“I think they’re going to explain it to us when it’s all done at the end of camp,” Bowey said during the week. “It’s pretty cool, I get to be a guinea pig and test it out.”
The specific use never became clear, but it wouldn’t be hard to guess. At the 2015 NHL All-Star Game in Columbus, the league unveiled a tracking system by placing computer chips in jerseys, allowing the so-called “active trackers” of Sportvision to log everything from shift length to skater speed to precise zone time. It was pitched with several benefits, at once allowing teams and fans to mine a new source of data and enhancing television broadcasts with supplementary information.
“In the embryonic stages,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called the rollout process, but teams such as the Capitals have apparently already begun exploring the relatively untapped data market, which has found success in the NBA with its SportVU system. Washington didn’t install tracking cameras in the rafters of its practice facility, but the gear worn during development camp – a sports bra-looking garment and a belt-type device strapped around the midsection – helped track heart rate for conditioning purposes and the whereabouts of each individual skater on the ice.
“I think technology’s really taken off,” Barber said. “They’re definitely finding ways to monitor us more often. I think it’s good if the trainer here likes the data, if he can use it in any way to help the team, I think he’ll do that.”
Among those used as test subjects – Bowey, Barber, Stephenson, forward Caleb Herbert and defenseman Christian Djoos, all seemingly bound for the Hershey Bears this season – only Barber had previously encountered such equipment. His Miami (Ohio) University team used the heart-rate monitors this season and, during their Outdoor City Classic against Western Michigan at Chicago’s Soldier Field, could employ the GPS trackers too.
“I didn’t personally get to see it, but I know my trainer back at Miami looked at it quite frequently,” Barber said. “I think the main thing with the heart rate monitors is he could monitor how much work we’re actually doing. In a practice you don’t know how much you actually got out of it.”
Though they didn’t know much about the project – how it worked, why it was being used and so forth – the remaining prospects still saw benefits in logging such data, which could help better manage their practice workload.
“There’s so many things out there these days, so many resources you can use to get the extra edge, and I think that’s one of them,” Herbert said. “Might be more beneficial for coaches to use if they see bad habits, things like that, this could help them point it out. I don’t know a whole lot about it, but it seems like a cool technology, and I know there’s always new things coming out.”
Donning the actual equipment, though, took some adjustments.
“You wear a heart-rate monitor then this little…it almost looks like a sports bra with the thing in the back,” Stephenson said. “It’s tight so it’s a little awkward, but the more you practice, the more and more you get used to it.”