How can we create a fun, immersive viewing experience for NHL fans using 5G technology? That was the question 50 University of Waterloo students were looking to answer during a week-long hackathon hosted by Sportsnet and Rogers.

The 2020 Sportsnet Hockey Hack tasked students to work alongside mentors from Concept — Velocity's experiential innovation hub at Waterloo — to come up with innovative solutions that would change the way millions of NHL fans watch and engage with live games both inside and outside the arena.

Students from the winning teams were invited to progress into an incubation phase and work with senior project managers at Rogers and Sportsnet to create a prototype and pitch it to the Product team. Offering a valuable opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience, and also for Sportsnet and Rogers who were able to tap into young talent and innovative thinking.

“The Sportsnet Hockey Hack, powered by Rogers 5G, was an incredible example of the strength of our partnership with the University of Waterloo, and our collective ability to bring together bright minds and innovative ideas,” says Neel Dayal, senior director, Partnership and Innovation at Rogers Communications. “We were energized by the creative and smart thinking that came from the students at the event, and we look forward to building on key concepts to advance Canada’s 5G roadmap.”

Hands-on learning to prepare the future workforce

More than an opportunity for hockey enthusiasts to get their hands on a goldmine of player data from Sportsnet, the hackathon provided a chance for students to work together with industry professionals on innovative tech products and services.

“Interacting with the product directors and project managers at Rogers and Sportsnet and the Concept coaches taught us a lot about product development, expanding our skills beyond our own fields of expertise. We also learned a lot of transferable skills from each other. It was a large time commitment, but it was definitely worth it,” says Rachel Li, currently in her third year of Computer Science.

For Accounting and Financial Management student Ryan Trainor, the experience allowed him to expand his skillset and better prepare him for work in Canada's booming technology sector.

“I would absolutely do it all over again if I could. It was one of the most formative experiences of my undergrad. It shaped my own professional development, forcing me to think about what really engages me and how I can find meaningful work in roles going forward,” says Trainor, a third-year student with the School of Accounting and Finance. “The skills I gained have already benefited me during my other co-op roles, especially how I diagnose and understand problems, work through them, and approach communicating and taking on responsibility beyond my role. It’s been incredibly valuable.”

Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone


Mathew Maradin
Student, Faculty of Engineering

Other students like Mathew Maradin, a first-year student at the time of his participation, wasn’t sure he’d have much to contribute as a freshman but was pleasantly surprised by the transferable skills he brought to the table. The opportunity to push himself outside of his comfort zone led him to learn from others working at a higher level and expand his network, both rewarding experiences that paid off during his future co-op and school terms.

“We all had different ideas of what it would be like going into the Sportsnet Hockey Hackathon, but this was beyond any of our expectations,” says Maradin, now second-year Engineering student and a hackathon winner. “Working with high-level people from Rogers, Sportsnet and Concept was an incredible opportunity to expand our skills. For anyone unsure about joining a hackathon or the Concept Discovery Stream, go for it. It’s an opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone.”

Trainor agrees and encourages other students looking to push themselves and develop new skill to sign up.

“For any students that are unsure about joining a hackathon or the Concept Discovery Stream, I was in a similar situation. I almost didn’t apply because I didn't have a lot of coding experience,” Trainor says. “Turns out: You don’t need to code. There is a role for everybody to play. I focused on the business side: product development, design and pitching to stakeholders. I even picked up some technical skills along the way, so it was more than worth my time.”

Providing opportunities on campus and beyond

Waterloo was one of the first Canadian campuses to benefit from 5G technology. Building on this partnership with Rogers, the University now has an autonomous bus that operates off the new network and is continuously looking for opportunities to develop talent as the world operates more digitally. The hockey hackathon was a great example of combining technology and talent in an industry that continues to be significantly interrupted by the latest hurdles of the pandemic.

Talent done differently

A talent evolution is underway, and the effects are being felt in every sector. Waterloo’s robust talent ecosystem is equipped to respondfrom world-leading co-operative education programs to research and innovations that drive real-world change. Learn how your organization can benefit.