2 min read

National Hockey League (NHL) Draft and the Sphere Make History in Las Vegas


Nine months ago, the Sphere in Las Vegas redefined entertainment with its cutting-edge venue technology, offering a unique multi-sensory experience for music fans. Now his technological marvel is set to make a significant impact on the sports industry.

The NHL hosted its 2024 draft last weekend at the $2.3 billion venue, the first major sporting event to be held entirely at the Sphere. Traditionally a more subdued event due to the developmental nature of many draft selections, this year’s draft was also the first Sphere event to be broadcast live on television. ESPN’s coverage marks a significant shift from previous concerts by U2, Phish, and Dead & Company, which, despite extensive media coverage and social sharing, were primarily in-person experiences.

The idea was born after NHL Chief Content Officer, Steve Mayer, attended the inaugural Sphere event, a U2 concert last September, which kicked off a 40-show residency by the Irish rock band. The concert inspired him to envision the NHL in this innovative venue. Although UFC was the first sports entity to book an event at the Sphere, with an upcoming fight scheduled for September, the NHL leapfrogged with its draft.

The NHL collaborated closely with Sphere Studios, a California-based operation that is part of Sphere Entertainment Co., controlled by New York Knicks and Rangers owner James Dolan, to create content for the venue. Unlike the meticulously planned sequences of Sphere concerts, Mayer and the NHL had to prepare for the unpredictability of a live sports event, even one as organised as the draft.

“We’ve all been learning together about how to make the Sphere work as a sports venue,” Mayer said. “It’s simply a different animal, and we have to be prepared for every possible contingency.”

In addition to programming video and graphics for both the interior screen and the Exosphere, the NHL utilised the Aura, the Sphere’s artificial-intelligence-powered “humanoid robot,” to introduce top draft prospects as they arrive at the venue.

The Sphere’s integration of advanced technology and live sports delivered a landmark event that could set a new standard for future sporting events. This collaboration underscores the evolving relationship between sports and technology, highlighting innovative ways to engage audiences and enhance the viewing experience.

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