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NHL Center Ice package sees a slight price increase; Is it worth it?

Sep 1, 2010, 3:15 PM EDT

First things first, let me get to the most important information. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy reports that the NHL Center Ice package will be marginally more expensive for the 2010-11 season than it was last year.

Last year, NHLCI was $163.80 if ordered before Oct. 31. This season, the price has risen to $171.80 (a.k.a. four easy payments of $42.95) if you order Center Ice before Halloween. No word on how high the price is after that date.

Also, NHL Center Ice will offer a free preview for most of the season’s first month, going free from Oct. 7-24.

As far as clearance (Clarence), In Demand told us that NHLCI “should be available to at least as many systems as last year,” and may still add more cable systems as we get closer to puck-drop.

When in comes to the NHL Center Ice pay-per-view package, its beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

On one hand, the quantity of games is gorgeous. There might be some exceptions when it comes to exclusive coverage of individual contests, but for the most part, you could watch just about every one of your favorite team’s (or teams’) matches. (They showed off this strength with an incredibly obnoxious – but perhaps informative – commercial campaign last season.) While national coverage of hockey is growing, it will be quite some time until we get to see wider coverage of the 82-game season, so Center Ice has its strenghts.

On the other hand, the picture quality is downright ugly. While the package occasionally includes one (and maybe more, considering your cable/satellite provider) pristine HD channel, the rest of the feeds are nearly unthinkable in an era of gorgeous high definition broadcasts.

So it really comes down to two arguments. One side will claim that getting comprehensive coverage of daily NHL action for “four easy payments of $42.95″ isn’t that bad of a value, really. After all, you can blow that much money on a couple of seats to a live game. That being said, others will remark that paying more than $160 for games with mediocre-at-best picture quality is absurd.

I’m not certain that I can personally afford either of the full coverage NHL options, but if I had to choose, I would go with NHL.com’s Game Center option. In my limited experience with the promotion last season, you can stream up to four games at once and (gasp) even get high definition feeds of many matchups. Considering the fact some fancy pants computers can hook up to your TV, Game Center might just be the better option for hardcore hockey fans.

We’ll keep an eye on developments for that service and possibly any other options for hockey fans hungry for extended coverage. And, no doubt, if Center Ice does improve their feeds we’ll pass that note along as well.

  1. Andrew - Sep 1, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    If I purchase NHL.com’s GameCenter but don’t subscribe to cable, can I watch my local market’s (Pittsburgh) games? Or are they blacked out?
    Does anybody know?

  2. Andrew - Sep 1, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    If I purchase NHL.com’s GameCenter but don’t subscribe to cable, can I watch my local market’s (Pittsburgh) games? Or are they blacked out?
    Does anybody know?

  3. Stain - Sep 1, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    No doubt, if NHLCI could broadcast all games in HD they would see significant revenue increases. I would have purchased it last year and would this year, however, without HD I cannot watch….sorry NHL.
    I will watch my Bruins in HD on NESN, check scores on NHL.com, and watch highlights on either NHL network or dot com.
    Andrew…you will most likely be blacked out. Not having cable will not circumvent the black out restrictions.

  4. Nick Wood - Sep 1, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    Are we talking about the same package? Because through DirecTV, most games — including every single Detroit Red Wings contest — is in crystal clear HD. And since I have certainly spent that much money on one ticket before (Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final in Hockeytown in ’09), I would argue that it’s a killer deal.

  5. Stain - Sep 1, 2010 at 9:42 PM

    Maybe DirecTV broadcasts most games in HD?? I’m a comcast subscriber and they have only 1 game in HD a night.(2009-2010 season anyway).
    Your right, this is a killer deal, if they all are in HD but for me they are not. I cannot watch hockey in regular definition.
    If comcast has more games in HD, I will certainly be buying.

  6. Keith - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    If I purchase NHL.com’s GameCenter but don’t subscribe to cable, can I watch my local market’s (Pittsburgh) games? Or are they blacked out?
    Does anybody know?
    They are blacked out, FSN needs to get paid.

  7. Andrew - Sep 9, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    I’ve had NHL Center Ice for two years and am planning on switching this year. My main reason is that the service is slow and buggy. I can stream games in HD, but the quality is usually so bad (freezing and buffering constantly) that the game is virtually unwatchable.
    All the other features like DVR, four games at once, etc…are really nice, but if you can’t make it through a single game without them either degrading the performance so it’s worse than cable or having to wait 10 seconds for it to buffer (usually at critical moments when a lot of stuff is happening…like goals), then it’s not worth it.
    On that note, I’ve been trying to cancel…but you have to call them during their working hours and speak to a representative. There is no online option and it auto-renews each year.

  8. greg - Sep 9, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    Hi,
    there is a better web site online to watch all NHL Games plus others. It is only 99.00 for 1 year in HD and 69.00 for 1 year in SD, you can hook up your computer to your hdtv and watch game on your tv
    http://www.hockeystreams.com
    - Live Pre-Season Games
    - Live Regular Season Games
    - Live Post Season Games
    - Live NHL© All-Star Game
    - Live NHL© Draft
    - Live NHL© Player Awards
    - Live Olympics
    - Memorial Cup
    - Archived Games
    - Trade Deadline on multiple stations
    - Rumour-Mill Access

  9. Shawn - Sep 9, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    I believe they’re blacked out according to your IP address.

  10. Mike - Oct 5, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    If you want to watch free streaming games, sometimes with great quality, somewhere between SD and HD, and other times with NHLCI quality or worse. http://www.atdhe.net/
    I won’t pay for NHLCI again until they make most games in HD. I just can’t watch crappy feeds. I always try to find “free” steaming games when I want to watch the big game. It’s working great for my NFL fix on out of market teams this year!

  11. Jon - Oct 7, 2010 at 2:05 AM

    Keith,
    No. Local games are still subject to blackout restrictions. Also games on the NHL Network and Versus. There are plenty of ways to mask your IP or proxy.
    I had GCL last year (watching Avs games in San Francisco) and was thinking of doing Center Ice this year. However the local schedule says there’s only 1 game in the first 7 days of the hockey season, starting thursday, but the Avs play 3 times (all out of market and none on Versus). Does Center Ice not carry all the games? Do I need any more reasons to dump Comcast for DirecTV? So far I think I’m renewing Game Center Live for this season.

  12. Cory - Oct 8, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    No. If you are within the local broadcast area you will be unable to watch the games. If you go to NHLCI website on NHL.COM and click the FAQ’s at the bottom it will mention what and how blackouts are determined.
    Overall a great option if you don’t have cable. Used a friends login while I was in school and loved it. Now thinking about getting it for myself either through Comcast or the web. Comcast would be more stable so leaning that way so quality is not an issue.

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