Wednesday, October 12, 2005


The NHL on OLN: A Work in Progress

While we don't get the OLN NHL broadcasts on Canada's version of the Outdoor Life Network, TSN picked up the OLN feed for last night's Dallas/Phoenix derby. It was my first chance to see the OLN broadcasts and compare it to that of ESPN and ABC from previous regimes.

Before I watched the broadcast, I had read the comments of other bloggers who were less than thrilled with the broadcast quality. As a Canadian, I'm used to high quality broadcasts and seeing each network continue to improve over the years with the on and off-ice production of their games.

Mike Chen wrote:
It was hard to nitpick about the exciting Pittsburgh/Buffalo game (heh, who would have imagined that phrase two years ago), but I am running out of patience with OLN's coverage. It's not Doc Emrick (whom I don't like) or the awkward studio team of Keith Jones, Neil Smith, and Bill Clement. No, it's the way that OLN insists on shooting the game at a "tighter" view.

Essentially, the camera is zoomed in about 1/3 - 1/2 more than normal. Which is fine if there's a scrum in front of the net, but in this era of long passes and fast transitions, it makes it ridiculously frustrating to try and follow the game. What's worse is that the cameramen lose track of the puck at times and wind up just waving it around. If OLN really wants to emphasize the speed of the game, they should use traditional camera views and integrate the dasher cam that ESPN successfully used during the World Junior Championships. Right now, the broadcast just feels disorganized.

Eric @ OffWing adds:
When it comes to Canadian telecasts, tight shots have been used to good effect for years. What I think we're seeing now is OLN's growing pains. They're trying to do the right thing, they just don't quite know how to do it yet. Expect a bumpy ride for a little while longer.

From my own OLN experience...

Eric on the OffWing also found the picture quality to be lacking in his assessment:
Another problem I have...was that the image quality on OLN isn't anywhere near as good as it was on ESPN (and about equal in quality to ESPN 2). I thought I might have been confused at first, but then I saw archival footage of Wayne Gretzky scoring goal #802 in a Kings uniform, and the difference in quality was quite dramatic. In addition, the image quality was even worse when OLN picked up the TSN feed of last Wednesday's shootout between Toronto and Ottawa on opening night. The ice was so bright it looked practically radioactive.

Given OLN is a 'baby' at the NHL game and is not really use to live broadcast events, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and would expect them to work out the kinks. Thankfully, I have many other choices to watch games and don't have to put up with a lower quality production on a regular basis.

As for the game itself, Phoenix really does look like a poorly coached team. That squad has some talent, but they have no on-ice chemistry and they looked really lost on the Power Play. The 2-on-0 SH breakaway goal for Mike Modano and Brendan Morrow was both beautiful and comical at the same time. How can the Coyotes have such a poor looking Power Play when they have Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky on the coaching staff? Ladislav Nagy just looks like he's frustrated out there, and Geoff Sanderson doesn't have the offensive smarts to really be on the PP on a regular basis.

I blogged about the same thing last night. Clement, who I really liked as an ESPN analyst is killing me with his lack of organization and awkward dialog. Keith Jones is also irksome with the contstant hand twitching...
Last night OLN's audio and video feeds weren't synched, to the point of me thinking it was the weed.

I sure hope OLN has a steep learning curve.
Don't forget Rick Tocchett! The 'Yotes have Tocchett too! :)
Buccigross should be the studio host and Clement on the road as an analyst.
At times I Peter Puck right around the corner, like they are talking to an audience that doesn't know anything about the game. How many times are we going to hear things like "that would have been a two line pass in years past" or "the players can now tag up and go back into the offensive zone". We know, we know, move on....
OLN definately was not ready to cater to a hockey game and crowd. Broadcasting Duck Hunts and Fly Fishing is not in the same ballpark as capturing a high speed Team Sport on TV.
I only watched the first game that OLN had broadcast, a Rangers - Flyers game.
The quality of the feed was terrible - the picture was fuzzy, the lines were all but sharp, terrible color contrast, awful camera work etc. I was pretty shocked and switched over to god old NESN to watch the Bruins play in crisp definition TV and much less annoying broad casters.
I watched the Free Center Ice Pre-view and from Dishnetwork and decided that the new NHL would be worth $43 in 3 payments to watch just about every game i want.

I checked the OLN webpage for announcements and stumbled across their NHL forum and the hockey fans are crucifying the Network there. I think it is still to early to hand down final judgment but their learning curve better be very very steep.
God bless Center Ice.
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