Necessity is the mother of invention, and two young men from different sides of the country have come together to solve a problem for hockey players everywhere.
UC Berkeley students Pedro Pachuca of Pleasanton and James Li of Virginia have created a training aide to help hockey players improve their skills. The wearable device uses a simple flashing light to remind them to keep their heads up, rather than staring down at the puck.
Pachuca and Li met when they became roommates at UC Berkeley in 2019. Li grew up playing ice hockey and had entertained dreams of playing in the NHL until he realized his skills were not up to par. From his disappointment, he was inspired with an idea to create a tool to help other players with this common issue.
“I took time to reflect on what my problem was,” Li said, admitting that hours of extra practice had no effect on his hockey game. “I was getting nowhere. I wasn’t scoring more goals or getting more assists . . . I recognized the issue was that I was always looking down at the puck.”
Li explained his idea for a training device to Pachuca. Pachuca had chosen Berkeley for its management entrepreneurship and technology (MET) program and felt Li’s idea would be the perfect premise for a start-up. The two freshmen joined forces and went to work creating HockeyVue, the first electronic training device on the market for hockey players.
Pachuca, a soccer player, said there are many opportunities for a device such as theirs to be used across the athletic spectrum, but hockey is their starting point. They named their company SportVue and hope to increase its product diversity in the future.
“James proposed the idea based on his experience in hockey, and there’s the same problem in soccer,” Pachuca said. “You have to run and dribble at the same time, be aware of your surroundings, and pass to your teammates. So the big issue – playing with your head down – also existed in my sport, and it’s the big reason I sympathized with James’ original problem.”
To help guide them through the process, they turned to Li’s hockey coach, John Gary. Gary said he has seen numerous young players struggle to keep their heads up during play and is optimistic about HockeyVue’s ability to change that. He has helped with beta testing on some of his players in Virginia, where he coaches the Reston Raiders.
“(The device) was well-received, because it’s useful for the kids,” Gary said. “It’s a bit of a toy. It has that little light, and it works and does exactly what it’s supposed to do.”
Gary explained the device clips onto the facemask of a hockey helmet and flashes a light at pre-set intervals, reminding the wearer to look up.
“There is no training time – it’s wearable and usable right away,” Gary said. “It’s very useful from a coaching perspective, because we spend a lot of time trying to build good habits in young players . . . the head down hockey play at 14U will never reach potential, so it’s quite useful, and I think kids are interested in it because it’s unique.”
The founders of SportVue are currently working on getting final products into production, designing a clip to work on hats for players to practice off-ice, writing software for an app to track data and expanding their web presence. For the latter, they brought on Granada High School senior Hriday Sheth, whose job is to refine the product’s algorithms and increase search engine optimization. Hriday and Pachuca met while participating in cybersecurity competitions.
“Since school has been out, I’ve been spending a lot of hours on SportVue,” said 16-year-old Hriday. “I spend a lot of time every day promoting our product online and trying to boost our search engine optimization and make it so when you look up SportVue, our website comes up as soon as possible.”
Hriday also aspires to attend UC Berkeley and join the MET program there with Pachuca and Li.
Li will begin product demos on July 24 by partnering with organizations in Virginia. Hriday hopes Pachuca will be able to begin a similar process in the Tri-Valley, though tighter restrictions from the state of California prevent that for now.
“In California, the restrictions have really stunted our progress, and we haven’t been able to get our devices on players,” Pachuca said.
Despite the normal bumps in the road associated with a new business, as well as larger hurdles caused by the pandemic, Pachuca and Li have founded a company and come up with a working product in less than a year.
“These guys are focused on a problem, they are really smart, and I’m really impressed,” Gary said. “These are the kinds of guys we’re going to see doing great things in the future.” For more information on SportVue, visit www.sportvue.co or follow @sportvue on Instagram.