Pucks in my House: NHL Center Ice & AHL Live
The 1970s. The pre-cable and pre-satellite 1970s.
Growing up in the greater Springfield, MA area, we had our local network affiliates. ABC and NBC in Springfield. CBS was in nearby Hartford. Then, in the early 70s, Springfield launched a PBS station. That was it. As the decade reached it's scandalous midpoint, so came a rooftop antenna. Our local channels were now crystal clear all the time and if you didn't mind squinting through a snowy picture, a few more channels were somewhat visible. Channels from such foreign lands as New Haven, CT and Albany, NY. Although we didn't have the top of the line antenna that brought in the mysterious signal of the famous WSBK, TV 38 in Boston.
Famous, because back in the cableless dark ages, TV 38 was THE channel to have. Prized by your friends, envied by your neighbors. For most New Englanders, a sports fan's paradise due to the telecasts of the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins. Unfortunately for your author, I (despite my New England roots) have NEVER been a fan of any of the Boston clubs. If the sports weren't enough, WSBK also showed The Three Stooges endlessly on weekday afternoons. Sports and Stooges, this really was a terrific channel!
As the decade drew to a close, a new phenomenon entered into my world...CABLE TV!
Back in those pre-regulatory days, when cable companies made an effort to carry programming that their viewers actually wanted to see, our cable system carried not just some Boston stations-including the aforementioned WSBK, but some New York stations as well. Perfect for a NY sports fan! Yankee games on WPIX and then into the early 80s, USA Network carried New York Rangers games from Madison Square Garden. As the decades have passed since then and pay television became big business, programming choices have increased exponentially. I present that background because this dinosaur wanted to talk a little bit about some hockey "pay per view" options.
I am a DirecTV subscriber and for me, "Center Ice" has become a must have. If you aren't familiar with it, the package brings out of market games into your home, regardless of where you live. This has become a must because in my case, and I'm guessing I'm not the only one, as I said earlier I am not a fan of my "local" team (Boston). Beyond watching any one team to excess, there are a variety of "can't miss" games mixed in. Without turning this column into a diatribe about major league sports ticket pricing, I bought my brother a pair of Bruins tickets a couple of seasons ago. The cost of those two tickets far exceeded the annual cost of Center Ice. Using that as a barometer, Center Ice is reasonably priced. Plus, there's rarely a line for food and the bathroom is usually clean.
Taking my video obsession one step further, along with Versus, NHL Network and in this particular market, NESN I have to think that just about every single NHL game is available in my house! I say "just about" because there was a Nashville-Phoenix game last week that didn't make the cut, for whatever reason.
Strangely enough then, as a lifelong New York Rangers fan, Why you may ask yourself am I pontificating about this stuff on a Blue Jackets blog of all places?
Jeff Rimer and Bill Davidge, of course!
In spite of having the ability to watch all those games, I rarely watched the Jackets. I'm an "Original 6" kind of guy. Then last March, when the working agreement between Columbus and the Springfield Falcons was announced I looked a little deeper into the offerings of the Center Ice listings. I can't say that I totally immersed myself in the CBJ at the end of the season, but now I was glad that I had the opportunity to tune in and learn a little bit about who the Jackets were and what might be in store for the Falcons this season. Now after training camp and the early part of this season, I have to admit...I'm a Jackets fan! I like the synergy between Columbus and Springfield. Both teams have done some good things in the early going. As a lifelong observer, I'm pleased and I find myself optimistic for playoff runs by both clubs.
To this out of market fan, I like the straight forward approach of Rimer as the play by play voice of the Jackets. He's not a grandstanding homer like some others (who shall remain nameless). Jeff is clear and accurate in his call of a game. I haven't found him to force in the same worn out expressions that others are guilty of-to the point where these others think that it's their call of a play that makes it special, rather than the players who are on the ice executing it. Complementing Jeff is former collegiate coach, Bill Davidge. I couldn't say if even after a decade, it's the "newness" of the NHL to Columbus, but I find Bill's dissection of plays, his commentary and even his "Hockey School" segments really enjoyable and more importantly, full of fundamental knowledge. Knowledge of the game that can readily be understood by the newest of fans. When I am watching the FSO telecast, I know that I am not going to be looking for the mute button because of mindless banter that occurs on some other games.
A caveat to the coverage on DirecTV is if you are deemed "out of market"(based on your ZIP code), you can subscribe to their "Sports Pack" ($12 a month) to get all regional sports networks in the country. For reasons unthinkable to my wife, I continue to get the sports pack as I have for the past six years. That's for pre-game and post-game coverage. Even though you "have" the channels, regular games are blacked out. Prior to my "Jacket Fever", primarily I would watch YES for Yankees programs and MSG for Rangers programming, but for the past few months I've become a regular FSO viewer.
This was my first time on the AHL Live website this season. The interface is what you'd expect. Video window on the left side of the screen and a chat dialog on the right. There is a full screen option for the video, more on that in a moment. There are several different plans to choose from to watch games on AHL Live. They are 1) All Access: $400 2) "Your Team" Team Pass - all games: $200 3) Your Team - away pass $125 and single game availability is $7. Although I spend more than my fair share of time in front of a computer screen, I couldn't justify buying the whole season package for $400. This option may appeal to some AHL addicts but at twice the cost of a similar NHL package, it doesn't make a lot of sense for me personally.
I think "The Boss" would agree.