Reviewing NHL'S Game Center Live

Sometimes being a blogger has its perks. For example, yesterday I had two very good perks float my way. First, I got to hold a fund raiser for Haiti that you guys were all a part of. It was very cool to be able to help people in need because of what I write about a hockey team. The second example is going on the air for a radio appearance on WSPD 1370 AM in Toledo, Ohio's show The Benchwarmers, to talk a little Red Wings hockey--very fun.

Recently, the NHL website approached us with an offer. In exchange for a review of their NHL Game Center Live--the online version of NHL Center Ice package--we would receive a free subscription for the last half of the year. 

Keep this next part in mind when you read my review: No matter how we reviewed the product, we got to keep the subscription. So this means you're getting my full, truly honest review of the product by the fact that I'm not required to give a favorable review of the product in order to keep it. I could rip it to shreds and still keep the service--you've got my honest review of NHL Game Center Live.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Game Center Live service offered by NHL.com, it is essentially a way to watch nearly every game each night on their website. 40 games per week, that's a hefty number.

The Bad of Game Center Live: 

 

  • Let me start off by saying this. I've taken a few days to review this product because I didn't feel that me watching one night of games would be an adequate evaluation of it. After watching probably 4 nights of games on it, I've found very little I don't like about it.
  • Sometimes a bit slow. This all of course depends on two things: 1. Your internet speed and 2. Your computer speed. The internet speed can greatly slow down or reduce the quality with which you watch the games. I live with two roommates and between us we sometimes have up to 8 devices hooked up to our internet at once, drastically cutting bandwidth. This causes pretty much everything to slow down on my internet at times so the games do get choppy when the bandwidth is reduced. 
  • No Versus or NHL Network games. Or at least that's been my experience with it so far. I know the League is trying to market Versus and puff its own Network but there needs to be something done for those that buy a package like the online one. I did this last year thinking that I'd get Versus but no dice. It's a small drawback but still one that is kind of a noticeable one when you want to watch one of those games.
  • Using SBN with it: I know this is a limited drawback but for me it's very difficult to keep switching between a game browser and the game threads with you guys. That is the one advantage of the TV version of the games, I just have to look down from the game when I want to type something instead of clicking a separate window.
  • Lag: Sometimes the virtual scoreboard will lag behind. No big deal, usually a page refresh will fix it but still something you'd like to see as constantly accurate.

 

The Good of Game Center Live:

 

  • DVR function: So wish I had this when I subscribed last year. Just like with a DVR from your cable or satellite provider,you can rewind the games if you miss something. To me this is a big plus considering the amount of times i 
  • Start Over feature: Say you've missed the start of a period by a few minutes or the whole game for that matter. You're really intent on watching the game in its entirety. Click that and you can start all over, very cool in my opinion.  
  • High picture quality: I actually get better quality feeds on GCL than I do watching TV. I don't have an HDTV so the quality of the games I get is just like watching any other station. Hockey is one of those sports where high picture quality really does make a big difference. I was watching a Buffalo Sabres game the other night on both the TV and on GCL. The difference in quality between standard definition TV and the internet feed over GCL is tremendous. I almost couldn't believe that something that high of quality was streaming over the internet to my computer. The games are very clear and easy to watch. 
  • Multigame view: This is pretty sweet. I can't really do this on my TV. I've got Center Ice and they do have a "Mosaic Channel" but if anyone can honestly tell me what's going on in any of those four games, they get a pat on the back. The multigame view thing on GCL though is pretty good. You can easily tell what's going on because the majority of the time your computer is going to be a lot closer to you than your TV is; easier to see what's going on.
  • Picture in Picture: Like with multigame view, this comes in handy when scoreboard watching. The big difference between this and the multigame is the image quality. The quality of the PIP is nearly identical to that of a regular game, just that you have a little box with the other game in the upper right hand corner. 
  • Integrated features: Player stats, team stats, text play-by-play descriptions of the action, and shot charts. You can't get this stuff when watching a game on TV exactly when you want it. You have to wait for the stats to be displayed on screen, check out a website boxscore, or for JoeHass to post them. If I wanted to know exactly how much ice-time Zetterberg has at the 15:43 mark of the 3rd period, I'm one click away. Same goes for shot charts and team stats. Really handy feature if you like to get into all the details and stats.
  • Mobility: I can't take my Center Ice subscription with me anywhere I go but I can watch the games on GCL if I have internet connection. This is really handy for those who travel a lot or even those who just feel like going to a different location than in front of a TV to watch a game.
  • Huge improvements: There are a lot of things that have been improved since I was a subscriber to it last year. I had written off the GCL as an option after last year because of how many goals I would miss due to the games lagging but after watching several games this year (on the same computer, same internet service, etc.) I'd say it's a drastic improvement and they're taking the right steps forward in this online game endeavor. 
Overall, I'd say the Game Center Live package is a good deal. You get a pretty high quality product for a very good price in my opinion. Think of exactly how many games you get for that price and it's practically a steal. There have been huge improvements from the service last year and I've become a fan of it again. That's saying a lot too considering how much I detested the service last year when it would constantly lag behind at crucial times (can't count how many goals I had missed). But it seems they have taken care of a lot of those issues and made the stream quality a lot better while still maintaining the constant framerate to prevent lagging. Sure, you'll get the occasional hiccup but that's the way of the internet, nothing is perfect in those regards. I'd recommend it if you're looking to get a way to watch the games. 

Here's a quick break down in terms of a "1 to 10" scale, 10 being the highest.
Picture quality: 9
Functionality: 
Cost: 8
Overall value: 8
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