Monday, December 19, 2022

New Bruins' digitally enhanced dasherboards yet another change to a sport full of tradition

By Zachary Baru

Just when fans might have started to warm up to the extra ads in the corners, there is yet another change for fans to accept - presenting the "digitally enhanced dasherboards", or DEDs, new to the 2022-23 National Hockey League season.

It's not just the Bruins or NESN that is debuting this change this season, it is all teams, all broadcasters, both local and national.  A monumental digital change that perhaps some fans will not even notice.  Many, however, will notice the change, which has taken seven years in the making.  The NHL has been working with ad company Supponor, according to  Advertisements along the dasherboards began in 1981 with the Minnesota North Stars, and fast-forward to 2022, the ads are not only digitally on the ice, but "replacing" the in-arena ads on the dasherboards as well.  But are these ads really "replacing", or simply modernizing a decades-old practice?

The Bruins are an institution in Boston.  A franchise with a rich history and rich tradition.  Anytime something affects the in-game experience for fans, even slightly, it is going to undoubtedly create frustration.  So the question here is how have long-time fans responded thus far?  

One way to look at this is ask has this affected the actual television experience?  With the exception of players skating in the corners and the digital ads blocking players, or in rare cases causing players to disappear quickly, it really has not affected the game experience much at all.  But yes, these slight glitches have been know to happen, with players in some cases completely blocked behind the augmented reality technology of the ads.  Additionally, there is to some level a charm of the game being played the way it has been for decades, with no digital enhancement whatsoever.  And for a franchise like the Bruins who are all about history and tradition, these changes will likely take more getting used to compared to a franchise that began in the 1990's, for example.  

The technology is for the most part new, and while it did take seven years to develop for the NHL, it is still working off augmented reality technology that debuted in 1998 on "Sunday Night Football", which at the time was aired on ESPN.  This technology is best known for the first down markers that have become mainstream on all channels.  Later on, the AR graphics were implemented to full-screen stat graphics that are also mainstream on all national networks.  One example of this is when the NFL on Fox will show a full-screen stat graphic in-between plays, making the graphic look like it is part of the stadium.  In reality, of course, nothing is there - thus the augmented reality technology.  

Here in 2022, the AR technology has made its way to the TD Garden, and is a fixture on all NESN broadcasts.  Perhaps it should be put in the category of green screens used in Fenway Park for ads during Red Sox games, which most likely has not affected anyone's enjoyment of the game.  Or maybe even the category of the Green Monster adding ads, although that is quite a leap for a comparison.  The point is ultimately fans, for the most part, do adjust.  But even more so, ultimately sports as a whole will always evolve.  Like it or not, the game will always change.  The technology on and off the field or ice will always progress.  For the fans, there is nothing we can do about this, it is part of the business model of sport.  And at the end of the day, that is exactly what this is, not just a game, but a business.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at

Monday, January 31, 2022

Sports betting is popping up everywhere, but will it come to Massachsuetts?

By Zachary Baru

Sports betting is currently not legal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  But just as the purchase of recreational marijuana for those 21 and over became legal in the state, the months until such a bill for sports betting is passed seems inevitable.  

The real questions here are, how will it benefit the state, what are the social effects, and how will it benefit local businesses?  All three are directly related, and all three should be taken into consideration as sports betting can do a lot of good for an economy, but certainly does have social effects on the citizens within that economy.

The Growing Trend Nationwide

Sports betting in the United States is now legal in 30 states, with 18 of those states allowing online sports betting.  Four of those states share a border with Massachusetts: New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York.  

This can be looked at in one of two ways: how much money is Massachusetts loosing to each of these four states as residents travel to them to wager, or how many people in Massachusetts are prevented from the potential social effects of sports betting due to the inability to wager within the state?  

It is hard to find legitimate stats for the number of Americans with sports betting addictions, as a true survey is virtually non-existent of how many Americans have sports gambling-specific addictions.  However, in research from the National Council on Problem Gambling, and reported across several sources including the New York Times, NBC News and Bloomberg, it is reported that about 1% of American adults, which is roughly 2.5 million Americans, have "severe" problem gambling.  

In a further examination of this data, Bloomberg reports that 2-3% of adults have "less severe problems" from gambling, but gambling still is responsible for "financial and social miseries".  According to Bloomberg, this represents 6-8 million Americans.  

The State's Budget, the Economy and Social Effects

Which brings us to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the underlying question: is sports betting good or bad for the state?  Clearly there are going to be mixed opinions about the social ramifications of sports betting, but what does it mean for the state's budget and the local economy.

Across the country in 2020, sports betting generated $1.5 billion in revenue, up 69 percent from 2019, according to NBC News.  With those being 2020 numbers, and the amount of states legalizing sports betting rising to 30 as of January 2021, the revenue is sure to sharply increase.  

From these numbers one can make a case for the benefits of sports betting from the state's standpoint.  But there is a little bit more to the story - in fact, there is a lot more.  The economic benefits must be weighed in as well, which will ultimately contribute to state tax revenues.  Local bars and casinos in the state will almost certainly see an increase in patrons, as many television networks have seen a rise in sports ratings as wagering becomes legal in more states.  Sports betting can attract patrons, who sometimes will go to a bar to watch the game, or go to a casino to wager.  Especially if the casino has a deluxe sports book with many TVs, all games, sofa chairs and a bar. Whether betters are attracted to a sports book in a casino, or a bar to wager on a mobile device, the state will benefit from tax revenue.   

The question remains, what will benefit the Commonwealth more: tax revenue from sports gambling, or helping to prevent increased gambling addictions.  There will always be the argument that no matter how long you prevent sports betting apps or sports books from the state, there will undoubtedly be underground sports betting taking place within the state.  With that being said, it should also be noted that keeping sports betting illegal will discourage a certain amount of people from having access to it.  Either way you look at it, there will be a price to pay.  The question is, how does Massachusetts want to pay for it?  A loss of revenue by not allowing sports betting, or a potential increase in addiction by allowing it.  Only time will tell.

Source: Forbes, National Council on Problem Gambling, NBC News, Bloomberg 

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at