[ current issue | web extra | nhl archive | chat | home | info | advertising | search | comments ]

Sponsored in part by

Editorial: Fox's Coverage Still Lacking
by Jason Sheehan, Washington Correspondent

A year has passed since Fox unveiled its glow puck, and nothing has changed.

Fans who tuned into Saturday's Rangers-Flyers game were unpleasantly reunited with FOXTRAX, otherwise referred to as the glow puck.

Sure, the idea of having red comet tails and an easily viewable puck sounds great at first, but when put to practice, it stinks. It wreaks. It doesn't belong in the game of hockey.

Canada realizes this and won't destroy the tradition of the game. But young fans in the United States, who know more about a "Tickle Me Elmo" doll than they do about hockey, love the idea because they don't know any better.

So, what does this tell us? Fox cares more about the young audience than they do about hockey enthusiasts who contribute to the majority of its ratings. And while Fox destroys "The Coolest Game on Earth," we have no choice but to watch our favorite teams play on this commercialized network every week.

Imagine being a child, without cable, learning the game of hockey from Fox. This little kid doesn't know that the blue dot bouncing in front of his eyes isn't real. He sees what is on television, and believes it really exists. Why should he think otherwise?

Then, the child asks his parents to take him to a hockey game at the local arena. All he wants to see is the glow puck, because it looks cool. When the parents finally take their kid to the rink, they have no idea why their little one is so disappointed. Why? Because to this boy/girl, hockey isn't about beautiful goals and double-padded saves. It's about a glowing puck. And in the real world, FOXTRAX doesn't exist.

If fans had a choice to flip the channel to a broadcast not using FOXTRAX, Fox would lose its rights to cover the NHL due to low ratings. There should be a Surgeon Generals warning on the screen before each game stating, "Watching this program could result in a loss of sight."

Fox should take a lesson from the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League). In the 1997 ECHL All- Star-Game, which was shown on regional sports networks across America, they used a "fire puck." What made this puck so entertaining to watch was the fact that it didn't take anything away from the game. The puck wasn't the size of a beach-ball and didn't find its way into the crowd on a regular basis unless someone lifted it over the glass. Only the puck itself glowed, not the entire surrounding area. And when it got covered up, the glow got covered up. All this means the puck could actually pass behind players and get lifted into the air without wreaking havoc on depth perception.

The "fire puck" was perfect. When a player powered a slap shot on net, a dumb comet tail didn't appear. Instead, the puck turned bright red as it traveled to the goaltender. As the puck moved up the ice, it turned into a bright white.

Fox would receive the praises of hockey worshipers if they threw FOXTRAX into a garbage can at a fish market. But, as we should all know, Fox still thinks its blundering idea is "innovative."

Unfortunately, glowing pucks bouncing off spectators in the fourth row isn't the only problem Fox viewers encounter. The stupid robots, which have been around since Fox's NHL coverage made its debut three years ago, have always found a way to make even the best hockey game into a fiasco.

Imagine this situation. Your favorite team has been scored against, but your star player receives a beautiful pass and is in alone with the opposing goalie. Then, out of nowhere, these robots appear, with laser beams and steamrollers, and block half the screen.

Out of the blue, hockey has become a cartoon. You can't see the breakaway, because Fox doesn't care about the breakaway. Producers at Fox are having way too much fun with their toys.

Then, your favorite team scores, but you couldn't see the goal as if happened. Sure, Fox shows the replay from a zillion angles, but it's not the same as seeing it live. Would other networks, such as ESPN, fall into this trap? Heck no! That's because ESPN cares about you, the hockey fan. Fox only cares about the bottom line: and that has everything to do with money.

Yet there's always hope. You may be one of the lucky few whose team doesn't play on Saturday afternoon. That appears to be the only way out of Fox's disastrous coverage.

Another alternative would be to turn the television off in favor of the radio. This may sound like a step backwards in technology. Buy hey, that is exactly what Fox shows us every week. Fox should have its hockey license taken away.

LCS: Guide to Hockey

LCS: guide to hockey © copyright 1997 all rights reserved