Greg Zanon: Bringing NHL video analysis to high school ice hockey

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Spiideo Ice hockey analysis

Having spent seasons competing at the highest level in the NHL, Greg Zanon knows a thing or two about ice hockey. Today, the former Nashville Predator, Minnesota Wild, Boston Bruin, and Colorado Avalanche defenseman uses his experience to train the next generation as the head coach of Stillwater Area High School’s boys ice hockey team in Minnesota.

Since taking on the role in 2019, Zanon has implemented Spiideo Perform, a powerful, automated video recording, and analysis solution to provide his players with visual feedback. While the experienced coach wasn’t afforded this luxury during his own youth, his time at ice hockey’s pinnacle helped him to recognise the developmental benefits of high-level video analysis.

Developing ice hockey’s future stars

With game attendance often reaching five figures, high school ice hockey in Minnesota isn’t your typically youth-level sport. In fact, having a former NHL player as your coach isn’t exactly normal either. However, Zanon works hard to use his experience as a player to help his team to develop in the best way possible. 

“We obviously don’t have the time that pros and NHL guys have to watch video, but we try to do our best. I think Spiideo really helped us this year with just the availability to get through something quickly, the tagging of a game while the games are being played. So when I got home, I was able to get through it quickly. So I could present to the guys the next day.”

While Stillwater Area High School doesn’t have access to the same funding or resources as an NHL organization, Spiideo Perform offers an accessible solution that enables coaches like Zanon to bring NHL knowledge to high school players. 

“It’s made the game better. It’s made guys aware of what’s around them, and it’s just a great tool,” Zanon insists.

St Croix Valley Recreation Center, where Stillwater plays its home games, is fitted with Spiideo’s fixed camera system. They are used both for performance analysis and all of the games are automatically live streamed via Spiideo & MN Hockey TV. (By having one Spiideo camera system installed, it works with both Spiideo Perform video analysis and Spiideo Play live streaming) 

“What we also really like about Spiideo is that our fans are able to watch live streamed games from the same camera system that we use to do our game film prep from.  This allowed parents/grandparents and our fans to be able to catch our games even when they can not make it to the arena, which was very helpful this year due to the limited number of fans allowed in our arena due to Covid 19.”

Greg Zanon, head coach, Stillwater Area High School boys ice hockey

The camera system autonomously captures an panoramic view of the rink, there is always an abundance of video footage for the coaching staff to utilize. Footage isn’t just used to prepare for future games, but to provide players with constant visual feedback before, during, and after games. 

Zanon uses Spiideo Perform’s presentation tools, accessible through the web or Spiideo’s iOS app, to show his players important moments. With the ability to pan and zoom freely around the ice, drawing tools to highlight particular areas or players, and useful data to support feedback, Spiideo Perform makes it easier to deliver a higher level of analysis in an engaging and understandable way.

“You can show X’s and O’s on a whiteboard all day, and some players get that, but some aren’t that type of learner,” Zanon explains. “Being able to walk in with the iPad, AirPlay it to our TV in the locker room, and actually show them mistakes that were made or show them good plays that worked, I think is a huge, huge tool for us.”

Keeping teammates connected

For Zanon, one of Spiideo Perform’s main advantages is its ease of use. Designed to make video analysis easy, accessible, and efficient, the platform’s simplicity means anyone can pick up an iPad and start to live tag games with little training or technical know-how.

“I love the ease of it. After just a couple of short, brief tutorials I was able to just pick it up and go.”

Greg Zanon, head coach, Stillwater Area High School boys ice hockey

With Zanon and his team often finding themselves short on time between games, Spiideo’s ease of use has allowed them to train their players to work with the system. Now, it isn’t uncommon to find Stillwater players tagging away when they’re sitting out or injured on the sidelines. 

This serves as an important learning tool for the players. By taking part in the analysis process, players must continue to pay close attention to the play, encouraging them to continue their development even when they’re unavailable or unselected. However, perhaps more importantly, the practice helps to maintain camaraderie among the squad. For those facing a lengthy recovery, involving them in the video analysis process helps to keep them involved as much as possible and enables them to continue supporting their teammates on the ice.

“The biggest thing that I miss from my career was being a part of a team. I miss the camaraderie of being in the locker room and having the bus rides, being with the guys,” Zanon says. “That’s what I think a lot of these kids realise – it’s not so much about the actual game. It’s about those relationships you build in the locker room and being part of a team.”

Instant video analysis

Having his players live tagging in the stands has helped improve the speed and efficiency offered by Spiideo Perform, which was a blessing to Zanon and his team last season as disruption to the calendar saw games cancelled and moved. Prior to implementing Spiideo Perform, the coaching staff were waiting up to 15 hours to receive footage from a game, which often meant there was a lack of time to prepare for the next game.

“It made things difficult, especially with back-to-back games where you need to prep but you don’t have anything to prep with,” Zanon explains. 

Now, with games being tagged live from the ice and uploaded instantly to Stillwater’s Spiideo Perform account via the cloud, Zanon and his coaches can begin making use of footage as soon as a game ends, even in the coaches room at the end of each period. With no delay, coaches can prepare presentations in the evening after a game and have feedback ready to deliver the following day. 

“As a coach, being able to come home after the game, when the game is still fresh in your mind, and being able to go through it right away is huge,” Zanon insists. “It just makes life a lot easier than sitting around and waiting, wasting time while you’re waiting for your video to come back to you.”