Puck Daddy - NHL

The best compliment we can pay NHL Center Ice: We can't remember what being a hockey fan with a functioning television was like before its arrival.

It unshackled fans in the U.S. from depending upon national cable television partners for game coverage. VERSUS only offers a few days of coverage each week, and obviously favors some teams more than others. Outside of a few windows of exclusivity, Center Ice gives us control over the hockey we want to watch: From Taylor Hall(notes) vs. Tyler Seguin(notes) to those masochists who would sit through the Wild and Panthers on a Friday night.

Alas, there's another hallmark of Center Ice: It does cost a bit each season to order it ... and the economy is so far down in the toilet you need a plunger to find it.

So in an effort to allow us all to reallocate our beer money for the coming NHL season, we reached out to In Demand and dug up the Center Ice rates for the 2010-11 campaign.

Last year, NHLCI was $163.80 if ordered before Oct. 31. This season, the price has risen to $171.80 (a.k.a. four easy payments of $42.95) if you order Center Ice before Halloween. No word on how high the price is after that date.

Also, NHL Center Ice will offer a free preview for most of the season's first month, going free from Oct. 7-24.

As far as clearance (Clarence), In Demand told us that NHLCI "should be available to at least as many systems as last year," and may still add more cable systems as we get closer to puck-drop.

Now, there's one quibble we have about Center Ice, and it's a serious one: The picture quality. If you own an HDTV, watching some of the feeds on NHLCI is simply painful. Puck Buddy David D. lamented that fact in an email:

What bugs me is the [poo-poo] quality the games are shown in; these days everything is HD, and to see a hockey game in that quality is awful, it's practically blurry. 

From what I understand from my friends back home in Canada, all of Center Ice is HD, and I get that there are way more people watching it up there. But is there any talk of improving the quality for the upcoming year? I'm at the point where the quality is bad enough for me to say [screw] it and watch it with the same quality on justin.tv, but honestly, I'd rather see HD hockey.

Totally agree. We've heard in the past that it's on the individual cable providers to open up HD channels for Center Ice coverage. But no matter who's responsible, it's time puckheads start voicing their displeasure over dropping $172 for VHS quality in a Blu-Ray world, and demand their HD hockey. Until it all goes 3-D, of course,

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