October 08, 2008
There is nothing to fear about the "puck tracking" system Versus will implement on its Hockey Central studio show and between periods this season, according to Steve Lepore of The NHL Arena Program. As long as it's relegated to highlights and telestrator moments, rather than live action in NHL games.
Please recall what it looked like on NBC:
"...as the network describes it, "digitally track the puck and allow viewers to follow the play with greater ease when analysts are discussing puck movement and its importance to specific highlights."
Puck-tracking will only be used during the network's "Hockey Central" studio, show and during intermissions to emphasize highlights and will not be used during live game play. The virtual telestrator utilized in this year's NHL telecasts, first introduced in the network's college football coverage and Tour de France telecasts, allows analysts to highlight and break down plays in a more vibrant and visually engaging way.
As we said in our earlier coverage of Versus and puck tracking, there is room for graphic enhancement of hockey on television if it improves analysis or provides vital information to the viewer.
Finding the puck on the ice, in an HDTV world, does not improve the broadcast, nor is it vital. It's distracting, just as the glow puck was, and makes hockey feel both fundamentally different than it does in the arena (already an issue for television) and inferior to other televised sports that don't rely on technology to follow even the simplest plays. If you can't find the puck on an HD hockey broadcast, you either don't understand the flow of the game or you're trying to watch the television through your eyelids.
We're advocates for more graphic enhancement for live NHL hockey on U.S. television. Just be smart about it. Gives us fundamental inventions like the first-down line in the NFL, or the way NASCAR tracks racers (using old glow puck technology, no less).