Fans attending the Stanley Cup playoff at Crypto.com Arena in May 2022 might have noticed that the Los Angeles Kings went the extra mile with in-arena videos. Vibrant, 3D images of players plus Kings mascot Bailey the Lion flashed across the massive screens, impressive products of the team’s collaboration with Israeli “deep tech” startup, Tetavi. However, the excitement of the games might have obscured the significance of those videos—they marked the first time an NHL team used volumetric technology to record player footage.
Volumetric technology, according to Tetavi’s website, “brings real humans into the digital world” by creating “the next generation of photorealistic digital content and immersive experiences for the Metaverse and Web3.” This means that even though the Kings ultimately lost the playoffs to the Edmonton Oilers, the team still forged a path for the National Hockey League (NHL) to enter the metaverse. According to an in-depth report by ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, the Kings’ innovative videos are just the beginning of the NHL “just dipping its collective toes in the Metaverse.”
The Kings went with immersive, VR-friendly video, but ESPN reports that around the same time, the St. Louis Blues introduced metaverse shopping. The Blues metaverse experience featured a realistic look inside the team locker room, where fans could browse through team merchandise. In addition, ESPN reports that the NHL is now actively working on new and novel game-watching experiences accessible via an Oculus headset and “believes that's a gateway to further involvement in the Metaverse.”
According to ESPN, the NHL is targeting its younger fans with new metaverse and VR technology. League Executive Vice President of Business Development and Innovation Dave Lehanski told the sports network that the question was, "How do we create an additive experience for kids at the game?"
He added that what the NHL wants to do “is take this experience and add stuff that people never contemplated before.”
Los Angeles Kings President Luc Robitaille agreed but added that for the Kings and perhaps pro hockey in general, “what's important is to try something new and take risks.”
Curiosity about the metaverse—and Web3 in general—isn’t limited to the NHL or the Kings. The Los Angeles Rams opened a “virtual fan house” after winning Super Bowl LVI. In June 2022, Los Angeles Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson announced that he’d purchased football and basketball franchises in SimWin Sports, the world's most popular digital sports league.
In a press release about his purchase, Johnson said this “multi-billion-dollar business is about to take off.” It’s beginning to look like many decision-makers in pro sports agree with him.