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21st Century Hockey, As Predicted In 1967

Illustration for article titled 21st Century Hockey, As Predicted In 1967

Over at /r/hockey, Redditor McGrevin has dug up something wonderful. From what appears to be an NHL season preview magazine put out by the late Toronto Telegram (and legendary sportswriter George Gross), it's a vision of hockey in the year 2000, as seen through 1967's eyes.

It's somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and sweetly bullish on the Leafs making another championship final someday, but Gross didn't do too bad!

Ice surface will be obsolete. They'll be skating on plastic which won't need re-surfacing and fully dressed belly-dancers will entertain the handful of spectators in the rink between periods.

Why only a handful? Because the rest will be at home watching the game in their television rooms where 360-degree screens will project the game in four dimensions.


Synthetic ice does exist, and is used for year-round skating rinks. But it's a far cry from the real thing—hockey doesn't have to worry about switching over to polymers just yet. (Later, Gross predicts that even plastic rink surfaces will be replaced by "some molecular phenomenon.") More half-points to Gross for essentially predicting ice girls and immersive home viewing experiences.

There will be no time-keepers, penalty time-keepers, statisticians or goal judges in hockey. Possibly not even linesman. One referee will float above the rink in a pressurized arena-suit, capable of buzzing around or remaining suspended in one place to drop the puck with an air gun. That's all that will be needed to control a game.

Goal judges won't be needed because an electronic eye will reveal when the puck crosses the line. A similar system will be used to indicate offsides and icing calls, thus making linesmen unnecessary.

The technology for all of this (minus the floating referee) exists, and the video review of questionable goals is a step towards it. But a Hawk-Eye-type system doesn't yet have a place in hockey, either because of cost or because of effectiveness, and the NHL has actually added a referee and moved to a four-official system.

Penalty time-keepers and game statisticians will be replaced by a giant computers which will feed data into a miniature computer located near the players' bench for the coaches to see. A similar device will be installed in the press box, where statistics of all games being played are on view, whether they are played in Prague, Moscow, Stockholm, Copenhagen, New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, Montreal or Chicago.


Aside from the need for the computers to be "giant," this is pretty much on-point.

This brings us to the World League. There is little doubt that a league of this type will eventually be formed—possibly even in the 1970s. European hockey has improved greatly in the past decade, glaringly illustrated by the inability of a Canadian team to win the world championship title since 1961.


The improved standard of play in Europe, plus the fact that European rinks can charge as much as $10 for a box seat and are still guaranteed a sellout, might sway hockey moguls in North America towards a World League. Naturally, jet-age transportation will soon make it possible for a team to fly from Toronto to London, England, in little over three hours.


A true World League is still a long way away, and not just because jet travel has been a huge disappointment. While Europe produces some of the top players in the world, economics and logistics mean most of the best still come to North America to play.

In all, Gross was fairly prescient. Except for repeated references to Alan Eagleson, who would later be humiliated and cast out of the hockey world as a master criminal. That was a hard one to see coming.

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