Simply put, the NHL has struggled as of late. Their average U.S. viewership, per NBC, is down 20 percent from the 2016-17 season to now. Scoring is at an all-time low as teams are embodying much more defensive mindsets. The Arizona Coyotes exist. Officiating is terrible according to the general consensus. It seems as though their greatest current assets are… none other than the 90s-esque suit choices of Barry Melrose.
But how could we fail to mention their most troubling downfall?
The biggest detriment to the National Hockey League is the viewer’s inability to see the black puck gliding across white ice.
What could the NHL possibly do to combat this? Making its debut in the 1996 NHL All-Star Game was the FoxTrax, more commonly known as the “glow puck.” This innovative new twist to the traditional hockey puck featured technology allowing it to be tracked using infrared transmitters and sensors strategically placed throughout the rink. Directly stated, the puck glowed blue. This light was radiated in order to allow television viewers a clearer view.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, hinted at a possible variation of the old glow puck to soon return to the game during his acceptance speech for his induction into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in New York.
In the instance that the puck traveled at speeds greater than 70 mph, the blue glow would transform to red, leaving behind it a “comet-like tail.” Although this innovation led to other, much more useful, additions including the NFL’s yellow first-down marker as well as the MLB’s “K-Zone,” frankly it sucked. It was discontinued at the conclusion of the 1997-98 season after a short two-year tenure.
How could the NHL possibly have thought this would be an enhancement to the game? Imagine if other professional sports leagues established similar gimmicks…
Here’s what a few would look like:
Imagine you switch the channel on your television to watch your beloved Golden State Warriors. You’ve been a die-hard fan since like… 2015. Since Steph Curry has also been your favorite player since his first MVP season, you can’t wait to see how many 3’s he’s sunk. Would you enjoy waiting one to two minutes of game time until NBA announcer Mike Breen reiterates for the seventh time that Steph has hit five 3-pointers? Absolutely not. That would be miserable.
Rather, the NBA could turn the view of the court into a virtual shot chart, highlighting the amount of field goals converted as well as missed. This shot chart would be completely dependent on who is currently controlling the ball, changing constantly.
Who wouldn’t much rather focus on the continual flashing of green dots and red X’s, ultimately resulting in chronic photosensitive epilepsy than watch the game? Nobody in their right mind.
In all seriousness, this would be an obvious distraction. The NHL’s implementation of a glowing blue light to illuminate the puck seems to solve one problem, simply with an additional, even worse problem. Doesn’t this remind you of every commercial for any medicine ever in which the side effects of the drug are often 100 times worse than the condition they’re intended to treat?
You turn on your fifth New York Yankees game in the last two weeks, in hopes of finally seeing outfielder Aaron Judge do something besides get sent back to the dugout on strikes. Luckily for you, Judge makes contact and it’s hit well over the center fielder’s head, one-hopping the fence and almost hitting the ‘408’ feet sign. How far did that ball actually go though?
Each baseball would be programmed to immediately specify exactly how far it has traveled, in real time. That number, increasing until landing, would be flashing directly next to the baseball.
The color of the ball would also change, depending on its range of distance; a six foot bunt showing a glowing yellow baseball, meanwhile a 450-foot Giancarlo Stanton home run illuminating red. Seem intriguing?
Hopefully it would be intriguing enough to allow me the strength and willpower to actually sit through an entire Major League Baseball game, prior to October.
Maybe that’s still wishful thinking.
You turn on your favorite team, the Cleveland Browns. You believed the feelings of pessimism were at an all-time high, right? You’re wrong…much like your preseason prediction of the Super Bowl being brought back to Cleveland.
If the NFL were to ever introduce player ratings, mobile and shown in real time underneath every player, there would be mixed emotions by fans across the nation. Yet, the majority of the discontent, of course, would reside in Ohio’s sports haven considering their player’s lack of favorable ratings.
Viewing individual matchups for other teams, however, including the very talented roster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, would be an encouraging sight.
Nonetheless, inevitably distracting.
Rather than actually observing the game, I would personally be analyzing every matchup, making predictions in my head as to which play would yield a 75 overall to overcome his 92 overall matchup.
Ultimately, all these innovations would cause an immense amount of distraction among viewers, leading to fewer views and declining ratings.
The glow puck lasted for a single season in the NHL. This innovation, thought to be one of futuristic nature, is trapped in the past. What the Sports makes the league think its comeback will be a successful one?