The iPad is no longer an alien object on an NHL bench.
Since the tablets first started appearing on NHL benches in the spring of the 2016-17 season, they’ve become a common fixture. An assistant coach with his eyes fixed on the screen during a timeout, a player checking something between shifts. The second-screen generation isn’t just about consuming games on television, it’s completely taken over for the people participating in them, too.
These days, screen time means a bit more than getting in front of the opposing goalie.
“It’s a huge part of coaching in today’s game,” Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’re trying to get better every day, and you do that on the ice, but you can’t only get better on the ice. You need to get better in all aspects, and you need to use every tool that’s available to you, and that’s where the technology and these iPads have become so important.”
Specifically, Sullivan is talking about the SAP-NHL Coaching Insights App for iPad, which is getting another update that the NHL and SAP plan to announce on Thursday.
For Sullivan and Penguins video coach Andy Saucier, the data on the iPads is used to create better-informed decisions during a game. At this point, Sullivan says the instant impact is felt most when it comes to managing player’s minutes and decisions on which player to use on specific faceoffs.
When officials from SAP and the NHL have met with coaches, they said, nearly all the staffs have commented that they use the in-game faceoff application.
The faceoff data allows coaches to track success on draws from that game and historically. Coaches get real-time data on how players on both teams have performed on faceoffs overall, in particular locations, and against particular opponents.
Sullivan gave an example of a game against the New Jersey Devils: If a faceoff is in the Penguins’ defensive zone on the left side, and the Devils are likely sending Jack Hughes over the boards, the Penguins coaches can quickly sort the data to see which players have had the best success against Hughes and which ones are having strong nights on that side of the ice.