Before the season began, the NHL announced that players would now have their numbers stamped on the front of their helmets. In the past, player numbers were on the back of their jerseys, their arms and behind their helmets. Some teams have even begun placing numbers on the front of their jerseys. Numbers on the front of the helmet, however, was a league-wide policy. This could be done for fans to recognize their players or perhaps, as some have noted, to get people used to having more advertising on player equipment.
Bottom line: fans now have another piece of visual information required to track and analyze games.
I think it’s a matter of time before the current technology available combined with the dedication of hockey fans influences the availability of information. I can see a fan being able to snap a picture of a game, either live at the stadium or on television/web, to retrieve data about who is on the ice, how long they were on for, and what they did with and without the puck. This data can be analyzed to produce a real-time, customizable visual diagram for fans to save and use how they see fit.
I also think it’s possible that a cooperative relationship can exist between these active fans and the NHL. For example, teams and players could use the information and knowledge generated by fans in exchange for their availability for questions before, during and after games. Instead of viewing fans as consumers of the game, the NHL should recognize the fans produsage capabilities and how a cooperative relationship that harnesses their knowledge could benefit both parties.