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Eye in the sky: How streaming local hockey has changed the game

Eye in the sky: How streaming local hockey has changed the game


From its perch in the center of the wall at Harold Latrace Arena, the automated eye that monitors the ice surface below follows a hockey goalie as he takes several long strides away from their net and toward the opponent's bench.

It watches as the player, while wielding his goalkeeper stick, makes two swipes at the opponent, hitting the opponent's coach before the stick is pulled from the glove and the officials escort the player away.

Before subscription services like LiveBarn and HomeTeam Live started streaming local sports at rinks and saving them for review, these types of instances would have been another locker room anecdote (unless someone accidentally recorded them on their phone or camcorder).

Instead, the short video circulated among the local hockey community.

A person in goalkeeper equipment holding his stick and preparing to hit someone on the opposite bench
A clip of the player attacking an opposing coach with his hockey stick. (Living children)

The incident was reported to Saskatoon police, although police say the coach chose not to press charges. The player was suspended, but Hockey Saskatchewan general manager Kelly McClintock would not specify for how long.

“In that situation, you now have a pretty clear video of what [that player] did,” he said.

“Nobody can question it, a parent can't question it, because it's pretty hard to argue against what you see on a video.”

McClintock said that while the original purpose of these eye-in-the-sky streaming services was entertainment, it has become more than that.

Be careful what you do or say

Cameras placed primarily at local ice rinks in Canada and the United States capture the video and audio of the Ice Age. They offer distant families the chance to watch their children and grandchildren play sports and allow people to save clips to share with others.

It also gives people the chance to watch, replay and analyze the smallest aspects of amateur sport and question the rulings of referees or hold players and coaches to account by submitting a clip of what they think happened in is against the rules.

“It certainly added a lot more work and a lot more research into what games are called and what calls are made, and then the subsequent discipline,” McClintock said.

Before the video submission reaches Hockey Saskatchewan, it must be given the green light by the team representative, usually the coach and the league they are a part of, to ensure Hockey Saskatchewan is not inundated with videos.

It's just an extra layer of responsibility for coaches.– Guy Sveinbjörnson

Despite this, McClintock said their discipline coordinator still receives about 20 entries some weeks, more from some teams than others.

Hockey Saskatchewan's video policy describes entries used solely for player safety, such as penalties that merit more serious repercussions or suspensions rather than assessing offside, goal and minor penalties.

He said the league typically sides with the on-ice referee.

And while the review focuses on safety, there have been exceptions.

McClintock said there was a unique case where a hockey coach was caught correcting statistics by giving a player points he had not earned.

“That's been happening for a long time, to be honest, but now you can understand it,” he said.

A net leans on the boards of an indoor ice hockey rink
While Saskatchewan hockey officials say rink streaming services started as a way for families to watch their relatives play sports from miles away or in the same city during COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, it has become a way to monitor safety in the sport . (David Hutton/CBC)

Other times, coaches have been suspended for the way they treated players during practice, McClintock said.

“Especially in facilities where LiveBarn is there, that's pretty good 24/7, so if they even engage in inappropriate behavior during practice time, that's going to get caught too,” McClintock said.

“That helps us in terms of maybe some abuse, bad language and behavior and can help us work with the minor hockey association on whether that person should coach or not.”

Coaching and responsibility

According to the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association, most rinks in and around Saskatoon have some sort of streaming service.

“Just from the family dynamic, it's just been an absolute game changer,” said Guy Sveinbjornson, a minor hockey coach in Saskatoon.

Sveinbjornson doesn't think players should pay attention to the camera while playing, but that coaches should remember they are being watched.

“You're talking to a player and then suddenly you look up and you think: there's a microphone right behind us; let's make sure this is in a positive way because there's a grandma and a grandpa watching somewhere, there's a mother watching or a father watching,” he said.

“It's just an extra layer of responsibility for coaches who have to pay attention to how they treat the kids on the ice. I think it's absolutely great.”

a man with a mustache in a Toronto Blue Jays hat
Guy Sveinbjornson, a minor hockey coach, is in favor of both the entertainment and responsibility aspects of streaming services at rinks. (Dyne Patterson/Zoom)

Sveinbjornson did not receive any clips to send chain of command to Hockey Saskatchewan.

But streaming has saved one of its players from sitting out multiple matches after the referee accused them of using explicit language in celebrating their goal. He was cleared by showing the referee a LiveBarn record of it before the paperwork for the suspension had even begun.

For players, it offers a new way to learn: a live replay of their shift for instruction, rather than recalling their play from markers on a whiteboard. Sveinbjornson doesn't believe parents should take the game home and replay a player's failures for them.

Though it hasn't changed the game all that much for the more elite players, says longtime coach Danton Danielson.

Danielson has coached elite U15 and U18 teams.

He said elite teams have their own video recordings of games, with angles they prefer and of better quality, but for teams not at that level, it is useful for coaches and players. And it also gives coaches a chance to watch teams from other communities ahead of crucial games.

While it appears to be a mostly positive addition to rinks, he's not sure if there are any privacy issues.

Is streaming games a privacy issue?

Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner RonKruzeniski said that while it is difficult to say if there are any breaches of privacy law, it is still a privacy issue because players may not be aware that their achievements are being streamed and possibly viewed or stored by people all over the world.

Whether it is considered a violation of privacy depends on who owns the rink and what jurisdiction it falls under, or whether the league has signed consent forms.

McClintock doesn't think there is a privacy problem.

“It happens in a public place, regardless of whether someone recorded it on their phone or whether people witnessed it,” he said.

A public notice on the glass of an ice rink
A public notice posted at an ice rink in Saskatoon informing readers that the sports complex is “monitored by video cameras for commercial purposes, including the online broadcast of events herein.” All participants and guests waive any claim regarding the recording or public broadcast of their participation while at this sports complex.” (David Hutton/CBC)

Do you have an interesting video from a streaming service about something that happened at your local rink? Email it to [email protected].




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