Bringing the game to life: Behind the scenes with an NHL Arena Technical Coordinator

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Calvin Wang, a middle-aged man of Asian descent, wears a headset

Calvin Wang (right) is an essential behind-the-scenes part of hockey games

Lifelong hockey fan Calvin Wang (BMath ’95) sometimes feels like he’s found a dream job. As Arena Technical Coordinator (ATC) for the National Hockey League (NHL), he sees every home game from some of the best seat seats in the house–right inside the home team’s penalty box.

“It is exhilarating to be so close to the action,” says Calvin. “It’s a chance to interact with the players when they come off the ice into the penalty box, although they’re not always in the best of moods.”

Yet, for all the perks, the job is uniquely demanding. He oversees the arena’s technical operations, managing a range of technologies from the increasingly ubiquitous iPads to the myriad of cameras that capture every inch of the ice to the NHL’s new pucks equipped with tracking sensors. For coach’s challenges, Calvin is the conduit between the on-ice officials and the Situation Room in Toronto, where league officials analyze video footage to determine the correct call.

When he began the job 11 years ago, he would arrive two hours before the puck dropped to ensure critical gear such as the ref mics and net cameras were functioning correctly. Today, with the ever-growing volume of devices and equipment, he shows up at 2 PM for a 7 PM start and stays late after the game is complete.

But Calvin wouldn’t have it any other way. Having an inside perspective on the game’s transformation is part of what he loves about the job. “It's the evolution of sports,” says Calvin. “And it’s amazing to be front and centre for that.”

The job was not one he envisaged when he graduated with a major in computer science at Waterloo in 1995. For several years, Calvin worked in the Vancouver tech scene including a five year tenure as Development Director at Electronic Arts, before launching Loud Crow Interactive, an award-winning studio that develops mobile apps for children. He continues to serve as president of the company, which has developed interactive stories by revered properties including Charlie Brown and author Sandra Boynton, among others.

In 2011, he was recruited to the ATC position by a friend already working for the NHL’s Vancouver off-ice officiating crew. He describes the decision to accept the job as a “no-brainer.” While the role is more hands-on IT than anything he’s done previously, Calvin feels his computer science background helps him understand the nuances of the technology.

In the dozen years since taking the job, Calvin has seen technology change the game in many ways, but Calvin believes the biggest might be yet to come. He believes that the introduction of real-time tracking and camera technologies will revolutionize the way the game is played, officiated and watched.Yet, he believes these innovations should be stick handled with caution. “The technology can sometimes lead you down a bit of a rabbit hole,” says Calvin. He references Fox’s infamous attempt to highlight the puck with a blue streak in the 1990s. The streak was intended to make it easier to follow the action but ended up alienating many fans who found that it detracted from the overall experience.

Amid transformation, Calvin believes the “human element” in hockey is what makes it the greatest sport on the planet. “Technology has given fans new ways of enjoying the game but still nothing beats being at the rink in person,” adds Calvin. “And as much as I love working with all this cool tech, it’s the interactions with the people behind the scenes that make being an off-ice official truly rewarding.”