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Razor with an Edge: Virtual Reality Check

by Daryl "Razor" Reaugh / Dallas Stars

I'm going to have you be me for a few moments here.

You are a handsome devil, and you carry yourself with a "here I am" confidence. You're a real eye-magnet the minute you wander into any space.

What you are wearing looks thrown together last minute and yet at the same time seems tailored, fashionable...regal.

Your voice is loud but not annoyingly so. It merely stamps the air with cutting sartorial wit and a gregarious easy laugh.

You command the room and illuminate it with charm.

Yes, you are really something (in my mind).

At the generic social gathering you find yourself, conversation turns to vocational inquiries.

"What do you do?"..."How long have you been with the Stars?". You know, small talk. Some already know the answers, and undoubtedly someone, not really understanding the derogatory nature of the following statement, will say:

"I've been to a few games and it was fantastic, we love going...but I don't really watch hockey games on TV."

Ouch. Hoofed right in the professional man-marbles.

"It's hard to follow and just isn't the same."

You'll smile, nod a bit, then ask if anyone else needs a drink, and retreat out of the conversation having been pleasantly and innocently eviscerated - again.


Alright, fun's over. Go back to being you and I'll be me.

This exact same take on the sport came from the genius mind and tongue of basketball royalty.

I was watching Jerry West (currently pushing all the right buttons and sharing in the successes of the Golden State Warriors) being interviewed on the Dan Patrick Show and "The Logo" was talking about the proliferation of offense in ALL sports; spread offenses in football, three-point offenses in basketball, rule changes to boost scoring, and so on. "It's never been easier to score in the NBA than it is right now," he stated.

He also mentioned hockey was at the very least 'debating' the merits of bigger nets to boost its scoring.

West admitted to being an enormous fan of the NHL, then added a very large "but". (Here comes his massive caveat.) "You have to see it live."

You. Have. To. See. It. Live.

Again, buckled.

Have they no mercy?

This is my chosen path and passion that's being dispatched, discounted and derogated.

Is he wrong? Are they all wrong?

I'll answer that later.

First, my beliefs.


1)
I believe that no sports broadcast is more affected by the people calling the game, both positively and/or adversely, than hockey. A great game can get murdered and prompt channel defection by awful or bland announcing. At the same time a milquetoast contest can feel "game 7ish" with top notch play-by-play/color.

2) I believe HD has helped but isn't the magic bullet the NHL bellowed it would be.

3) I believe scoring - lots of it - is needed to help keep the Snapchat generation engaged (NHL goals per game, last 3 seasons: 5.34, 5.32, 5.34. The very definition of flat).

4) I believe the NHL needs to afford more time within the game for broadcasters to show/celebrate what has happened, explain why & how it happened, tell you what's likely to happen, and to humanize the players (It's kinda what TV is for. That and selling stuff).

5) I believe that the base color of white ice and white boards is the worst tone for television.

6) I believe the puck needs to be artificially enhanced for TV, to show its location, speed and path-changes.

7) I believe the camera position setup (which hasn't changed much in decades) creates a swimming, chasing effect for viewers. More than any other sport the main cameras are constantly panning while at the same time the players are in perpetual motion. The result can be visually nauseating. It would be like going to a game, sitting in the lower bowl on the redline, and moving your head (not just your eyes) left and right in perpetuity while the game moves up and down the ice. Now that I've brought it to your attention you'll notice it during the Final. Sorry.


#7 brings me to my new underlying, overarching belief. That belief is this; VR (Virtual Reality) is going to revolutionize hockey on television and finally give the viewer that "Live" experience that makes the NHL the best live sporting event in North America.

If VR is technologically all that it's ballyhooed to be, then we will be able to put viewers in the seats - the really good ones - and their eyes will follow the play instead of how it is now where the eyes follow the camera that is trying to follow the play.

So back to that question. Are they wrong that hockey is a sport you have to see live?

No, and yes.

No - because current TV technology along with bad broadcasting and league policy make it really difficult to either recreate the in-arena experience or give viewers compelling stories, replays, and edutainment.

Yes - because Virtual Reality is about to place everyone - potentially millions of fans - at the game.

"Live", "sensory-surround" NHL hockey, via goggles...in the comfort of your home.

Everybody experiences it "live".

It's Science fix-tion baby!



This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Daryl Reaugh's posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars.

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