Hockey fans got their first look at the NHL according to Rogers on Wednesday night and basically got a hockey broadcast of a Montreal-Toronto game.
That's not a bad thing. With an arsenal of new cameras, some old faces in new places and a mission to be different, it would have been easy for the Rogers crew to overdo things. Show off the new toys and the new boys.
To their credit, they gave fans a solid hockey broadcast with the occasional innovation thrown in. Some of it worked brilliantly, some of it not so much. But credit to Rogers for trying some new things and for not trying to reinvent the wheel. Fans can look forward to things getting even better as the season goes on.
No doubt the producer had to work hard to hold himself back from using the SkyCam, RefCam and POVCams every few minutes. They were used, but in moderation. The game looked like a hockey broadcast with a few tricks thrown in.
Here's what worked and what didn't:
What you get for $4.5 million: It may be difficult to justify spending more than 4 million bucks on a studio, but the new baby looked spectacular in its first appearance. There does seem to be a lot of empty space, but judging by the number of Rogers types who appeared on TV prior to the game, there are plenty of candidates to fill it up.
The MessierCam: One game into the season and viewers may already be tired of seeing Mark Messier. He was in the opening, twice. He sold Rogers products. He did everything but the weather report. He's pretty good on camera, but enough is enough.
GamePlus a plus: Overall, this is one of the best features ever added to a sports broadcast. Being able to watch things from multiple angles is pretty cool. The RefCam drew a lot of comments on Twitter, most positive but more than a few negative. But as long as you don't watch the entire game that way the RefCam is pretty cool, providing an innovative look at the opening faceoffs. GamePlus didn't work perfectly, at least on my iPad. I couldn't get the StarCam, so didn't see what James Van Riemsdyk was doing all night. As for the promised replays, I couldn't find them.
The Strombo effect: The first intermission accomplished one thing -- it looked different from just about any other hockey intermission. It opened with newcomer George Stroumboulopoulos chatting with Sidney Crosby, Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Toews. Not sure why there was popcorn on the table, but seeing three superstars chatting about hockey was unusual. Because they're hockey players, it wasn't very enlightening or colourful, but did show them in a different light. The rest if the intermission didn't go as well, with a few technical glitches popping up as Doug MacLean and Nick Kypreos tried to outshout each other.
View from above: The SkyCam, again used judiciously, provided some great overhead views of the action. If anything, it could have been used more often.
Second time around: The second intermission was more traditional, though it opened with a story about a small town and girls' hockey. As heart-warming as it was, it did look a little out of place, especially when followed by MacLean and Kypreos expressing their opinions on topics from Crosby's reign as the game's best player and P.K. Subban's worth. Having viewers vote on the topic was a welcome innovation.
For old time's sake: As much as the show focused on innovation, there was one well-worn bit: the between-periods interview with a player. As tradition dictates, they produced very little other than getting a good look at players with towels around their necks.
Opening night: If Rogers could accomplish one thing, it would be to get arenas like the Air Canada Centre to kill the music during opening ceremonies. The monotonous beat that accompanied the player introductions meant viewers couldn't hear any cheering or the booing when the Canadiens came out. The whole thing was rather flat.
As good as it was, though, Sportsnet still couldn't make the Leafs look like a good team.