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Volume 20 No. 42
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NHL’s Lehanski shifts focus to technology

David Lehanski
Senior vice president of business development, global partnerships, NHL

The NHL has long felt that if casual fans attend a live game, the speed and skill of hockey and the in-arena experience will quickly hook them. The league is betting that technology will help bridge the gap to any other remaining fans.

“Our belief is that the in-arena experience for us is really, really good, so while we focus on making that even better, our clubs do a lot of that heavy lifting,” said David Lehanski, the league’s senior vice president of business development and global partnerships. “From a league perspective, our prioritization is more tied to everything outside the arena — how are we getting more people to consume the game, or make the game more exciting to consume. We believe technology can help to address those objectives.”

Lehanski, who has been with the league since 2005, has shifted his focus in the last 12 to 18 months from integrated marketing and sales to business development and how technology partners can have a positive effect on the league. Lehanski, Chief Technology Officer Peter DelGiacco and Executive Vice President Steve McArdle, with the blessing of Commissioner Gary Bettman, have taken the lead on the league’s use of technology.

“From our vantage point, there are many reasons why technology is a perfect fit for growth, whether you look at the profile and demographics of our fans who are more likely to be early adopters, to the fast pace of the game that could be slowed down by technology for more context and editorial content, to lack of evolution on the statistical side compared to some of the other sports,” he said.

The World Cup of Hockey last September was the league’s most public form of testing to date, where technology that showcased player and puck tracking, and digital board advertising were used in successful tests. The league continues to make progress on both, with hope that player and puck tracking will soon be implemented.

The NHL has also struck a partnership with Apple that will see iPads available behind the bench for coaches and officials across the league. The effort, which was used in the playoffs last season, allows for the viewing of real-time video and replays. Lehanski said the NHL is working with Apple to provide basic statistics updated in real-time as well, which should be available around the playoffs.

Beyond that, Lehanski and the group are investigating other potential uses of technology by the league, whether that’s the use of wearables and the application of biometrics, to the applications of augmented reality and virtual reality.

“Everything has set up technology to be able to provide a ton of value — now we’re figuring out where and how,” he said.