American broadcast scores

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

Ask someone to describe their idea of a perfect hockey viewing experience on television, you're likely to get a variety of answers.

Canadians maintain a superior air when it comes to NHL viewing and it's understandable to a degree, after all, they have plenty of experience and their passion for the game is readily apparent, particularly when compared with the majority of their American counterparts.

But if you happened to be watching NHL Centre Ice late Tuesday night, you may have seen the closest thing to an optimal hockey broadcast in recent memory.

Who could pull off such a feat? Here's a revelation that's sure to bust the irony meter of many a Canadian purist: It was an American network.

The game aired on Fox Sports Net West, featuring the Kings and Ducks in a mid-week matchup between divisional rivals.

Sounds like your basic regular-season tilt, right?

Think again. The broadcast, entitled "Rinkside View," was created to give viewers a live perspective right from their couch. Here's how it was previewed on the Ducks' website prior to the game: "The viewing experience is centered on several cameras positioned rinkside ... hand-held cameras enhance the static positions, giving FSN West the mobility and flexibility to convey the at-the-boards, on-the-ice perspective authentically."

It's also worth mentioning that it was presented in high definition -- a necessity for any quality hockey viewing.

If you caught the game, you know the above description is quite accurate -- the camera angles provided that "seated at the glass" sensation, minus the exorbitant prices for prime tickets.

SOUNDS OF THE GAME

But while those involved were keen to trumpet the visual aspect of the game, there was something missing ... and it kept me fixated the entire time.

No play-by-play calls. No commentary. Not a word.

Save for the sounds of the game itself (players shouting, referee announcements and general crowd noise), the broadcast was quiet. To be honest, it was utterly fantastic.

Let's get one thing clear: I don't have a problem with on-air talent, but I do take issue with the bizarre in-booth one-upmanship that's occurring throughout various outlets (both Canadian and American).

It's not enough to call a straight game anymore. You have to possess a plethora of trademark catchphrases. You have to yell constantly to convey the excitement of the matchup. You need to inform viewers about every junior hockey team that each player has been a part of.

Your partnering commentator must have a quota to fill (hence the reason he interjects with thoughts every three seconds).

Obviously, it would be unfair to accuse all on-air personalities of behaving this way, but the fact remains that a significant number have succumbed to this new -- and not improved -- manner of game commentary. It's a major distraction that's become nearly impossible to avoid.

That's what made this FSN broadcast all the more enjoyable, because the lack of irrelevant chatter from a two- or three-piece media team allowed the game to stand on its own merit.

The crowd was engaged, the players were chirping and all necessary information was conveyed with a simple graphic.

There was the occasional vignette during timeouts, where a commentator would provide some inside information on the teams (think along the lines of the pay-per-view segments), but that's the only time the media made their presence known.

Online reaction afterward from fans was overwhelmingly positive, which hopefully will encourage the network to press forward with the experiment.

We all know that hockey is best experienced live.

WORTHY OF NOTE

You're never going to completely replicate the action on television, but Fox Sports Net's recent attempt with game-only sound is definitely worthy of note.

As for the verbal racket during traditional games, it would be great if broadcasting media remembered that it's best to let the play do the talking for a change.

After all, action always speaks louder than words.


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