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NHL commissioner Bettman says puck, player tracking tech coming next season

Jonathan Bombulie

Puck and player tracking technology is coming to the NHL next season.

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced at his annual state of the league address at the NHL All-Star Game in San Jose on Friday that transmitters will be inserted into every player’s shoulder pads and every puck used for game action starting next fall.

The technology will have many applications.

First and foremost, it will bring new information to television broadcasts. The speed and distance of every shot and pass can be measured precisely. During a test run in Vegas earlier this season, the league discovered San Jose defenseman Brent Burns skated more than 3 miles in a game, and Golden Knights center William Karlsson hit top speeds in excess of 20 mph.

That information can be used for gambling purposes, with the range of prop bets being widened considerably.

It also will be used by teams in player evaluation, which is an area that concerns some members of the players association who are unsure of the role it will play in contract negotiations.

Union rep Mathieu Schneider said some older players are wary of player tracking, but some younger players are used to new technologies and embrace it.

“There are guys that are a little skeptical of how the data will be used, and we’ve had some protections (built) into this agreement, but I would say the players are very hopeful that we’re going to see a lot of progress and the positives are going to far outweigh the negatives,” Schneider said.

In other topics addressed Friday:

• Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly sounded an optimistic tone about negotiations that have begun for a new CBA between the league and its players. The current agreement expires in 2020, but both sides have an opt-out clause that can be activated in September.

“I think the fact that we’re sitting down and having constructive dialogue on open issues at an early date is very positive,” Daly said.

Added Bettman: “We’re not looking for a fight.”

• Bettman touted quality of play improvements, noting 6.1 goals are being scored per game this season, the highest such figure in more than a decade. He said changes to goalie equipment and stricter enforcement of slashing penalties deserve credit for the uptick in offense. He also bragged that there have been 345 comeback victories this season, including 96 from multiple-goal deficits.

• Discussing some of the league’s troubled franchises, Bettman said the New York Islanders remain on track to break ground on a new arena at Belmont Park in May or June, and negotiations surrounding a new building in Ottawa remain complicated. He said the Edmonton Oilers are a franchise on sound footing, despite their on-ice problems.

• The league filled in some blanks with its outdoor schedule for next season. Dallas will host Nashville at the Cotton Bowl in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Colorado will host Los Angeles at the Air Force Academy on Feb. 15.

Ill competition

Sidney Crosby missed Friday night’s skills competition with an illness, the league announced. He still plans to play in the All-Star Game on Saturday night. Crosby has been chosen for the game eight times in his career. He has missed four of them because of injury.

The Penguins had the week off after playing last Saturday night in Las Vegas. Crosby stayed in the western part of the country during the break, visiting Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.