Many people, including NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, have said the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in professional sports. They have a point: After a bruising, exhausting 82-game regular season, the eventual champion will have to play between 16 and 28 playoff games of ever-increasing intensity in order to hoist hockey’s Holy Grail.
The physical toll of an NHL season can be agonizing, even unbearable at times. The sacrifices players make are legendary: Mike Modano played the last four games of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final with a broken wrist, Brett Hull scored the Cup-winning goal on a ruptured MCL and two torn groins, an injured Darryl Sydor in the 2000 Final, crawled to the net to help his team in any way possible:
Without question, hockey is a tough sport to play. For many fans, hockey is also a tough sport to watch. Literally. I’m not talking about the length of the season, the violence or the occasional blood, either; I’m talking about simply trying to watch hockey on your own television, in your own home. As I recently discovered, a number of factors can make big screen NHL action a mere pipe dream for some.
First, a little background: For me, the 2014-15 NHL season was great. My fiber optic television service at the time included the NHL Network and I purchased the NHL Center Ice package, thus meeting all my hockey needs. At the end of the season, my wife and I moved from one part of the greater Dallas area to another and changed TV service providers. This (the change in service providers, not the move itself) was a huge mistake.
Life in a Post-NHL Network World
Our new television service would be perfect, were it not for one small flaw: this provider doesn’t carry NHL Network, nor can I purchase NHL Center Ice. “That’s fine,” I oh-so-trustingly thought, “I’ll just get GameCenter LIVE instead, and stream it onto the TV.” Before doing so, my wife and I found a great deal on a new 4K Ultra-HD Smart TV, as well as a compatible Sony Blu-ray player with built-in Wi-Fi, streaming capability and a neat little logo on the box which indicated the GameCenter LIVE app was pre-installed. I was going to watch the 2015-16 season in style, or so I thought.
The new TV and Blu-ray player have been set up and fully functional since May. When October rolled around, I decided it was time to go ahead and purchase GCL, and maybe give one of the classic games in their vault a spin before the new season began. I got on my laptop and made my purchase. After test-watching part of a preseason game on my computer, just to make sure I could, I fired up the TV and Blu-ray for some big screen action. What I got was big disappointment.
I knew I’d have to link the GCL app on the Blu-ray to my account, and was prompted to do so when I tried to open the app. The message directed me to get on my computer, go to nhl.com/sony and enter an eight-digit code. That web address redirected me to a page showing all the GCL-supported devices. My Blu-ray player, with the preloaded GCL app, wasn’t listed. I called Customer Support and, after ten minutes on hold, explained my problem to a nice gentleman, who immediately put me back on hold for another five. When he came back on the line, he had this to say:
GameCenter LIVE is not supporting the Sony Blu-ray player this year. You’ll have to watch on another device.
Unsportsmanlike Conduct (Swearing)
After taking a deep breath and reminding myself that he was just the messenger, I thanked the gentleman for his time and hung up the phone. After two minutes in the box for Unsportsmanlike Conduct (Swearing), I emerged determined to find a workaround. What about the built-in browser in the Blu-Ray player? When I tried to go to nhl.com, I got the message, “This page is too large to load.” After two more tries with the same result, well…some people go back to the drawing board; I went back to the box.
Two obscenity-filled minutes later, it dawned on me that I have a “Smart” TV, which means it also has a built-in (and theoretically better/newer/more powerful) browser. This time, I made it to nhl.com with no problem…entered my User ID and Password for GCL…c’mon, baby, we’re almost there…it says all I need to do now is download the latest Adobe Flash Player, and I’ll have GCL on my 4K Ultra-HD 65-inch Screen of Hockey Awesomeness, so I click, and…
This browser does not support the Adobe Flash Player.
That was it. (Metaphorical) sticks thrown on the ice, the referee’s genealogy called into question, hand gestures used to inform fans they are, without a doubt, number ONE. As I steam into the dressing room, leaving damaged folding chairs strewn about in my wake, a Game Misconduct is announced over the PA…on second thought, make that a GameCenter LIVE Misconduct.
I’m sure many readers will say, “Come on, man, just hook your laptop up to the TV; it’s no big deal.” In theory, they’re right. In practice, it means unplugging mouse, keyboard, monitor and power cord, moving the laptop from office to living room, then crawling behind a bookcase to plug in the power cord and connect laptop to TV. At the end of the night, going back through the process in reverse order. The next night, doing it all over again. For almost seven months.
I think I’ll go back to the box now.
Matt blogged about all things hockey at On Goal Analysis/The OGA Blogs from 2008-2014 and has written several travel articles for The Dallas Morning News. He began covering the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers in August 2015. Matt is also writing a biography of “Tex” Rickard, the Texas cowboy who founded the New York Rangers and the Madison Square Garden Corporation.