Tech Soup  

Hockey tech developing in Penticton

Factor 9 Sports has received funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). The funding will be used to research ice hockey skating performance using their Blur Analysis System. The project plan includes researching algorithms that will in turn provide meaningful data to hockey players.

Scott McMillan, Founder and CEO of Factor 9 Sports, noted that hockey coaches carry out little analysis of players beyond observing the players skating and playing. The Blur Analysis System will provide players, coaches and teams with objective data on the strength of the players stride, the timing and coordination of their strides, differences between right and left legs and how their balance shifts as they push during their strides. An important part of the system will allow users to do in-depth analysis, compare players and track changes over time.

McMillan has over 15 years of sport science and product innovation experience which includes 6 years with the Adidas Innovation Team. “I am super excited to launch a meaningful sport technology product for hockey players. It is long overdue. At Olympic Training Centers I assessed speed skaters and volleyball players, at Adidas, I provided research support for innovative running shoe concepts and as a triathlon coach, I used power meter cycling technology to optimize my athletes training. I can’t wait to take what I have learned and bring innovative sport technology products to ice hockey.“

I had the chance to ask Scott a few more questions.

BP: Scott, what is your connection to the Okanagan?

Scott: I moved to Penticton in 2007. When I was kid playing hockey, we used to come to Penticton for a week to attend Okanagan Hockey School. That was always a big thrill for me. Although I was focused on hockey 99% of the time, I did notice that the Okanagan would be a beautiful place to live.

I ended up working for the Adidas Innovation Team in Portland (Oregon) after getting my Masters degree in Sport Science. That is where I got married and we stayed there for six years. My wife and I were very involved in Ironman and wanted to move someplace awesome where we could work and enjoy great cycling and running trails. The Okanagan beat out California and Colorado. And still does.

BP: Have you worked with any high profile athletes?

Scott: With our new project we have not started working with high profile athletes yet. It is too early in research and development to do so. At Adidas I had the pleasure of working with a number of great athletes. But, the biggest highlight was doing research with the University of Tennessee Volunteers Football team. We were able to spend some time on the sidelines with 100,000 people looking down at us. That was a big rush!

BP: The funding will go towards researching what data sets are most valuable to players and coaches - what does that research process look like? Are you actively collecting data on the ice, and if so, what calibre of hockey players are you currently working with?

Scott: The research starts with reviewing current literature and interviewing coaches to completely understand what data is important in hockey research and to coaches to date. With that knowledge we put together a research plan for data collections with our system. Then we recruit players varying in ability that will skate for us on the ice using our technology.

No one has studied hockey players like this before so it is very exciting yet challenging to figure out exactly what to deliver to the players and coaches in the end. We know it has to be easy to understand yet very valuable to them so that they can use the results to improve their skating and conditioning.

BP: In a best case scenario, when might we see a professional hockey team using the Blur Analysis System?

Scott: Our current timeline suggests 2014, however, we are looking for teams at different levels to use our system earlier than that to help us refine the system and in return give them early access to the new technology.

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