Category Archives: Hockey

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MGM GVC Interactive Partners With Sportradar on Sports Betting Data

Sportradar will be the exclusive provider of sports betting data to MGM GVC Interactive for the half-dozen leagues and federations for which it is the official provider: the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, NASCAR, FIFA, and UEFA. MGM Resorts partnered with U.K.-based betting platform GVC Holdings this summer on a joint venture in the U.S. Sportradar will provide pre-match and live betting services as well as bet stimulation content such as live match trackers.
MGM Resorts has been an active player in the U.S. market in preparation for further state-by-state legalization of sports betting. The global entertainment and gaming company was the first to partner with a major sports league on data rights when MGM became the official gaming partner of the NBA this summer. Since then, MGM has announced a similar deal with the NHL. MGM GVC Interactive was launched in July with $100 million of seed money from both companies.
“MGM and GVC are leaders in the sports betting landscape, and we are proud to be their provider for U.S. sports data,” Neale Deeley, Sportradar’s VP of gaming sales, said in a statement. “We have been preparing for the opening of the U.S. market for some time now with an across the board ramp up of our U.S. sports betting offering and we are delighted with this endorsement from MGM and GVC that all the hard work is delivering what world class betting operators are looking for.”
SportTechie Takeaway
When MGM and the NBA announced their partnership at the end of July, basketball commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged that the data feed to MGM might come via a third party. That Sportradar would be that supplier is little surprise, given the company’s existing work with the NBA, but this deal will enable MGM GVC Interactive to have access to fast, reliable data feeds in several other sports, too. The NBA and NHL deals include some of each respective league’s proprietary advanced tracking data, but Sportradar’s analysis and engagement tools will now be added to those the data feeds.


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Q-Collar Shown to Reduce Brain Changes in Non-Helmeted Female Athletes

A device inspired by woodpeckers and bighorn sheep has shown to help protect non-helmeted female athletes from traumatic brain injuries sustained over the course of a soccer season.
The Q-Collar is a device worn around the neck that presses lightly against the jugular vein, slowing blood outflow from the skull. That increased blood volume serves to stop the brain from sloshing during an impact. While the device’s effect has been studied before, particularly among helmeted sports such as men’s ice hockey and football, a newly-released study is the first to look at girls in non-helmeted sports. (Female athletes are, in general, more susceptible to brain injury.)
The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Q30 Innovations, the company behind the Q-Collar, studied its effects on a team of female high school soccer players during a competitive season. The results of the study, which have been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, revealed “no significant changes” in the brain’s white-matter from pre- to post-season of those athletes wearing the device, while those on the team who didn’t wear the collar displayed “significant white-matter changes” despite a similar number of head impacts.  
“We were looking at female athletes because that is certainly an underserved population in terms of receiving research,” said Dr. Greg Myer, director of sports medicine research at Cincinnati Children’s and lead author of the study. “Female athletes tend to be more susceptible to a head impact. Our football studies showed that male athletes can have an average of 800 head impacts over 20G, while girls are closer to 150 impacts over 20G. It’s a substantial difference.”

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Over a six-month period, the researchers studied every head impact sustained during practice and games to get an understanding of how repetitive sub-concussive hits can change the white matter structure of the brain over the course of a season. The hits, which were tracked using accelerometers placed behind the left ear during practice and games, ranged from heading a ball to colliding with another player, or a hard fall. The study looked at 46 female high school players, 24 of who wore the Q-Collar. All the athletes underwent neuroimaging up to three times over the study, which spanned the course of a competitive season and a three-month wind-down period where they were at reduced risk of head impact.
The researcher’s overall conclusion matched that from Q30’s previous studies: Helmets alone aren’t the solution.
“In sports, there’s a heavy focus on single big blows to the head that might lead to what is subjectively described as a concussion,” said Myer. “What we really wanted to look at now is the cumulative effect of head impact exposure over an entire season. Evidence indicates that cumulative load of head impacts is potentially more concerning than that one single blow.”
The imaging conducted during the three-month postseason showed that white matter changes in the non-collar group either partially resolved or fully returned to normal. But the concern is that sustaining injuries such as these over time could weaken the brain and lead to more serious consequences.
A high school soccer player wears the Q-Collar and an accelerometer sensor. (Courtesy of Q30)
Myer views the study as sparking a “paradigm shift” in how people look at concussion prevention.
“Long-term blows are just as important as creating the perfect helmet,” he said. “To us, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to just look at concussions because that’s one hit of the 200 to 500 you could take during a season. We focused our studies on the cumulative load that the brain is exposed to. We want to reduce the burden of the brain in a sport where you could have head impacts.”
Q30 is working with the FDA to get the collar approved as a medical device and is using its nearly three-dozen medical studies conducted over the past six years as evidence to support its case. Last year, Q-Collar was approved as a medical device for commercial sale in Canada.
Tom Hoey, co-CEO of Q30, said the hope is that the Q-Collar sets a precedent for innovations claiming to protect the brain from concussions.
“Working with the FDA is absolutely critical, and we’re happy to be working with them,” said Hoey. “As a medical device, our marketing claims will have to be approved by the FDA before we can market the Q-Collar in the U.S. We believe that it would be a good thing if other products that claim to reduce traumatic brain injury had to go through the same rigor of the FDA process.”
Dr. David Smith, a co-author of the recent study, came up with the idea for the Q-Collar after researching head-ramming bighorn sheep and woodpeckers and analyzing how both animals routinely tolerate high-speed cranium collisions with no adverse impact.


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NHL Will Own League-Wide Tracking Tech Set to Debut in 2019-20

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman affirmed that new, league-wide puck- and player-tracking systems will be ready for the 2019-2020 season and acknowledged, for the first time, that the NHL will have ownership of the technology.
The NHL initially commissioned development of the tracking technology to be used as a broadcast and fan engagement tool, with an early test at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. The Supreme Court decision that paved the way for legalization of sports betting has created an additional use for the system. This new advanced data source is the centerpiece of the NHL’s betting partnership with MGM Resorts.
“We will own the technology that we’re using,” Bettman said Monday, adding: “We’ve had to make some direct investments to get the type of technology we think we need and to make it work.”
David Lehanski, NHL senior vice president of business development and global partnerships, told Sports Business Journal in October 2017 that the league was speaking with one or two tech vendors. Bettman told reporters at the Board of Governors meetings last December that the league was “working with some technology companies” on the project. Those public comments made clear that the NHL was not developing the whole system internally, but the question of ownership had not previously been addressed.
League executives have indicated that there actually will be two discrete tracking technologies: one for the players and one for the pucks. A computer vision-based optical system will record player movements, and a sensor-based technology will monitor the puck. This proprietary tech will provide sports books, such as MGM, advanced data in real-time to help create prop bets and set lines. This is creating a new revenue stream for the NHL for an off-label use of a broadcast tool.
“It wasn’t designed for this—it’s applicable, but that wasn’t what our intention was,” Bettman said.

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Details, to date, have been scarce. When appearing at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last February, Bettman identified the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany as having worked on a new puck. The commissioner said the research group had re-invented the physical compounds of the hockey puck to permit an embedded sensor while still behaving and moving like a traditional puck.
No other vendors have been explicitly linked, although there are likely candidates. Sportvision—now SMT—provides the league’s official real-time scoring system, HITS (Hockey Information & Tracking System), and participated in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. That system, however, relied on transmitters stitched into each jersey and infrared cameras to track the action. Omega provided a similar system for hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympics, but that also necessitated tracking chips. The NHL has said players will not wear sensors in the new system.
“While we’ve tested it in some forms at the World Cup, that was 16 games in two weeks in one arena,” Bettman said. “Having to scale this for 1,271 regular season games in 31 arenas is a little bit harder.”
Sportlogiq and Iceberg are among the other optical tracking systems that have worked with individual NHL teams, and PlayGineering Systems has worked with numerous teams, leagues, and tournaments overseas, including the Kontinental Hockey League. ChyronHego, STATS SportVU, and Second Spectrum are some of the leading systems in use for other sports. Kinexon and Zebra are prominent companies that make tracking sensors used in the NBA and NFL, respectively, and could conceivably contribute technology for the puck.
The above list is a roundup of leading tech companies who may have helped contribute a foundational piece for the NHL to invest and build on top of. Bettman declined to speak in specifics on Monday, and none of those vendors has publicly commented other than to offer a few generalities.
Sportlogiq cofounder and CEO Craig Buntin, for instance, said recently that the NHL’s plan is “one of the most forward-thinking, innovative, interesting approaches in any league I’ve seen so far. I really think that the insights these guys generate, based on the ideas they have so far, could really, really change the sport.”


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NHL Follows NBA in Adding MGM Resorts as Official Betting Partner

The NHL became the second major North American league to announce an official sports betting partner. As with the NBA, the NHL is teaming with MGM Resorts on a non-exclusive deal that includes official data.
MGM’s partnership with the NHL is wide-ranging and also includes designation as the league’s official resort destination, but the data component stands out as the most noteworthy component of the agreement. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said MGM will receive “access to advanced game data which is being developed as we speak,” referring to the league-wide tracking system scheduled to be installed for 2019-20 season.
“Data is the key,” said MGM Resorts chairman and CEO Jim Murren. “The more data a player has, the better. And that data has to be trusted. It has to be specific. It has to be endorsed. It has to be real-time. And we’ve seen the power of data outside the United States. You look at World Cup soccer, for example, in the UK or throughout Europe.”
Industry experts all believe the future of sports betting in the U.S. is on mobile devices, which facilitates in-play wagering. In New Jersey, for instance, mobile wagering is off to a fast start and had already eclipsed brick-and-mortar betting in the month of September. Such fast-paced oddsmaking requires the rapid, reliable dissemination of data.
“The stuff we’re creating, you can’t have and you can’t scrape in real-time,” Bettman said. “And you’re going to need it in real-time.”
When MGM and the NBA announced their deal in July, the two sides had not finalized what data would be included, but NBA commissioner Adam Silver indicated that “some” of the Second Spectrum tracking data eventually would be part of the arrangement, although not immediately.
The NHL will receive a set price from MGM as part of the deal that is not affixed to the amount wagered. The partnership is at the national level, and individual teams will still be free to form their own partnerships, such as the New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights have done recently with William Hill. MGM is part-owner of T-Mobile Arena, home of the Knights, and Murren is often credited for helping bring the NHL to Las Vegas.
While only MGM Resorts will be the official sports betting partner of the NHL, all sports books will be able to purchase access to the league’s data. Murren made a point of saying, “We do not support exclusive data. We want the data to be available to the world.” He added the public release of more data can help build “brand equity” of athletes by enhancing the connection with fans.
A Nielsen Sports report commissioned by the American Gaming Association recently predicated that the NHL could see an increase in $216 million of revenue via legalized sports betting, although Bettman downplayed that number.
“Based on our overall revenues, that’s not a be-all and end-all,” he said. “To the extent that it can create more fan connectivity, more fan engagement and even bring some new fans in, I think the impacts that we will see from sports betting are more indirect but all positive in that respect in terms of fan connectivity and fan-based growth.”
These unprecedented league-wide betting partnerships were made possible by the Supreme Court’s decision in May to strike down PASPA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which prohibited gambling on sports. Bettman had advocated for that law and, as recently as a 2012 deposition, said “the atmosphere that we want people to feel part of, is inconsistent with sports betting.”
Asked what changed, Bettman said with a chuckle, “the Supreme Court, obviously.”
“And I think many of you know this, I was integrally involved in the passage of PASPA 25 plus years ago, but the fact of the matter is the world has changed,” he added. “The way people consume sports has changed, and frankly, whatever views anybody had a year ago have been changed by the fact that the Supreme Court ruled on PASPA, and sports betting, subject to state enactment, has found a new road and a new life.”


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NWHL Extends Partnership With Twitter to Stream Live Games for Free

For a second straight year, the National Women’s Hockey League has partnered with Twitter for the rights to stream live games. The deal includes 16 regular season games, the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game, and the Isobel Cup Playoffs.
Broadcasts will be produced by the NWHL and will stream globally for free on the league’s Twitter account. Users will not be asked to log in to access the live stream according to an NWHL press release. The live stream on Twitter will also include advertising packages with digital ad spots as part of a collaborated marketing and promotions effort between Twitter and the NWHL.

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“Twitter has been an invaluable partner to us, and we’re delighted to present the Twitter Game of the Week for our second season,” said NWHL Founder and Commissioner Dani Rylan in the announcement. “Twitter has helped significantly increase the NWHL audience and given our professional women’s hockey players a deserving global spotlight.”
Last year’s Isobel Cup Final, attracted an audience of more than 900,000 fans on Twitter, and the All-Star Game drew 580,000 Twitter viewers, according to the press release. The 2018/19 NWHL regular season opener will stream on Twitter on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 5:00 p.m. ET when the Metropolitan Riveters visit the Minnesota Whitecaps.
“We are excited for the return of live NWHL games this season to Twitter,” said TJ Adeshola, Twitter’s Head of US Sports Partnerships. “Passionate hockey fans around the globe will continue to be able to view live exciting game action along with the robust conversation all in one place on Twitter.”
SportTechie Takeaway
For sports fans, the ability to stream games via social networks such as Twitter or Facebook has opened up a new type of viewing experience. Users are able to add real-time comments in the game window to chat with other fans watching the stream. MLB has also been experimenting with streaming on social media. This past season, it streamed games exclusively for the Facebook Watch platform, although the initial launch received mixed reviews from fans.
Streaming games for free is a way for a young league such as the NWHL (established in 2015) to build up its fan base. A recent Nielsen report found that 84 percent of general sports fans are interested in women’s sports, and thus the market opportunity is large.


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