More puck views not always easy

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

Today, you can't imagine a televised game without one.

But getting the hockey world on board with the Net Cam -- now a staple of TV hockey broadcasts -- didn't exactly happen overnight.

"That was a long haul," said Rogers Sportsnet president Doug Beeforth, who first brought the two-finger sized camera to viewers during the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. "It took a year to get acceptance for it."

Fears about injuries, conspiracy theorists from Eastern Europe convinced it was part of a plot to distract their goaltenders ... Beeforth (then CTV Sports' production boss) had to deal with it all before he finally won them over.

"We had to get virtually every national hockey federation to buy into (the Net Cam)," he said.

By season's end, TV networks everywhere were on board, too.

With that backdrop, count Beeforth among the TV types enthused about the NHL's stated willingness to offer broadcasts more access in its brave new world.

"The most important thing is the open attitude to try things," he said. "You know going in, not every idea is a good one. Some will crash and burn. But at least we're trying things."

Rail cams are an option Beeforth favours. Perhaps even letting players remove their helmets during shootouts.

"Miking players, miking coaches, even officials ... it's the one area when we watch that's a mystery to us," he said. "That would be a huge step, to do more of that and eavesdrop a bit more."

OH SAY, CAN THEY SEE? Interesting contrast witnessed Sunday morning. While TSN The Reporters focused almost exclusively on the return of the NHL, nary a word was spoken about the puck game on ESPN Magazine's Sports Reporters. Clearly, there's still a lot of work to do south of the border ... Several reports indicate ESPN may yet return as an NHL broadcaster, though hardly at the $70 million US rate it paid previously. Comcast, the U.S.' largest cable operator and owner of the Philadelphia Flyers, also figures to weigh in. It's been rumoured for several months now that Comcast aspires to launch a national sports network. Mediaweek.com reported last week Turner and Spike TV are also in discussions with the NHL.

PUCK DROPPINGS: The NHL's TV schedule figures to fall into place sometime in the next week to 10 days. Right now, TSN is looking at a 65-game slate, starting with a doubleheader on opening night Oct. 5. The Sens-Leafs matchup in Toronto would be the highlight ... Sportsnet and the A-Channel should combine for about 40-45 Senators local telecasts ... Worth noting: New HNIC partners Jim Hughson and Greg Millen were both on board at Sportsnet for its October 1998 launch, and still do regional games for the network (Hughson with the Canucks, Millen with the Sens) ... The free ride is over for Toronto hockey fans in southern Ontario -- 12 regular-season games this season will be broadcast on club-owned Leafs TV, a digital channel.

AROUND THE DIAL: Lance Armstrong's seventh and final ride to victory in the Tour de France was a hit with Outdoor Life Network viewers. Telecasts this year averaged 126,000 viewers, a healthy jump over the 85,000 who tuned in the 2004 Tour. Sunday's finale pulled in 172,000 sets of eyeballs ... CBS will offer next month's PGA Championship (golf's fourth major) in high-definition format.


Videos

Photos