Tech and Hockey

Mar 16, 2021 | World Hockey Hub

Two players from the Columbus Blue Jackets look at an iPad while sitting on the bench.

How Helios is bringing professional-grade analysis to the youth level

Advanced metrics are everywhere. Science and sport continue to cross over at an exponential rate. Everyone looks for an edge on how to develop better and faster than the next. Digital equipment measuring a player’s speed, power, quickness and efficiency. Video analysis of a goalie’s angles and player’s shifts. An iPad has become as pivotal of a piece of equipment in the hockey bag as skates and gloves.

Corsi. Zone starts. Rebounds per save. Hudl. InStat. Athlete Manager. Sport Gate. ICEBERG.

From complex stats and metrics, to integrated tools designed to aid coaches and players, it is quite evident we are in the midst of a technology boom regarding the game of hockey.

The impact is felt the most at the professional level, as the NHL enters its sixth season partnered with SAP, capturing data points, new statistics and analysis, delivering results in real-time. Fueled by multi-million dollar infrastructure hard-wired throughout the league’s arenas and supported by billion-dollar tech companies. It’s hard to imagine how this same level of analysis could be delivered to the masses at the youth levels for a fraction of the cost.

Or is it?

Helios Hockey CEO and Founder Bill Near is in the midst of developing smart products to do just that — real-time analysis and actionable insights into a player’s performance.  Helios’ first product, the HeliosTM Core, is a wearable sensor that mounts on shoulder pads and uses AI to track skating performance. Controlled directly from your smartphone and ready to use right out of the box, players and teams can take to the ice with the HeliosTM Core.

“This is a path to bring technologies to every player and give feedback without needing the massive infrastructure,” said Near. “This is really a tool that every player can lean into.”

Intelligent enough to sense the difference between a player’s left and right stride, while also evaluating and assessing the effectiveness of said stride. Helios tracks and benchmarks speed, explosiveness, balance and much more all from a sensor the size of a sticky note. 

Currently in beta testing, Helios — based out of Portsmouth, New Hampshire — has spent the 2020-21 season working closely with nearby program Seacoast Performance Academy and its 14U, 15U and 16U teams. Players receive individual feedback as well as how their metrics compare to the team average. Coaches gain valuable data in terms of performance to improve team assessments.

“Tech is never meant to replace the expertise of a coach,” said Near. “It just adds a layer of information so that the player and coach can adjust to get better, faster.”

Goalie coaches. Skills coaches. Skating coaches. Shooting coaches. Hell, there’s even mental coaches growing in popularity amongst players. 

[Here is where the old hats in the room react with ‘back in my day…’ as they shoe the neighbor kids off their front lawn.]

‘Back in the day’ seven-footers couldn’t hit three pointers, there wasn’t a pitcher in the Majors who could throw 100 miles-per-hour and 250-pound linebackers weren’t running 4.4 forty-yard dash times. 

Times have changed. Athletes looking for an edge and finding ways to improve their game in specific areas is not a bad thing. It’s just different. No amount of technology can replace the relationship between player and coach. It can, however, improve the focus of workouts, drills and skill development to maximize output from our daily regimen.

“This becomes the data-validating piece that sits upon individual training and skill development; A digital record of all your skill, training load and capabilities,” said Near.

Backed by NHL influences like Seattle Kraken General Manager Ron Francis, long-time professional scout Dave Hunter and 14-year veteran Bryce Salvador, Helios is at the forefront of on-ice player tracking for individual training and widespread use.

Tech tools in sports have erupted in popularity over the past decade and similar resources are sure to pop up as well. It’s been a slow trickle, but the hockey community has certainly started to shift from resistance to acceptance of such tools, analytics and tracking.

How do you utilize digital resources in your daily game? Text us at 603-541-7772 to share how you tech impacts your development.


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