Note: This post has been sponsored by Samsung.
Around the SB Nation hockey blogs today you'll notice a series of posts dedicated to "improving the NHL fan experience". Covering a wide range of topics, some suggest having a penalty system for generally bad hockey fans while others cover the glories of watching this great game on a big HD television at home.
We here at Defending Big D have already covered in detail the various ways we believe the fan experience and the atmosphere at the American Airlines Center can be improved. Each Friday, for the next three weeks, we'll cover how we believe the overall NHL fan experience could be improved - not just at Stars games and not just at the AAC. Some will be a fairly serious look at how fans view and experience the game while a few may be a bit more unrealistic. That's where we will start from today.
When watching a sports game at home, especially for those fans of the more hardcore variety, having to suffer through the television broadcast can be extremely frustrating. Unless you are as lucky as Dallas Stars fans to have Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh, it's likely that in all honesty you would much rather just mute the game instead of having to listen to the endless and banal droning of the men (or women) up in the booth.
Yet muting the broadcast isn't exactly the best solution. Lost in all the play by play, analysis, color commentary and jokes about Dish Network is the sounds of the sport we so dearly love. I for one love to have the sound turned up loud so that I can really get the full effect of the game, from the roar of the crowd (when there is one) to the noise that erupts from the boards when the players go flying into them.
It's an overall exhilarating experience if you have a big sound system that can broadcast the game in digital surround sound. With the technological advances that have been made with ice-level parabolic microphones, it's possible that -- even with announcers -- to enjoy a game from home and feel as if you're right in the middle of the action.
Hockey is a very intimate sport. Fans, no matter where the seats may be, feel as if they are right on top of the action and for most fans it's easy to hear the sounds of the game from their seats as well. The crisp cutting sound as the skate blades glide over the ice, the sound a booming slap shot makes when it hits the boards behind the net; this and more make hockey one of the most enjoyable games to enjoy both in person and to enjoy on television.
Yet what if there was a way to enhance the viewing experience of the fans at the arena and at home simultaneously, to offer these fans (for a modest fee) the chance to enjoy the game of hockey in a way they never believed possible?
The microphones placed around the arena are extremely sensitive and are capable -- no matter what the noise in the arena might be -- of picking up every single sound that is made during the course of a game. The sound a stick makes as it makes contact with the puck and the way the players call out to each other and communicate during the course of the game are all sounds fans pick up over the broadcast since this is what the producers choose to mix into the overall sound.
Yet there are other aspects of the game that are significantly muted for general audiences. Fans see the scrums along the boards and in front of the ice and they see the players and coaches talking to one another on the benches. It's this aspect of the game that the fans are hungry to be exposed to and it's very likely they might be willing to spend a few bucks to be able to listen in on the most intimate aspect of the game of hockey.
For the television broadcast there would be an alternate audio feed available to the subscribers who choose this method of viewing the game at home. Even at an extra $5.99 per month, it would be more than worth it to the fans at home and I guarantee you there are fans across the NHL landscape willing to shell out a few bucks for access to this alternative feed. Make it available on Center Ice and Gamecenter Live as well and the fans and the NHL both are joining in on a very lucrative addition to the game of hockey.
For the broadcasts, it would be as simple as mixing in all the sounds of the game into one audio feed and not worrying about muting any of the "extracurricular" activity that happens throughout the game. Put a microphone on certain players each game and allow fans access to that feed throughout the entire 60 minutes, not just 45 seconds that have been chosen by the networks.
At the arena, allow fans in attendance -- with a special headset -- to have access to this audio feed as well. While you are certainly able to get the sounds of the game from your seat, imagine being able to hear the intimate conversations that are happening on the benches just a few rows down from your seat. These fans could either rent these headsets from the arena or have the option of purchasing them for future use, although they would only work on the special frequency broadcast in the arena.
Now, this isn't a perfect theory and I certainly don't have the technological knowledge on whether this exact method would work or not. But it's a starting point and know for certain that options like these are certainly possible. If The Ticket can broadcast their in-game ramblings on the SAP channel during the Fox Sports broadcast of a home game, then I know for certain that fans at home could be able to listen every sound that passes through the ice-level microphones at the game.
I'd still listen to Ralph & Razor, of course, but I know I would spend plenty of time getting to know exactly what it is that Steve Ott says to those guys out on the ice each game.