SPORTS

Rogers unveils new camera angles for NHL games in GameCenter Live apps

10/08/2014 08:45 EDT | Updated 01/29/2015 03:59 EST
TORONTO - The glowing puck experiment in the 1990s was a loathed and derided bust. Rogers hopes hockey fans will be much more supportive of a few experiments it's integrating into broadcasts this season.

But you won't see them on TV. And if you're not a Rogers customer, you're out of luck.

The new innovations can be found inside Rogers' NHL GameCenter Live product, which lets hockey fans stream games on a computer, smartphone or tablet, and on a TV via a set-top box or video game console.

Users can watch a game the traditional way, just as it looks on TV, or tap into the GamePlus feature. For games that Rogers is producing, viewers can toggle between a number of extra camera angles available exclusively through the app.

Referees will have cameras mounted on their helmets for the Ref Cam stream, which can look a bit shaky but offers fans an on-ice close-up of the action.

"Most people when they watch the game they watch it from the 3D perspective, where they're looking down on the ice, and it all looks so very easy and clear because you can see open ice, you can see the open man so clearly as a fan," said NHL great Mark Messier, who has been doing promotional work for Rogers.

"But from a player's perspective ... you're looking at 10 players on the ice with no room, all coming together, and I think it's going to give the people a better understanding of what the players actually see. It'll also give fans a better perspective of what the referees see or don't see because of their angles."

The POV Cam zooms in on the teams' benches and provides close-ups along the blue lines. The overhead goal-line cameras used during instant replays are available within GamePlus, and users can also select the Star Cam, which follows one particular player all game. For Toronto Maple Leafs home games, users can also access the Sky Cam, which has been installed in the Air Canada Centre. The camera is attached to a cable that runs the length of the rink and it can rapidly follow the play from end to end.

During games, Rogers staff will be updating a section of the app called MyReplay, which will highlight the best alternate angles of goals, scoring chances and other key moments.

Accessing GamePlus requires a season's subscription to Rogers' NHL GameCenter Live, which includes the playoffs, at a cost of $179.99 through Monday, or $199.99 afterwards. Rogers Internet or mobile data customers can get a free trial that will run until Dec. 31.

Non-Rogers customers can sign up for NHL GameCenter Live but they won't see GamePlus in their apps. GamePlus is available exclusively to Rogers customers.

"From a pure innovation-investment perspective, Rogers has invested millions of dollars and we've invested millions of dollars for our customers," said Keith Pelley, president of Rogers Media, in defending the exclusivity of GamePlus.

Rogers estimates that streaming a game on a smartphone will eat through about one gigabyte of data, while streaming with any other device will use up two to five gigabytes.

While some hockey fans might want to watch a game on their big screen TV while streaming GamePlus on another device there's one problem with that plan: the screens will be out of sync. TV broadcasts are typically about a minute ahead of online streams, Rogers said.

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For hockey fans who don't have any money in their Apple App Store or Google Play accounts, here are a few free apps to install before Wednesday night's opening puck drop:

Official team apps

Each of the seven Canadian NHL teams has their own official app available to download for both Apple and Android devices, offering the basics like schedules, standings and player profiles. Each team also lets users follow the games live in a limited way, with some apps offering a visualized play-by-play of the action and some streaming live audio.

News apps

TSN has a dedicated hockey app (iOS only) with articles and tweets from writers including Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun. Users can sign up for notifications to be reminded when a game is starting, receive alerts for goals and penalties, and to get final scores. There are also links to stream audio from TSN radio stations in Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg. For those who want just one app to follow all their favourite sports, The Score's is top rated and a mainstay on best-of lists. It has a dizzying number of notification options for staying up to date on your favourite teams and players on your fantasy sports rosters. But make sure you know how to turn them off because they can get annoying quick.

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