Watching video coverage from a game is one of the most powerful tools athletes and coaches have for improving a team’s level of play. It’s just that it hasn’t traditionally been done during the actual game—until now. Thanks to iPads on the bench, one NHL team—the Penguins—is seeing immediate results from immediate review. At the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, the NHL made a deal with Apple to deliver video and data to the bench on a tablet using a system called iBench, which is powered by a company called XOS Digital. The NHL is in charge of maintaining the game-time connectivity and consistency of the signal.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan immediately embraced the new technology, understanding intuitively that it would give his team a competitive advantage if they became good at using it—and a disadvantage if they didn’t. As a result, all the staff and players put in the time to figure out how their new tool could be used to its fullest potential.
The iPads at the Penguins’ bench operate just like DVRs. Coaches and players can move the game video forward 10 seconds, forward five seconds, whatever. They can also fast forward, or change the video to slow motion. Though there is a 5-10 second delay, it’s not a problem. The iPad works well for the team, because they can quickly navigate their play coverage using the Apple toolset.
Most players grew up using the iPad technology, so integrating tablets into performance review on the ice is very natural. The team currently has three iPads on the bench, but player demand dictates that number is likely to rise very soon.