Hockey Canada’s Virtual Camps and the Sport’s Growing Links to the Digital World

The world of sports has faced some significant upheaval in recent months, but it is fair to say that many areas have found some new and imaginative ways to keep moving forward.

Virtual cycling events, marathons and a host of other activities have popped up – and now it looks like hockey is getting in on the act as well. At the end of May, Hockey Canada confirmed it is all set to offer up a new twist on its usual schedule of summer camps for various teams. How? By taking them online.

A virtual reality

In an official statement, the organization revealed that programming and training sessions it had planned for a range of national teams in the summer months will now be held virtually. Affected camps include the BFL Canada National Women’s Under-18 Team Summer Camp and the BFL Canada National Women’s Development Team Summer Camp, while initiatives like the Program of Excellence coach seminar are also set for the same treatment.

The virtual camp sessions are expected to cover a host of topics, ranging from strength and conditioning and mental performance plans to check-ins, skating simulations and team-building activities. Online seminar delivery for the affected women’s programs is expected to take place twice a week, with the aim of helping participants to continue to develop their skills.

While Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney admitted that important learning takes place in a real-life environment, he felt that the plans for virtual learning would still ensure players can access “best-in-class experiences”.

Transforming sport

The announcement is intriguing for a number of reasons, but it is particularly interesting as it is yet further evidence of how technological innovations and digital tools have had a transformative effect on sports like hockey in the last few years. For instance, accessing news and score updates related to our favourite teams via smartphones and tablets is now a normal part of life for many of us. Furthermore, streaming – whether it is through NHL.tv or other services – has become a common way to watch the latest highlights and live action.

When it comes to making a wager, we are also able to access a host of odds on hockey betting quickly via online sites like William Hill. In addition, the video gaming world has given us a chance to control our favourite stars, thanks to titles like EA’s NHL series. Those games have also gone on to be the subject of eSports events, meaning we even have the chance to watch virtual hockey matches when no real fixtures are taking place.

Technology’s influence on sport looks set to continue in the coming years too, with a study undertaken by Vodafone in the UK last year revealing how many business leaders in the industry expect to use emerging 5G mobile systems as a platform for innovation. In addition, around three-quarters of those polled said the technology could boost fan engagement and open the door to new applications including mixed-reality experiences and real-time access to information.

A new way to train?

All in all, it is clear that technology has had – and continues to have – a massive impact on the world of sport. However, while many of the examples above relate to how fans are able to engage with hockey these days, it is intriguing to consider that Hockey Canada’s virtual camps directly impact on the players themselves.

It will be intriguing to see how successful the sessions ultimately are and whether remote and virtual activities may be integrated into more standard forms of training going forward.