Appropriately enough for a day where James Wisniewski will be taking a few swings at the plate and appearing on Fox Sports Ohio's Reds coverage, the network has stepped up and belted one right out of the park.
Aaron Portzline tweeted this afternoon that FSO will be broadcasting 79 games this season (2 will be aired on Versus, and the remaining game on October 12 vs. Colorado will be blacked out due to the Versus exclusivity window), and that all 79 games will be aired in HD.
That means that including the two Versus games, 81 of 82 games will be available in glorious High Definition coverage. That's a huge leap forward for the team's exposure, especially considering that during their playoff season, less than half of the team's games were aired in HD, and a quarter were still in standard def last season.
Hockey in HD isn't just easier to follow, it's a much "sexier" sell because of the clarity and crispness of the action - it's a big eyecatcher, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see more local bars and restaurants turning to Jackets' games in the evenings as a result.
The next hurdle, which Tom Reed is researching is the local providers - as pointed out by Larry Hoepfner during Cannonfest, Fox Sports makes a signal available for every Jackets game to the cable providers (Time Warner, WOW, AT&T, etx) - it's up to them to put it onto a channel.
If, as Larry predicted, companies like Time Warner and Wide Open West are going to be more consistent about offering an "Alternate" channel for markets like Cleveland or Cincinnati, we can only hope that they'll be equally willing to ensure that the HD feed is available for every broadcast.
With their current broadcast deal with the Blue Jackets up for renewal next year, this is a perfect time for Fox Sports to pull out all the stops and show the franchise (and the fanbase), how they can be a superior partner as the team continues to improve. So far, they're on the right path, but the proof will come when it's time for games to hit the airwaves.