The National Hockey League may soon introduce a new set of pads for the hands.
Apple and the NHL are reportedly close to a deal that could put iPads into the hands of coaches on team benches and for fan engagement around arenas.
The Canadian sports network TSN, citing three unnamed sources, reported Wednesday that the league briefed teams about the negotiations.
Apple and competitor Microsoft have been in discussion with the NHL for a few years about bringing technology for use in games and for enhancing the fan experience.
The league, according to the TSN report, wants a partnership similar to those of the National Football League, which gets millions of dollars from companies like Motorola and Bose to use their equipment on the sidelines during games.
TSN said the NHL wanted at least $5 million per season from Apple, but the Cupertino company historically has rejected paying for sponsorships.
“The NHL-Apple deal is more of a major partnership than a sponsorship,” one source told TSN. “Right now, some teams have iPads or other tablets and some don’t. Some have good internet connections, some don’t. The deal is about having a consistent platform than every team can use in every rink.”
A deal between Apple and the NHL could resemble a $400 million deal the NFL has with Microsoft, which provides Surface tablets for coaches to use on the sidelines.
Let’s hope Apple makes the technology seamless for coaches, who may not want the distraction of working around software quirks during tense moments in games.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, the Surface got a very public firing from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who complained earlier this season the technology failed the staff in pre-game preparations and sometimes during the game.
“As you probably noticed, I’m done with the tablets,” Belichick said during a conference call with writers as reported by The Verge in October. “They’re just too undependable for me. I’m going to stick with (paper) pictures, which several of our coaches do, as well, because their just isn’t enough consistency in the performance of the tablets. I just can’t take it anymore.”
The usually reticent Belichick also made news for the time he devoted to expressing his disdain for the technology.
Teams in the NHL can ben assessed bench penalties for throwing equipment on the ice, though the league has not made it clear whether coaches will be forgiven if frustration over technology gets the best of them.