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NHL takes big stride on data and analytics with AWS deal

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St. Louis Blues' Jake Walman, left, chases after a loose puck along with teammate Justin Faulk (72) and Arizona Coyotes' John Hayden, right, during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The NHL is taking another step forward in data, analytics, and puck and player tracking.

The league has reached an agreement with Amazon Web Services to put all its video and data on the cloud. The hope is to provide everyone from coaches, executives and players to fans an integrated look at the game with the aid of new camera angles, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Being able to search and sort every player's speed, shot velocity and more isn't here yet, but this is a starting point.

"Before we can get to building, let’s just say, like a new augmented-reality app that fans can use in arena to pull up real-time stats and puck and player tracking feedback while they’re sitting and watching the game, there’s a lot of infrastructure that needs to be in place," said Dave Lehanski, NHL executive VP of business development and innovation. “There’s a tremendous amount that we’ll be able to do."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy unveiled the deal on NBC Sports Network late Wednesday. Bettman said the “state-of-the-art technology and services will provide us with capabilities to deliver analytics and insights that highlight the speed and skill of our game.”

The NFL, Formula One, Bundesliga soccer and Six Nations rugby already use Amazon Web Services, along with individual teams. Beyond the NFL's “NextGen Stats,” the Seattle Seahawks have used it study practice habits.

“There’s potentially a lot of ability for coaching staffs to actually help their teams get better by just learning where players may be efficient, where there are some opportunities to coordinate better,” AWS VP of sales and marketing Matt Garman said.

Later this season, fans looking up stats on the NHL's website will get corresponding video clips and vice versa. The league expects to have new 4K cameras mounted to each arena's center scoreboard by at least the playoffs to add different angles.

For all the data puck and player tracking can provide, that video will allow Amazon's AI to piece together even more about goaltending, faceoffs, stick positioning and possibly pave the way for new stats and analytics.

“It’s just the start of where this is going,” Lehanski said. “It kind of melts your mind with the number of opportunities that are sitting in front of us.”

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