Several sports have successfully implemented data and analytics into the professional realm, utilizing tools to measure intricacies such as spin rate, exit velocity, player speed and even fatigue levels. The NHL attempted a similar experiment for their 2021 regular season, geared towards gathering similar insights that would aid player evaluation in a data-driven world.
The experiment lasted six days.
Mauled by reports of performance issues—ranging from reports of the pucks not sliding to being too bouncy—the plug was pulled on January 19.
After a somewhat promising trial run during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the abrupt disbarment was somewhat alarming to players and fans who may have hoped the new tracking pucks would shine light on nuances that had been missed in years past. In a statement released by the NHL, the failure of the pucks was attributed to “not receiving the same precise finishing treatments during the off-season manufacturing process as were used during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.”
So while they won’t be used on the ice until additional “finishing treatments” are performed, some of the pucks can now be owned by fans thanks to MeiGray Auctions, who has listed an assortment of game-used and authenticated pucks that featured the tracking system that will undoubtedly be woven into NHL’s history books.
There are currently 38 “goal pucks” and six “game pucks” listed, with most auctions slated to end next Wednesday evening (February 24). The “goal pucks” commemorate memorable goals scored during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, while “game pucks” celebrate a moment such as Lindy Ruff’s first win as the New Jersey Devils’ head coach.
For those who are interested in just how bouncy or resistant to sliding the defunct 2021 pucks were—those can also be owned by the highest bidder. In the auction description, some of the technology is detailed by MeiGray Auctions.
“Puck and Player Tracking technology Game Puck features sensors embedded on both sides of the puck, with the ability to track the pucks at a rate of 2,000 times per second in real time with inch-level accuracy.”
With minimum bids ranging from $50-$100, several pucks have already eclipsed the $250 mark with more than a week left to bid. A puck that Patrice Bergeron scored a goal with—his 341st—currently sits at $260 after eight bids have been placed.
With the NHL falling behind the analytics movement when compared with the NFL, MLB and NBA—the pucks could prove to be an important part of the hockey’s historical narrative. The NHL also announced in their press release on January 19 that the pucks would be back—once proper adjustments had been made.
“It is expected that a new supply of the League’s ‘tracking pucks’ will be available soon and, after undergoing appropriate quality control testing, will be back in use for all games.”
So while the initial 2021 experiment lasted less than a week, the discarded pucks could become a collector’s item due to scarcity and their unique place in NHL’s legacy.