Los Angeles Kings president Luc Robitaille has just seen the future.

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It was a Stanley Cup playoff game in May, and the Kings showed dizzying images on their arena video screens with 3D images of the players.

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“It was really cool, actually,” the Hockey Hall of Famer said. “The guys left the ice, changed clothes. And our talisman danced on them while it was happening.”

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“You should have done a double take. This is something else that no one has ever seen before. But as an organization, we think it’s important to try new things.”

In this case, the new thing was the Metaverse, a network of virtual three-dimensional worlds focused on social interaction. Or rather, take the Kings to the next level by becoming the first NHL team to use 3D technology to capture their players.

The Kings partnered with the Israeli company Tetavi to create two videos demonstrating the potential of immersive technology in the Metaverse.

Tetavi took their portable production studio and set it up at the Kings practice rink in El Segundo one afternoon in April. Los Angeles players such as Anže Kopitar, Philippe Dano, Adrian Kempe, Viktor Arvidsson, Trevor Moore and Alex Jafallo skated in full gear as eight cameras filmed their moves. The same process was used to film Bailey, the lion mascot of the kings, who beats the drum and dances around.

In the past, these types of players would go to a remote studio for all-day filming. The Kings were amazed at how the Tetavi process took four hours from setup to filming at their practice rink. Moreover, the players were in the midst of an intense race for the playoffs.

Using the footage and machine learning technology, Tetavi built models of the players and the mascot in their studios. The final product was shown during the Kings’ playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers.

“It has been a pleasure working with players and Bailey to bring this in-game activation to life, and we have ambitious plans to increase Kings fan engagement worldwide,” said Tetavi CEO Gilad Talmon. “This is an important step in our mission to democratize bulk technology.”

The videos were shown on the video screens of the arena, and not in virtual reality glasses. They were just an example of what volumetric capture can deliver. But it wasn’t hard to imagine a fan immersed in the Metaverse as the 3D Kings players swirled around him or the growing army of Baileys pounded their drums around him.

“When they brought it to us, we thought it was an opportunity to create a different perspective on gaming entertainment and a different kind of interaction with fans,” Robitaille said.

He couldn’t help but imagine what might happen next.

“I see the potential for a post-match component where fans can be close to the players,” he said. “You could see where we could create fun things when people are behind the bench or in the box with players. It would be a really fun part of the game that no one has ever seen before.”

The NHL is just diving into the Metaverse. While the Kings played with surround capture technology, the St. Louis Blues introduced the NHL’s first Metaverse shopping experience. Blues Experiential Reality featured an immersive Metaverse accessible on any device, featuring a 3D photorealistic dressing room that served as a merchandise showroom.

The League is working with companies on ways to watch games on an Oculus headset using NHL technology to track pucks and players, and believes this paves the way for further participation in the Metaverse.

Many of the NHL’s VR innovations are aimed at young fans.

“How do we create an additional experience for children in the game?” Dave Lehansky, the NHL’s executive vice president of business development and innovation, reflected at the New Jersey Technology Show earlier this year. “What we want to do is take that experience and add something that people have never thought of before.”

Robitaille acknowledges this, but doesn’t believe technology alone will captivate young fans. It must be worth their time.

“You’d be lying if you said you weren’t trying to appeal to a younger audience,” Robitaille said. “But I think it’s important for us to try new things and take risks.

“If you do it right, people will look for it. I prefer this to some ploy to lure the kids in. These kids are not stupid. They know what’s cool. They buy Coachella. [tickets] even before they know what bands are playing.”

The NHL expects teams to make other forays into the Metaverse this season as they are curious about how the technology works and how it can be integrated into their marketing and fan engagement plans.

Robitaille expects the Kings to remain one of those teams that are at the forefront of experimentation.

“When you come up with something, you can call the Los Angeles Kings and we will try. I think it’s important,” he said.