NHL adds speed tracking as Kings, Preds go outside in 2020

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks Friday ahead of Sunday's NHL All-Star Game at San Jose, California (AFP Photo/BRUCE BENNETT)

San Francisco (AFP) - Nashville and Los Angeles were named as visiting teams for 2020 NHL outdoor games on Friday while commissioner Gary Bettman announced new tracking technology sure to excite gamblers.

Ahead of Sunday's NHL All-Star Game at San Jose, the league announced the Nashville Predators will visit the Dallas Stars for the 2020 Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Cotton Bowl Stadium.

It will be the first regular-season outdoor game for both clubs.

The league also named the Los Angeles Kings to play the Colorado Avalanche at the US Air Force Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs on February 15, 2020, in the next NHL Stadium Series contest. It follows a game last year at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The contest will be the second outdoors for the Avalanche, who hosted Detroit in 2016 at Denver's Coors Field baseball park, and the third outside for the Kings after playing Anaheim at Dodger Stadium in 2014 and against San Jose in 2015 in the home stadium of the NFL San Francisco 49ers.

"It's exciting for sure," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "Playing in the game will be really cool. Might be hard with the altitude and Colorado's a good team so it's going to be a good matchup. Always excited for outdoor games."

Next season's other NHL outdoor matchup will send the Calgary Flames against the Winnipeg Jets in the NHL Heritage Classic at Regina, Saskatchewan, on October 26, 2019, at the home field of Canadian football's Saskatchewan Roughriders.

- 'New frontier' of NHL speed -

Bettman also revealed the NHL will utilize new puck and player tracking systems starting next season, with the system to be tested during Sunday's all-star game. The high-tech equipment tracks every movement of the puck and players.

"The Puck and Player Tracking system can track pucks at a rate of 2,000 times per second in real-time with inch-level accuracy," Bettman said. "We'll instantaneously detect passes, shots and positioning precisely. It will be equally accurate in tracking players -- their movement, speed, time on ice -- you name it.

"Being on the forefront of innovation is good for our game, and most especially our fans."

The system would allow gamblers to wager on such things as top speeds, distance covered in a game by pucks and players and other previously unavailable statistics as leagues cater to new legalized gambling rules after a US Supreme Court ruling last May.

The system will require 14-16 antennae installed in the arena rafters, four cameras to support tracking, a sensor on the shoulder pads of every player and 40 pucks manufactured with a sensor inside for each game.

The technology will be deployed in all 31 NHL arenas at some point next season.

"We think many of our fans, especially the innovation generations -- millennials and Gen Z -- are going to love this new frontier," Bettman said.

"And while not developed with this in mind, the application to sports gaming could very well create even more interest in hockey."

Bettman said in testing at games earlier this month in Las Vegas, Brent Burns and Jonathan Marchessault each skated more than three miles (4.8km) apiece and William Karlsson skated over 20 mph.

"We saw exactly how fast, how precise, and how powerful they are," Bettman said.