Hockey Broadcast Question

A while back I heard an explanation of why hockey was so difficult from the perspective of television broadcasting. I think part of the explanation was camera placement issues. Can anyone expound upon this?

The usual reasons include the puck being hard to see and camera placement.

Hi-def broadcast help with the puck visibility issue, which can be a issue with lower resolution broadcasts

If you watch an NBC game they usually use one main angle from center ice, so when the puck is along the near side boards, you can’t see as much. Also the camera operators sometimes have a hard time following the puck.

I live in SE Michigan and get CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) on my cable. They do a much better job with cameras. They will switch angles during play and the operators do a better job of following the action. Not sure if this is just because the are more familiar with the game and do more broadcasts, or if they also have a better way of communicating worked out. One other big advantage of CBC is that the announcers tend to be much better.

I also think part of the issue is with the overall audience for the broadcast. In the earlier days before major NHL expansion you did not hear much about this, even with the old broadcast equipment. Experienced fans who watch a lot of hockey can follow the game much easier. Since the game does move fast and the boards can sometime obscure views, casual views probably have a much more difficult time following the game.

I agree with the above, especially in regards to knowing the game. For non-hockey fans who don’t watch a lot of the sport, following play along the boards can be extremely confusing. Once you know the game well, you can tell when players are dumping the puck in, can expect where to see outlet passes after recovering the puck on the forecheck, understand a lot of the caroms and deflections and where the puck goes.

I think in addition to the boards, when the puck gets shot out of play, it’s almost impossible to see where it actually went. The experienced hockey fan will immediately pick up on things like a shot deflected on a defensive play and will instantly track the puck into the netting, and then expect the whistle for a face-off. The uninitiated will see a shot, then not understand why the heck the whistle was blown.

It is definitely the sport that I think benefited the most from the transition to HD. On old standard def TV, the puck was often VERY hard to see.

I’m a Canadian and therefore have been following hockey since I was a fetus, and 100% agree; HD has been an absolute Godsend to hockey broadcasting. I think HD has been a Godsend to all sports, really, but in hockey the improvement is especially noteworthy. Hockey has a unique set of physical circumstances that make it hard to follow on television.

Here is a rather noteworthy play, Paul Henderson’s Goal of the Century. The play develops around 0:35.

Even if you watch it a few times it's hard to see precisely how the puck gets into the net. It's an unusual play, with Henderson completely forgotten by the Soviet players and receiving a hell of a pass from Esposito, but at what point is the puck propelled into the net? It look like he shoots, and then the puck vanishes and then it trickles in. It's only after looking at it carefully do you see that Tretiak actually saves the first goal but the rebound went back onto Henderson's stick. And this is a fairly good quality film by pre-1972 standards.

Here is a video of Doug Gilmour scoring his famous second overtime goal against St. Louis int he 1993 playoffs:

the play starts to develop at about 6:25, and for a good 20 seconds or so you literally cannot see the puck most of the time; the video just isn't good enough to capture it. Until it lands on Gilmour's stick behind the net, you would be forgiven for thinking they were playing with an imaginary puck. I know where it is, because I know why the players are acting the way they are, but to a person who was new to hockey it would be baffling.

That said there is a distinct difference in quality between a CBC hockey broadcast and anyone else’s, largely because CBC has just been doing it forever (Hockey Night in Canada is one of the longest running TV shows in the history of the medium) and has built up an institutional intelligence on the matter, and also because CBC is just generally very good at broadcasting sporting events, for a variety of reasons.

In the mid-1990s (pre-HD days), when Fox was carrying NHL games, they introduced a gimmick called FoxTrax, which used a chip in the puck to create an “aura” around the puck in the video feed (not dissimilar to how NFL broadcasts now have the yellow “first down” line).

Apparently, newcomers to hockey broadcasts kind of liked it, but hockey purists hated it, and it died a quick death.

OOOH I hated that. The puck even got “streaks” when shot fast enough. It was like a cartoon.

Didn’t players also say it changed the way the puck “flowed” or whatever? (I don’t know what other word to use)

Unfortunately the CBC HD from Windsor we get in Detroit isn’t great HD. They finally got it a few months ago, and it is HD, but isn’t quite as good as NBCs picture.