Improvements that TV Broadcasts Can Do Now to Enhance the Hockey Viewer's Experience

In the last two weeks, I've discussed ways for the fan's experience to be enhanced for hockey games. Two weeks ago, I've called for more noise at games; even suggesting something like a supporter's section or group, ideally endorsed by the team and filled with fans who know what their job is (to be loud & proud).  Last week, I suggested putting up isolated cameras on players for viewers at home who are interested in a certain player, for broadcasts to feature top players, and to get a better understanding of why said players make the decisions that they do.

Admittedly, both are pretty lofty ideas.  The first requires organization, cooperation, and a willingness to be loud when no one else really is amid a culture.  A lot of it is nice to say, but doing it is far more difficult than expected.  The second requires additional resources of sorts and a viewing audience showing some interest in the idea for it to get off the ground. Not at all an easy task as well.

This week, I want to suggest several smaller ideas for hockey television broadcasts to enhance and enrich the audience that views them.  They aren't necessarily large plans, but I believe they far more attainable than what I've suggest previously because they aren't big.

Note: Since I'm a Devils supporter, I'm going to be referring to their broadcasts on the MSG family of networks. Perhaps the network or sports affiliate of your favorite hockey team follows some of these ideas.

Put Up Scoring Chance Data:

One of the developments online is that some fans are counting scoring chances for their team's games.  Derek Zona has a good run down of who the are and why it's important information in this post at the Copper & Blue. The intent is to establish who is on the ice when dangerous shots are taken, who generates more of them, and how often they truly occur.  I really like what they do, as it is tedious and difficult to do at times - especially when it's the team you're supporting getting dominated.

I've noticed for years that the TV broadcasts (and I think radio) do count the number of scoring chances. They're usually listed at the end of periods, occasionally appearing in a graphic during a stoppage in play.  It's good that they are tracking that as well, but it leads to two questions.  First: What do they consider a scoring chance (a.k.a. "a chance")? Second: Why isn't this data from game to game somewhere?

The first question is important if only to establish what they are looking for. Perhaps it's in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps it's based on a hardline set of circumstances. Perhaps it's close to what the people online do.  Without establishing the meaning of a scoring chance for the viewer, there's no way he or she can take that count too seriously.  The second question is just as meaningful. What's the point of counting events like scoring chances and then not putting that information somewhere?  What if someone wants to review the chances of past Devils games, compare home and away games, etc.?  Forget about details like who has been creating these chances, even putting up the overall counts.

Fortunately, the answer to both questions can be simple: the broadcast's website.  The MSG website does have a Devils section.  A sub-section for the Devils (and Rangers and Islanders) can be created both with a definition for scoring chances and a running count of chances (preferably by period and player) can be viewed there.  It may not be as detailed as what others are doing independently on the Internet, but it would provide more meaning to what they already do on broadcasts (and perhaps a stepping stone to improve it) and viewers have something to go back to for that kind of information.  After all, what's the point of collecting data if you're not going to go and present it or come up with some overall conclusion?

Listing Matchups on Faceoffs

How teams match up with each other on the ice means quite a bit in a game.  Who coaches put out for faceoffs - not just the centers - can and do have an impact on how the play will develop on the ice. Does one line excel while the other three flop? Is a coach consistently putting a defenseman when an opposing player is on the ice?  The broadcasters tend to note the more important matchups in a game, and it's good when they do that.  However, why rely on those calling the game to identify it enough to mention it on-air?

Why not put a graphic listing the matchups on the ice?  Granted, this may be really difficult to do cleanly during the game.  That's fine, even doing it for faceoffs would be a big help.  The viewer may identify most of who's out there just by watching, but an on-screen list would fill in the blanks.  Since it is a faceoff and there's no action taking place, the production staff will not only have more space to use but also time to put it up and remove it when the puck does drop.

Again, as with scoring chances, there would be nothing stopping the broadcasts from putting up this data on their website. While Behind the Net records zone starts and the NHL does maintain a faceoff report listing who the center matched-up with; MSG could expand on that to include common matchups or provide a better interface for this information.

Replays of Analysis

With the growth of the Internet, the use of video has become far more viable in terms of embedding and storage.  NHL.com has not only served as a resource for official game reports and stats, but an excellent archive of video highlights, notably with goals.  We can view Devils goals for and against and analyze it as necessary.

The TV broadcast does more than just replays on goals, though.  They replay saves, plays, certain shots on net, and even penalties.  It's not all highlights, but some do stick out as good observations given the context of the game.  I'm not sure what the broadcasting policy is with the NHL, but it can be very useful to the viewer if some of what the broadcasters do was uploaded online for additional access.   Even the direct feed with the broadcaster commenting on the play, even if there's telestrator markings on the picture, the viewer has the access to learn more about what went right or wrong in that event - even if it didn't lead to a goal scored.  On off-days, someone could be able to come in and talk further about a play if only to explain a certain concept or to compare and contrast the difference between good execution and poor execution on a subtlety of the game.

Tip of the Iceberg

These three ideas have the same general point: more information.  We are fortunate to live in a world where people look at the sport more analytically and there are greater resources available to understand what happened in a game. Therefore, providing more information in of itself enhances the viewer's experience.  Should MSG store and present the data they collect on scoring chances, list match-ups (5-on-5, 5-on-4, etc.) on faceoffs, and put up more video of the replays they focus on, then they would be doing just that.  The broadcast already does each of those to some degree live, the broadcaster permanently placing that on an accessible website takes it to the proverbial next level while not needing to start from scratch on this idea.

It really is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  There are could be other in-game events to record and analyze that the broadcast may already does.  There are other ways to present this information, as more TV companies, like Samsung in case you haven't noticed the ads by now, are putting out designs where the TV has Internet services and web apps built in for use while watching a program.  Imagine, real-time counts of scoring chances for the game you're watching.

You personally may not be interested in any of these three ideas, and that's fine. These are just three ideas.  But maybe there is something else you'd like to see - like a different counting of hits aside from the official scorer or time of possession in each of the three zones.  Please leave your suggestions in the comments.  I do believe the larger point still holds.  For the fan's own experience to be enhanced the provider of the broadcaster can do that just by giving the fan more information than the viewer has had before.
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