What the puck is Hockeyology?

· The Pulse

Edmonton Edge Fund-recipient ZerOne is opening a new centre for hockey performance and sports medicine at West Edmonton Mall that includes something called Hockeyology.

The 26,000-square-foot space will host Hockeyology, which will be an athletic performance centre focused on student hockey players, as well as Athleticare, a clinic that will offer medical and wellness services for young athletes. The space cost more than $9 million and is located near entrances 31 and 32 at the mall. (ZerOne is pronounced "Zero One" and comes from the book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters.)

"We've been working on partnerships over the last 12 to 24 months, really building out everything from corporate partnerships to linkages with the university," co-founder and CEO Dave Muddle, whose fellow co-founder is David Cooper, a retired hockey pro, told Taproot. "When the facility itself opens, though, that'll really be our introduction to the marketplace."

ZerOne is aiming for a grand opening in August.

That "linkage" is a partnership with the University of Alberta that's supported by $100,000 from the Edmonton Edge Fund. Specifically, the partnership is with a U of A spin-off company called Gaze and Movement Analysis led by Craig Chapman, an associate professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation. The company uses video tech such as motion capture, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to measure a hockey player's performance and build insights about training and progress.

"This really brings us to the forefront of bio-kinetic measurement, being able to visualize the way the body is moving through certain kinds of movements that we can record and analyze," Muddle said. "The whole place is embedded with lots of technology and integration. Elegant user experience is sort of our big, hairy, audacious goal."

The centre's non-performance related amenities include a media centre for producing audio and video content, a retail space, and skate sharpening and alignment services. As for tech-enabled training, there are two mini-rinks and a dry-land training area and a gym with the capacity for functional movement exercises. The crown jewels may be the smart skatemills (similar to treadmills but for skating) with built-in video capability that will help Chapman's team produce analysis.

"We're working with the Gaze and Movement Analysis folks to really dig deep into data analysis, and to be able to create really, really cool products and services for our members that will enhance their learning and their development process," Muddle said.

One such product is a custom report with visualizations and recommendations for specific areas where players can improve — plus input on how to do so. ZerOne plans to monetize this and other Hockeyology services through subscription packages that are similar to gym memberships, and in custom packages based on the needs of specific hockey teams. All paid access will include a baseline assessment of a player's skill level within different aspects of performance. ZerOne also plans to deliver the training its assessments suggest on-site, though perhaps not by opening day.

While Athelticare is its own division, housed on the upper level of the facility, it can work in tandem with Hockeyology. It's mainly targeted to be a musculoskeletal injury clinic that lasts less than eight weeks that can help athletes return to play, but there is a suite of other services, too, Muddle said. Family physicians and pediatricians with a sports medicine specialty will operate there, and doctors will work occasional shifts.

Two people stand behind a podium with three banners behind them.

ZerOne's Dave Muddle (left) and University of Alberta researcher Chris Chapman pictured at an Edmonton Edge Fund launch event at the Downtown Community Arena on May 8. ZerOne received $100,000 in Edge funding for Chapman to operate Gaze and Movement Analytics as part of a new facility for the Hockeyology sports performance centre. (Supplied)

"We have been working with the primary care networks, as well as the ERs throughout the city, to let them know that we're opening and that we're available," Muddle said. "We're capable of taking patients that would present at an emergency room because they suffered a sprain or strain, or some sort of injury in the pursuit of a sport."

The clinic will have diagnostic radiology capabilities and professionals with sports expertise in food and nutrition, psychology, massage, and physiotherapy. Alberta Health Services covers some of these services while others require private insurance.

"It's a bit of a hybrid between community access and public healthcare to solve those twin challenges of having a place to go that's accessible but isn't (an) omnibus for any kind of injury," Muddle said. "It's actually more targeted to what a student athlete, for example, might need."

And it's Athleticare's Performance 360 assessment that most closely aligns with Hockeyology. It's made up of concussion testing, physiological testing, and a questionnaire that calculates metrics for healthy living, nutrition, and socio-emotional health.

"The athlete or the team can use that to know what (an athlete's) baseline is," Muddle said. "In the event that one of them should experience an injury, we now know what the baseline is, and they can use (the report) with their choice of care provider."

Muddle said the facility is possible thanks to private investment and partnerships with equipment manufacturers and vendors. "All of them, to a greater or lesser extent, have bought into our vision and stopped calling us crazy at some point," he said.

Perhaps the critical backer is West Edmonton Mall and David Ghermezian, whose family's Triple Five Group owns the mall. That helped get ZerOne its space and also enabled its "preferred access" to program the Ice Palace, the mall's NHL-sized skating rink. For example, ZerOne presents the MacT Summer Classic tournament for players younger than nine at the Ice Palace from July 18 to 21.

Muddle anticipates the facility will be complete by Aug. 18, with a grand opening at some point that same month. However, student athletes can get a sneak peek during five-day camps called the Hockeyology IQ Training Clinic. They run July 22 to Aug. 23 across the ZerOne facility and the Ice Palace. Registration is open now.