We’ve had quite a lot of “innovation” – just another fancy word for change :) – these last years in our favourite game of hockey. Some of these rule changes were not a big hit. Think for example the own goal rule¹. But several were instrumental in making our game better. Think self-pass² or being allowed to play the ball with your stick raised above your shoulder or from way back… abolishing the off-side rule. Some were made for obvious commercial reason. But stuck even if no one actually involved in the game, players or coaches, were a fan. Such as the change to 4 quarters of 15 minutes instead of 2 halves of 35 minutes. Some of these “innovations” made it to recreational hockey, some are only for top hockey. This is dangerous because it’s creating a gap between the game “we” play or watch our children play and the game on TV at the big events.
I think both those actually involved in tophockey and those just watching it could benefit from some time off with these rule changes. We need to reconnect to the game. Allow for those not following hockey on a day-to-day basis to still have a grasp of how the game is played.
However… a status quo is seldom a good thing. So let’s keep the innovations coming. Just not regarding the rules of hockey! But with all the focus from our game administrators on selling the game to sports followers , not always hockey players themselves, the next innovations should make our sport more TV friendly. Or screen friendly would be the better term. Because TV (or broadcasting) as we know it is becoming a thing of the past faster than we might think.
The game is not just about the goals…
We are one of the frontrunners in the world of sports when it comes to performance & video analysis for our coaches. However these tools are seldom used to help our spectators understand the game. Or appreciate the tactical skills from players and teams. The focus, as in most sports, is almost completely on goal scoring to entertain the fans. So it’s the scoring forwards and the specialist dragflickers that get the attention from commentators, press and public.
But if technology were to be used to help understand the press and public more of the real tactical plays in the game, there would be so much more to enjoy. The game is not just about the goals you know… ;)
There is beauty in defending skills. Not just the spectacular sliding tackles from defenders who are too late to do it the normal proper way. But with technology and knowledgeable commentators/analysts we could see how the choices of players, often not even in possession of the ball, effect the play of the game. How smart running and positioning could open the play or close down the attacking options…
Of course we could still marvel at the amazing dribbling skills of wizards with a stick slicing through a defence. But adding the real stats of the game into the show on the screen, as it is done often in American sports, will add that extra value to enjoy the game. Amazed at the magical skills. But surprised with the stats of what really adds to the wins of your team. There is value in it all!
One of the most common complaints from spectators is that our game is too fast and the ball too small. On screen that can be fixed with the help of technology. As introduced to the world of sports by companies like Sportvision. Known for tracking that golf ball through the sky. Or highlighting that fast and small puck in ice-hockey or the curve of that pitch thrown in baseball. In NBA basketball also every fan knows the stats of their favourite players. Not just the points scored, but also the assists and the rebounds. Adding stats and technology to the game will help spectators (as well as press) better understand the game. Enjoy more than just the goals. This will work on screens for those watching the game at home But also for those at the venue on big screens.
Innovation in technology
So my suggestion to those governing our game of hockey, is to focus the next years of innovation in technology and information about our game. Help press and spectators understand the game and the decisions being made on the pitch. Because when you see more of the game, there are so many levels to our sport most of us never get to experience… and enjoy!
The EHL have always been important for our sport with their innovations. More recently the Indian HIL also came into play and I’m sure the media partner from the FIH, Star Sports in India, has got the ability and know how (from cricket among others) to add to our game for its viewers using innovation in technology.
An eventfull 2017
But until then… enjoy the coming EHL games this weekend. Live if your are near Belgium… get your tickets here ! Or enjoy the screen of your choice with ehlhockey.tv if you can’t make it to Antwerp this weekend.
And soon after the EHL we’ll be able to enjoy the World League Semi-Finals in London as of the 15th of June, Brussels as of June 21 and Johannesburg as of July the 8th. Before you know it we turn our attention to Amsterdam for the European Championships in August. Next the World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India in is already approaching fast as well. 2017 might be labeled a post Olympic year, but it most certainly will not be uneventful ;) Let’s hope the next batch of innovations our sports will bring us will add to the spectacle as well !
¹ The own goal rule was tested where any touch inside the D on a ball coming from outside the D would be enough to get a goal, even if it was a touch by a defender only.
² The self-pass rule allows a free hit to be taken after controlling the ball without having to pass the ball to another player