Ever wonder what the New Jersey Devils (and every other NHL team) are looking at when you see them grabbing that iPad on the bench during a game? Well, this is the article for you! Ever wonder how technology has changed and how hockey players use it? You’re in the right place!
I spoke with a few of the Devils following their recent home stand to get the answers to those questions and more.
“Technology was a little different (when I came into the league), I still find that (iPads) don’t work half the time on the bench, but it’s nice (to have),” quipped Erik Haula, who entered the NHL back in the 2013-14 NHL season. “If you have something on your mind, a play or a situation (that just happened) – you can look at it quickly and get over that situation in your own mind quicker. That’s helpful. You can also build off certain things with a quick look.”
Jesper Bratt, who entered the league in 2017-18, isn’t one who will immediately reach for the iPad between shifts. He may take a peak here and there, or if a teammate wants to review something, but it’s not a necessity.
“There are a few times I will, but I try to not get too into it because the situation already happened. You just have to move on. There are times on the power play where you can see a similar pattern come up (the way they are defending you),” Bratt explained, “when they give you the overhead view of what is actually going on all over the ice. Maybe you see some extra plays (you can make). It’s the same for the penalty kill. You (look to) see if they are running different patterns and know for the next time how to defend it or play offense against them.”
As Haula revealed, sometimes they are helpful when a mistake was made, or a goal was surrendered, so that a player can make those in-game adjustments if possible. Or sometimes you ultimately see there was a flukey bounce, or no way to defend a perfectly placed shot.
“I’m sure everyone during the season has a moment, where they’re like ‘what happened there or what could I have done better?’ I think in that way, it is a huge mental tool for myself. You can sit back and not let the anger build; sit back, look at it, and then when you see it maybe react differently,” said Haula.
“I think it’s more of a preference (for players during the game). Most of the time someone will point something out to you where you don’t even have to watch it. You want to watch the game too, focus on how that is going,” Devils defenseman John Marino told Pucks & Pitchforks. “You don’t want to have your eyes glued to the iPad the whole time, some guys are very good at finding that line. Whatever is comfortable.”
For both Marino and Bratt, this asset has been around since they joined the NHL, so they don’t know any other way. It’s part of how they have grown up and developed as professional hockey players.
“Since my first year here, we’ve had them, but some guys are more creative at using them to help, understanding why they are there (for us to use), rather than just watching every shift for no reason. Guys have figured out why, and when to use them. But they can also be a big distraction if you don’t know what you’re doing,” added Bratt.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a huge iPad guy on the bench but if there is something you want to review with your linemates, it’s a great tool for that. It’s pretty cool what we have with technology these days,” said the Devils’ face-off ace, Michael McLeod, who debuted the season after Bratt joined New Jersey.
In addition to the ‘in-the-moment’ technology, when they go home after a game, players have every shift they took that night immediately available to review on their own devices, sent by a member of the team’s staff. Quite a change from the old days of the NHL, for sure.
“I’ll watch all my shifts. Pause it and see where I can make adjustments or any little things that will help you be better. Maybe look for what would be a safer play,” McLeod said.
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“I think most players watch their shifts when they get home. I know I do. You talk to guys that played a long time ago, there wasn’t any video; they weren’t watching their shifts all the time. They just went out and played. Now there is so much more accessibility; guys are faster, more skilled. So you go back to see what you could have done better and learn from it,” added Marino.
“I’ll watch my shifts on my day off, or the night before a game, just to clear my mind. It’s also something where if something is bothering you, I’ll watch it before I go to bed after a game so I can maybe sleep better,” Haula said.
What’s the next step in this evolution? Who knows? Maybe in 20 years players will be able to access video replays on the visors attached to their helmets in real time, you know, like Tony Stark’s sunglasses that contain artificial intelligence interfaces. To infinity, and beyond!