Your Announcers and Open Thread For Penguins-Rangers

Pittsburgh vs. NY Rangers, 7PM, VERSUS
Play by Play:
Joe Beninati
Color: Darren Eliot
Reporter: Billy Jaffe

I Just Can’t Hide It: NHL Game Center Live is Awesome

I mentioned last week that I would totally go nuts for an opportunity to review the NHL’s subscription service, Game Center Live.  The day after I made that statement, I got an e-mail from my good pals at the league asking if I wanted to.  I was thrilled, and was given a chance to try out the technology.  Look, I go into an opportunity to try something new and exciting for free with an immediate optimism, but frankly, I was blown away with how cool Gamecenter is.

I decided to head through the archives of games available to me, and picked out Game 6 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals.  Frankly, I was a little annoyed that the video quality wasn’t any better than the highlights the NHL used on it’s website.  I was still more enthralled to be simply using this technology more than anything else, so it got a pass.

The ultimate test would be Saturday night, with 12 games on the docket, 10 at night, and 7 of them available to me on GCL.  Boy, did this thing come through with flying colors to me.  The video quality when you want to watch one game, immaculate.  Better than any standard definition TV, and right up there with NBC’s HD picture, or the best local feeds.  It’s closer than any outlet in the history of the web has come to replicating the TV experience.

There’s so much more to it though.  Mosaic mode (in which one can watch four games at once) is distracting to someone purposely watching it, but the perfect accessory if you’re already watching a game and want to keep pace with the other on-going action.  I was able to follow Coyotes-Capitals while the Devils were taking on the Islanders, so I would know how the games would affect each other in the standings.  This is a new and fantastic way for fans to keep themselves logged in to the NHL experience.

Pop out mode is equally great, because the number of games one can stream is potentially unlimited.  The backup stats are fantastic, and the quality of video remains at least better than finding something off an illegal feed on the neither regions of the web.

I can’t say I’d recommend it for every fan.  If you are not a diehard, this is probably not for you.  But if you are, like me, obsessed with this sport, make the purchase (Current pricetag: $119 for the rest of the season).  If you are a college student or an employee transplanted outside of your market, this is the best way to follow your team no matter where you are, which sounds like a line from the Center Ice commercial, but it’s true.

The only negative I can think of is that they don’t allow you to stream your home team’s games in the market.  I understand the blackout rules and exclusivity, but if the New York Yankees have found a way to do it… the NHL should follow this initiative.  I live in a college dormitory where MSG Plus and VERSUS are both unavailable to me.  At least the former, if not the latter, should be worked on as a feature in the new Game Center Live.  Perhaps an additional fee could be paid by the user to override the blackouts.

The last thing I can say is that, if you are unsure of whether or not to subscribe, check out the service’s free preview, beginning tomorrow night.  Behold the glory of Game Center Live, and I have to think that if you have the means, you’ll purchase it.  Long live Game Center Live.

Welcome to Week 2 of the Ron MacLean-Canucks Feud, Canada’s Answer to the NBC Late Night Squabble

Now apparently the Canucks are retaliating for MacLean’s coverage of the Burrows/Auger incident, according to the Vancouver Sun:

On Saturday, the Canucks turned down all interview requests on their nationally televised game against the Chicago Blackhawks. No Canuck player appeared pre-game, between periods or post-game despite the fact Vancouver handily beat the Blackhawks 5-1.

The three stars, as chosen by HNIC, were Canucks Roberto Luongo, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler. It is customary for at least one of the three stars to do a post-game hit with host Scott Oake.

The boycott came from the top of the Canucks organization and was in direct retaliation for MacLean’s one-sided piece a week earlier on the Alex Burrows-Stephane Auger “referee-gate” incident.

“Any time we feel that one of our players has not been treated fairly, you have to take a stand as an organization,” Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault explained Sunday. “We did that and we’re moving forward.”

William Houston has more on the reactions from this whole mess:

MacLean, during the Hotstove segment on Saturday, seemed to acknowledge his piece should have included more scrutiny of Auger. But he didn’t address the worst elements of the report in which he judged Burrows guilty of faking an injury in the earlier game against Nashville and then actually put words in Burrow’s mouth.

The Canucks also were upset over Hockey Night showing video clips of Burrows and his history of cheap shots, goalie baiting and yapping. Reporting Burrows’ record was entirely appropriate in the context of his reputation and how he is viewed by the league, which decided to fine him $2,500 for accusing Auger of ethical misconduct. It also showed the league had shown leniency toward Burrow in previous incidents.  But, as Pierre LeBrun noted during the Hotstove discussion, McLean didn’t provide enough information on Auger or his record.

I’ll continue to lightly monitor this situation, if only because I know you guys are all so very tired of it.

BREAKING: NHL On NBC Holds it’s Own on Conference Championship Sunday

According to Sports Business Daily (reg. required), The NHL On NBC Game of the Week featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers drew a 1.3 overnight rating in it’s Sunday 12:30 PM ET timeslot.  I don’t have the data on hand currently, but that number may be the highest overnight for an NHL on NBC indoor regular season broadcast in a couple of years.  I’ll check on it, and get back to you.

Regardless, this should likely come as bad news to all the folks who get tired of Pens-Flyers, as these ratings (as well as the playoff ratings a couple years back) signify the rivalry’s ability to move the needle in terms of hockey ratings.  This is pretty great news for the NHL, who were able to carve out it’s best audience in a while on the NFL’s 2nd biggest day of the year.

UPDATE: via Sports Media Watch:

The 1.3 overnight is tied as the highest for any non-Winter Classic regular season NHL telecast since NBC’s debut NHL telecast in ’06 (1.5/3).

Over the previous two seasons, no NHL telecast on NBC had drawn an overnight higher than 1.1 (again, excluding the Winter Classic).

That is something else.

Should the NHL Give Up On Television?

At 1:30 of this clip of Newsradio (how I solve all my life’s problems), Catherine Duke (Khandi Alexander) interviews a so-called “business visionary” named Tom Baxter whom, in 1996, claims that “computers are what’s gonna be big.”  This is derided as most people already knew that.

Author Kevin Maney seems to fancy himself a “business visionary”.  Here’s his website for some background.  Maney told ABC News on Yahoo! that the NHL should drop all of it’s television contracts and go exclusively to streaming games on the web, getting them on the forefront of the web revolution.

There will be two articles on this site upcoming: 1. a piece on what today’s NBC ratings are, and 2. a review of NHL’s Game Center LIVE.  Just pointing out that this sort of thing will be prevalent this week.  I want to hear your take on the interview.  Let me know.