With the NHL/NHLPA announcing late last week that the league will be teaming up with GoPro to provide live hockey footage with the use of GoPro’s popular line of cameras, hockey fans were undoubtedly excited to hear news of such a breakthrough. Now, this isn’t the first time that the NHL has used GoPro’s product during pre-game or in-game action, but the fact that a deal has already been inked is definitely enough to make any hockey or video enthusiast anxious to see how such an experiment goes.
After all, how could any hockey fan not want to watch a more raw and in-depth video feed of their favorite game? Providing a view from within the rink, GoPro’s partnership with the NHL could have the ability to flourish into something major, but could such a potentially beneficial opportunity for the league have its fair share of disadvantages? While a whole slew of decisions on the usage of GoPro products in live NHL games are probably still in their infant stages, it wouldn’t hurt to look at the pros and cons that such a partnership might create for the NHL in a long-term setting.
From The Outdoors To The Rink
For several years now, skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, and countless other athletes have used GoPro cameras to capture jaw-dropping and breath-taking footage that they wouldn’t be able to catch with the use of other devices. Of course, certain competitors – namely Sony and its “Action Cam” – have provided healthy competition for GoPro, but the latter’s product is still synonymous with high-definition quality, reliability, and portability in various terrain.
It’s certainly not hard to see how or why Nick Woodman’s company skyrocketed to its current status, and deals such as the one made with the NHL are a signifier of the company’s continued success on the market.
After years of showing the public that the GoPro can be handy on the ground, in the air, submerged under water – or even mounted as a dash-cam – expanding into the world of mainstream sports was the next aggressive marketing step for a company that went public almost one year ago. Now, this isn’t to say that the X-Games or other sporting events that have utilized GoPro products for filming purposes weren’t getting the company’s reputation up – that’d be the furthest thing from the truth – but a foot in the door with the NHL could realistically see Woodman’s brainchild expand into other North American, and maybe international, sports markets.
GoPro first set a precedent for usage of their product in a mainstream sports market by strapping up players and referees with their cameras. Using last year’s footage from the Stadium Series, one has to look no further than those aforementioned events to see that the GoPro has application in the NHL, but don’t take our word for it, watch it for yourself below from the eyes of referee Wes McCauley:
The referee’s point of view provides an angle on the game of hockey that normally isn’t available in a telecast. Yes, footage might be a little bit shaky as the refs are forced to adapt to the pace of play, but it’s hard to argue against the use of such vantage points – especially when the referee can record a goal being scored in real time as he drives alongside players that are crashing the net and battling in front to pot the puck.
The fact of the matter is that GoPro has already had a successful test run in the game of hockey – both at the AHL and NHL levels, so it was only logical for Woodman and his company to expand on the early accomplishments that they had made. Where GoPro and the NHL will wind up in their partnership in the near future is anyone’s best guess at this point in time, but there sure are lots of bright spots to look at going forward.
Integrating live-action feeds of an NHL game might have been “futuristic” ideas at the turn of the 21st century, but such thoughts are now being carefully implemented and used in the arena of sporting events.
Offering fans a chance to watch the game of hockey like they’ve never seen it before, the point of view that one will get – as previously mentioned – is obviously the biggest benefit to this venture. Aside from sitting at ice level or being behind the bench, when can a hockey fan be able to see the game from such an up-close lens?
The answer is simple, because it is rarely, if ever. Up until now, of course:
There will undoubtedly be a large amount of tweaks that will need to be made as the GoPro-NHL partnership gets out of its initial testing stages, but for a company that has offered its consumers constant improvements on its products, it’s hard to imagine that GoPro won’t make the necessary adjustments to give hockey fans the best view that they can ask for without having to pay astronomical prices for ice-level seating.
While fans could directly benefit from GoPro-NHL partnership, on-ice officiating also has a chance to reap the rewards of such a deal. With calls being made to Toronto’s war-room in order to review questionable calls, a live in-game feed from one’s GoPro could essentially make for readily available review footage.
We’ve all seen it countless times. Whether it be a kick – intentional or not – goaltender interference, a puck batted out of the air with a high stick, or other reviewable circumstances, a call to Toronto and the subsequent dissection of the questionable play aren’t tasks that are accomplished with the utmost ease or swiftness.
What GoPro footage might have a chance to do is to alleviate the burden placed on the war-room. Of course, all major questionable calls and plays would still run through Toronto, but a referee or rink-side viewpoint could possibly add more usable material for the war-room with which to make sounder judgment calls.
Being able to see a different angle of a play, referees could also learn how to better position themselves for certain future plays in order to be less of an obstruction during game-play. Not only could referees, officials, and executives find use in such new types of footage, GoPro could also revolutionize the way that coaches see the game and adjust to it.
Looking at what a defenseman does on the point during a powerplay or how a team backchecks or forechecks differently during various situations, a GoPro camera could provide a coach with insight that they normally wouldn’t have on one, or several, of their players.
It will undoubtedly take a little while before the public – as well as NHL referees, officials, players, coaches, and executives – start to see the benefits, or lack thereof, of using GoPro technology for in-game action. However, it certainly seems as though there is a great amount of positive potential in this partnership despite it still being in somewhat developmental stages – which also beckons the question, could there be negative aspects of this deal?
Thinking of the negative side of using GoPro cameras, one immediately shifts their focus to how the GoPro will actually be used inside of the rink. Leaving aside shaky footage as a downside for a second, one has to wonder whether or not the GoPro could sustain the wear and tear that it will be put through inside of the rink.
GoPro cameras have certainly been used in a number of rough environments – from arctic weathers to much warmer climates – but contact is the biggest factor in this type of scenario. With players constantly bumping, colliding, or hitting each other, it’s hard to imagine that any player could comfortably sport a GoPro camera during a game without it potentially interfering with some minute or grandiose aspect of the game.
As hockey fans are very well aware of – and as Fortune.com astutely pointed out – hockey players are creatures of habit. Performing various game-day or game-night rituals, the slightest disruption to a hockey player’s routine could have a number of ramifications for that player and their team. Worrying about mounting a camera or having it stay strapped to one’s helmet for the duration of three twenty-minute periods could be an added weight that just won’t be conducive to a player seeking to gain maximum results on the ice surface.
While the GoPro camera has proven itself to be a durable device in various terrain, it hasn’t fully proven itself inside of a professional hockey rink just yet. Sure, there have been overwhelmingly positive signs and test-runs, but with the company already using wireless transmitter technology in order to sync in-game streams, one has to wonder if Woodman has something in the works that would eliminate the potential mounting problems associated with the GoPro camera by opting for an “inside-the-helmet” recording technology (or something similar to the design of the HWKI U).
As time wears on, everyone will be able to see the quirks of utilizing GoPro cameras for in-game video and shots and how those quirks are patched up. There will surely be adjustments that need to be made – as there are with any product being tested in a new field – but if early indications are anything to go off of, then a GoPro-NHL partnership could be just what both entities needed.
Trend-Setters In A New Era
In an age of seemingly unlimited technological revolution, GoPro and the NHL are setting a trend that might just create a different look into the world of mainstream and live sporting events.
While it still might be a ways away, it’s not hard to imagine the success of this partnership doing wonders for GoPro’s stock – especially if the company is able to expand into the NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS, or a variety of other professional sports markets as a result. For a company that has made a product that has withstood the test of Mother Nature in a multitude of settings, putting their product into a more controlled environment could push GoPro into a new strata.
Competitors will certainly try to imitate GoPro with similar mainstream sporting event integration, but if this partnership with the NHL turns out to be a successful endeavor, then GoPro stands to gain the most in terms of marketability and continued exposure.
As for the NHL, the possibilities might not be endless per se, but there are definitely a number of positives that could result from teaming up with GoPro. For one, the NHL will be the first mainstream sport to try out the long-term use and potential applicability of GoPro cameras, which could ultimately bring viewership and spark interest among individuals that normally wouldn’t watch the game of hockey – something that was worded beautifully by Lance Lvovsky on Twitter:
NHL to have GoPro on players/referees for tv footage. Hopefully brings in more viewers for this underappreciated sport #NHLAllStar
— Lance Lvovsky (@lancebvs) January 25, 2015
Increasing viewership as a result of live in-game feeds would probably be the best case scenario for the NHL, but as this article mentioned previously, using GoPro cameras could directly benefit the individuals involved in the sport right now. If such a partnership makes the lives of NHL referees or executives that much easier, then why not venture forward and continue pushing the envelope? Potentially alleviating the workload of referees, officials, or war-room executives could lead to a better quality of play on the ice as everyone’s job could be made smoother.
Of course, such ideas are very utopian in their concept, but they’re certainly not farfetched enough to be outside the realm of possibility – especially with technological advancements progressing at meteoric rates. Whether or not the GoPro-NHL partnership blossoms into something other-worldly is yet to be seen, but there is an undeniable amount of potential in this deal, but we’ll let you (the viewer) decide for now – and what better way to do it than watching footage of some of the game’s elite players using this bit of technology?
In his third year with The Hockey Writers, Toli covers all things related to the New York Islanders. Focusing on the Islanders, the NHL Draft & draft-eligible prospect goalies, and hockey history, Toli can be contacted on Facebook by searching/messaging Toli Metter and on twitter by searching @ToliMetterTHW.