NHL GameCenter Live

The NHL's Streaming Service has a Lot to Offer!

Disclaimer: The NHL provides all SBNation NHL blogs with a subscription to GameCenter Live (GCL). That being said, I have my own personal subscription which I personally pay for.

Overview

If you've never checked it out, GCL is a subscription service offering streaming video of live out of market games. An out of market game is considered a game that is outside your broadcast area (so games on Sportsnet West, CBC, TSN and Oiler PPV are not considered out of Market games for those living in Edmonton). If you already have Center Ice, it follows the same blackout rules.

Up until last year, I had always had the Center Ice package provided by cable provider. I was relatively happy with the service as I got most games (but not all) in HD, and I could just PVR the games I was late for.

I decided to try GCL last year for a couple of reasons. The first is that sometimes I'm out of town for work and instead of recording games and watching them days later, I could just watch them through GCL wherever I was. The second was that I'm often around my computer I liked having the option to choose to watch it from there.

The other good thing about GCL is that I have the option of watching it on a TV as well, as it is supported by many internet enabled devices. I'll go through the various ways I watch GCL and review each method, as they do differ.

Just a reminder... GCL uses your internet so having a faster connection will improve results. All of my devices are wired (I don't use wireless for GCL) and I'm currently on a 150Mbps plan so I suffer no buffering issues at all, but that might change if you have a slower connection. The good news is GCL will detect network slowdowns and reduce the quality of the audio/video rather than pause. Also, streaming HD does have an impact on your bandwidth so keep that in mind.

One other issue I've occasionally encountered is that sometimes GCL doesn't recognize when you've logged into your NHL.com account. This happened on opening night this year and one other time I can recall. It can be frustrating as it won't let you view games.

Computer

Considering GameCenter Live was designed so people can watch over the computer, it's no surprise that it's also the best platform.

Pros: You can easily swap between games, view multiple games (picture in picture, 4 games at once, etc..), change the video quality, change which broadcast you are watching and view slow motion (which obviously works better when watching replays). There is an even timeline that shows goals and saves so you can just click on one to watch live from that point.

Cons: The timeline slider is finicky. It's not very accurate and shows elapsed time instead of game time and jumps in 7-10 second intervals. It's a minor problem and impacts you more when you are trying to re-watch a specific play. I've had the occasional issue where the timeline just resets to the beginning of the game when trying to go forward and back 10 seconds options.

Playstation 3

This years version of the GCL PS3 app is leaps and bounds better than last years. Last year games often wouldn't show up as watchable until halfway through the fist period, but that seems to be fixed this year.

Pros: You can watch games on your TV in HD. You can swap between games and they've now made viewing stats and other scores a lot easier. They've added some timeline features (game, goals, saves), but I haven't used them yet and can't really comment.

Cons: Just like the PC, using the timeline is a lesson in frustration. It jumps several seconds and makes viewing replies a pain. I've also noticed that it drops out of HD more frequently than the PC does.

Boxee Box

Pretty bare bones application. I generally don't use this one as often as the other two.

Pros: Again, you can watch games on your TV. Skipping forward and back is a bit more consistent that on the PS3 version.

Cons: You can't view scores without exiting the current game you are in, can't view stats and it drops out of HD quite frequently.

Overall

It's still a bit away from being a full fledged Center Ice replacement for those who still watch all their hockey via their TVs, but if you are often at a computer or out of town at game time, GCL is a pretty good product. The convenience of being able to watch it anywhere makes up for the occasional issues when watching it through internet connected devices on your TV.

Score: 8/10
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