The NHL Continues Evolving with Fast-Paced Innovation and Skillful Teamwork


Founded in 1917, the National Hockey League (NHL) has become one of the world’s most beloved sports leagues. Each club’s roster reflects an international makeup, with players representing more than 20 countries competing for one of the most coveted and historic trophies in professional sports – the Stanley Cup.

As the NHL continues to grow, the League continues to prioritize technology adoption to help advance the game and provide more engagement opportunities for fans.

Chris Foster, NHL vice president of Digital Business Development, explains: “As our relationship with SAP grows and technology advances, we pivot quickly to meet new demands and address our challenges with intuitive technology through SAP Preferred Success services.”

Unlocking the Power of Data with Partnership

The NHL is a rich tapestry of unforgettable moments, legendary players, and enduring passion that has captured the hearts of fans worldwide. To inspire and keep generations of new fans entertained and engaged, the League understands the importance of continuously innovating the experience in the arena and through its national broadcast partners.

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“Our digital transformation efforts are not only boosting fan engagement across NHL platforms, but also increasing parity among our 32 clubs,” Foster says. “We are looking at data differently, ensuring it reaches the right people – our fans, players, coaches, and clubs.”

This mindset on finding opportunity in data launched a series of innovations focused on enhancing the game and improving venue sustainability. With SAP Preferred Success, the NHL used guidance and expert support to implement a platform that jump-started its ability to build and expand use cases over time to help meet changing business dynamics and objectives.

“SAP Preferred Success is instrumental in making all this work,” Foster underscores. “Access to personalized, prescriptive recommendations from subject-matter experts and quality reviews enables us to create a customized and personalized solution.”

Connecting Fans with Their Favorite Clubs

The first project the NHL delivered in collaboration with SAP was transforming NHL stats on NHL.com – creating a definitive destination for hockey analytics. Last season alone, more than 100 million data-hungry NHL fans engaged with the site’s intuitive dashboards and filters to analyze the performance of their favorite clubs and players and compare them to past NHL legends.

“We saw the potential to create a one-stop shop that uses stats to better connect our audiences with their favorite players and teams, understand the strategy of the game, and see trends more broadly across the League,” Foster shares.

Working with SAP Preferred Success, the NHL tapped into a database that has evolved into SAP HANA Cloud to help store and manage data points like never before. The effort digitalized more than 100 years of historical hockey data and introduced new and enhanced statistics in a way that enthusiasts can find visually appealing.

Foster adds: “There are also unlimited storytelling opportunities as we provide our fans with a personalized and interactive experience.”

Elevating Plays with Data Intelligence

Following the digitalization of its stats, the NHL co-developed one of the most significant technologies resulting from its partnership with SAP Preferred Success – the SAP-NHL Coaching Insights mobile app, which runs on the League’s iPads. SAP HANA Cloud again serves an integral role as the processing power that helps translate all in-game hockey data from the arena and the NHL’s system to the mobile app.

“As the fastest game on ice, there are millions of data points to be collected and analyzed every second across our 32 clubs,” Foster says. “We knew we needed to deliver a tool that could serve every club with very different expectations, different coaching staff structures, and different responsibilities.”

Equipped with the advisory checks introducing development and administration readiness, capability advisory, and design discovery that SAP Preferred Success offers, the NHL increased developer productivity for the mobile app development. Making real-time, customizable player statistics and data visualizations accessible during the game allows coaching staffs to adjust in-game tactics and achieve new levels of individual player and club performance.

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For example, the data tiering functionality of the SAP-NHL Coaching Insights mobile app on the League’s iPads differentiates between in-game and past seasons’ NHL EDGE Puck and Player Tracking data. In-game data is analyzed in real time with the quick in-memory processing of SAP HANA Cloud, processing puck and player position coordinates every 30 milliseconds. Meanwhile, gigabytes of NHL EDGE Puck and Player Tracking data are archived instantly, stored cost-effectively and securely, and reactivated readily and swiftly for further analysis.

Throughout this use case, SAP Preferred Success helped the NHL better understand the stability of the system to reduce data duplication and storage while still providing a powerful processing engine that brings accurate data to the user rapidly. The services also helped deliver security and connectivity reviews and performance optimizations to help ensure the NHL coaching staffs have the best possible experience. In fact, with visualizations made possible by the SAP Analytics Cloud solution, the League can review each clubs’ app usage to improve the app further and tailor it to their evolving needs.

Going Green with NHL Venue Metrics

In addition to elevating the fan experience and enhancing the game on the ice, the NHL is also working to reduce its ecological impact while preserving the sport’s roots for future generations. The League developed NHL Venue Metrics to collect, process, and report energy and water consumption, waste generation, and recycling frequency across NHL clubs and arenas – which plays a key position in its NHL Green platform.

The end-to-end, cloud-based application is the NHL’s latest and extended use of SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP), delivered through the prescriptive guidance of SAP Preferred Success. Data is processed through SAP HANA Cloud and visualized with SAP Analytics Cloud, helping give venues the insights to embed sustainability best practices into their business operations wherever possible.

“The development of NHL Venue Metrics enables us to define new sustainability goals and standards as a League,” Foster remarks.

Building a Future of Game-Changing Outcomes

A critical lesson the NHL learned throughout its experience with SAP Preferred Success is the value of expert guidance and support – fast-paced innovation enabled through skillful teamwork. Each step in the League’s innovation journey progresses with best practices, targeted learning, in-depth release guidance, and prioritized incident handling – all aimed at evolving and improving the overall growth of the game.

“We certainly have clear goals and specific objectives for the future of the NHL. But it’s equally important to have in-depth expertise to ensure business solutions are doing all they can to help us reach our vision. It takes experience in seeing what others have done, what’s worked well, and what you should avoid,” Foster reflects.

By working with SAP Preferred Success, the NHL gained a trusted partner that helps it map out and provide prescriptive advice on configuration steps, modeling, performance testing, and more. All this work culminates in a smooth rollout and adoption experience across NHL club coaching staffs.

Foster concludes: “Our collaboration has allowed us to continue to evolve and deliver additional stable and reliable applications that increase productivity, improve efficiency, and reduce costs.”

To learn more about the value of SAP Preferred Success and how the NHL is innovating, look at the following resources:

Amit Lodhe is global solution owner of SAP Preferred Success for SAP BTP at SAP.

Top image courtesy of the NHL

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