Coaches in the NHL are going to be given more help in analyzing their team's performance during hockey matches, with the league reportedly providing iPad Pros to teams and officials in time for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Three iPad Pros will be available to coaches on every bench, according to the Associated Press, with all 16 playoff arenas also said to have been provided with Macs for video coaching purposes. The new hardware is thought to have come from a collaboration with Apple, with the NHL and the iPad producer said to have been in late-stage talks about a partnership late last year.
Earlier in the season, coaches have been allowed to use video monitors on benches to analyze plays, and to help make decisions over whether or not to challenge officials over offside rulings and situations involving goaltender interference. A similar system was tested later in the season using iPads, streaming real-time video to teams on the bench.
Coaches have already found the use of such technology valuable, both for player feedback and for challenging decisions. This extra information will be even more useful during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, games which typically involve fewer goals, in turn making challenges a more important element of the game.
The ability to replay video has already had an effect in some games, with coaches able to highlight to officials the exact time of offside and interference instances shortly after they occurred.
David Lehanski, senior vice president of business development, global partnerships, and sponsorship sales for the NHL, advised the installation of the iPad-based system could have been completed much later, though it would still have been in time for the start of next season.
"It's equal parts of us believing this truly will help the coaches and the officials and we're going to make decisions faster and more accurately and all those things," Lehanski said. "It gives us an opportunity to get a lot of feedback in from everyone who's going to be involved from a playoff standpoint, and then make some refinements and enhancements leading into next season for a full league-wide deployment."
During the late-stage negotiations, it was believed the NHL was seeking a contract from Apple worth at least $5 million per year for using iPads, using it as a similar income stream to the league as the Microsoft sponsorship of the National Football League, which saw Microsoft Surface tablets used on the field. At the time, a source suggested the NHL-Apple deal was more a "major partnership" than a sponsorship, suggesting the NHL wanted "a consistent platform that every team can use in every rink."