NHL on Versus: The 'Glow' Changes Everything

Zahir ACorrespondent IMay 17, 2008

Remember the 1996 NHL All-Star Game in Boston? Those who caught the broadcast on Fox will recall the infamous ‘glowing puck’ that supposedly made the game easier to follow. Executives put a stop to the spectacle in 1998, but a decade later, there seems to be a strong interest in reviving the technology. 

According to USA Today, the NHL and Versus are in serious talks about bringing ‘puck-tracking’ technology back for the 2008-2009 season. The executives at Versus have decided that they will test the pucks in a studio demonstration before any TV broadcast is made. 

But why would Versus want to resurrect an idea that should have been buried long ago? If Versus is planning anything similar to FoxTrax, I can only assume that they are in dire need for more viewers. Rather than turning a live game into a laser light convention, Versus should focus on better coverage and clearer picture quality.

Luckily for us Canadians, we have alternate hockey broadcasts on TSN and CBC, but the American fans have had their share of setbacks with Versus. Local coverage issues and unwarranted blackouts could be attributed to growing pains within a new network, but Versus has made bigger errors.

My condolences to the fans of a 2007 conference quarterfinal game between the Stars and Canucks who had to watch an infomercial instead of the fourth overtime where Henrik Sedin potted the game winner. Rather than spending money on puck-tracking, Versus should focus on these issues that cause viewers to watch their games elsewhere. 

There is also the issue of poor visibility. Improved picture quality is worth spending money on and benefits all hockey fans. If Versus is concerned about losing viewers under seven years old, then they should go right ahead and spend millions on puck tracking. Casual sports fans might welcome the changes, but can Versus really afford losing the hockey purists over a glowing puck? 

Having poor eyesight myself, I can see how some people find it hard spotting the puck. My suggestion is a very simple one: follow the player who is actually stickhandling. From 14 years of watching hockey, I’m fairly certain that players do not take the time to stickhandle for no reason during the game.

If there is still a problem with hockey interest in America, will adding special effects allow people to take the sport seriously? High definition broadcasts also eliminate concerns about poor visibility, but if you really have trouble spotting a black puck on the white ice…then consider Laser Eye Surgery. 

Executives at Versus are clearly hoping that their technology will not suffer the same end result as Fox. However, slowing down the "Fastest Game on Earth" to encourage casual viewers is not the answer. For the sake of the game, let’s hope that Versus’ new puck technology is stopped in its "Trax."