological change. Back when he first started, the league had been operating much like they had been throughout the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. They had their own IP and content, they’d rely on third parties to license it out, and focus most of their resources on drawing fans into live games. But that was before the rise of social media, and before everyone had a smartphone in their pocket. In the decades that followed, Dave and his team have been at the helm of incorporating some of the most advanced sports technologies available in order to better the fan experience and make the game as good as possible for the players, coaches, and officials.
“If you’re not willing to invest, pilot, to test, and tinker without this sort of impatient need to see immediate results and to have the answer out of the gate, you’ll never be able to fully exploit all the technology that’s sitting in front of us today.”
A huge part of the technological evolution has been the league’s unique puck and player tracking system. In every arena, a system of 14 to 16 infrared cameras track sensors that are located in the pucks and on the players’ jerseys in order to generate data for teams, media, and fans. Since implementation, it’s allowed the NHL to provide real-time data on things like ice time, possession time, shot location, and what chance a player has at winning a face-off.
Beyond data and analytics, Dave said he’s spending a lot of time thinking about how he can incorporate the NHL into the metaverse. Specifically, he mentions Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite, noting the sheer amount of players that are drawn to those games and how that could be an intriguing collaboration. At the end of the day, it’s Dave’s job to understand what fans want and to deliver that to them—and nothing’s off the table. Whether that’s AR, VR, minting their own NFTs, or providing in-arena highlights and replays, there’s sure to be a lot of new, exciting innovations on tap from the NHL. Dave promises that there’s a few surprises in store during the months ahead, so if you haven’t tuned in yet this season, be sure to check out a game and see first-hand how the NHL is pioneering the way that advanced technology can enhance the live and home viewing experience.