NHL Embracing New Technology

If you’ve surfed the website of an NHL team as of late, you’ve probably noticed the drastic change in site design. And if you haven’t, it’s coming soon. The site updates, some of which are a work in progress, are part of the league’s move towards uniformed websites. All 30 NHL club sites will operate under the same basic format and share the same features.

Fans will still be able to enjoy individual team blogs, pod casts and video content, as well as view rosters, highlights and order tickets online. But, depending on the club, the move will either be an upgrade or in some cases a downgrade. Fans in Los Angeles, where the Kings were one of the first teams to make the switch, gave the new look an enthusiastic thumbs-up, with an approval rating of nearly 75% through an online poll at kings.nhl.com. Fans of the Rangers and Senators, two teams that haven’t made the switch as of press time and currently operate multimedia-heavy sites, might think differently.

The new club sites will operate much like Major League Baseball’s team websites, with a customized graphic at the top of the page with the team name, players, slogan and other fancy graphics. The menu bar will include links for tickets, team, schedule, stats, news, multimedia, fan zone, community and shop. A roving series of headlines will greet fans with the latest news, ticket deals and team shop deals.

”We remain committed to being on the cutting edge when it comes to offering our fans multimedia content, interactive opportunities and editorial insight. This new platform will allow us to maintain our leadership position moving forward,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said in a press release. Leonsis, the Vice Chairman at AOL, was instrumental in spearheading the project.

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The NHL and Slingbox reached an agreement last week on the company’s new “Clip and Sling” service, marking the first professional sports agreement for the controversial cable box, which allows users to access their home television from anywhere in the world, including laptops and cell phones. The service allows Slingbox owners to create short video clips from content on their Sling player and e-mail links to those clips throughout the information superhighway, including non-subscribers.

”The NHL has consistently been at the forefront of embracing new technologies to empower and grow their fan base and we are incredibly proud to have them as our first sports league partner,” said Jason Hirschhorn, President of Sling Media’s Entertainment Group in a press release. “Clip+Sling makes it extremely easy for fans to share a priceless moment with others, dramatically changing the way consumers socialize around TV. In addition, it enables content creators to build new communities as well as new revenue and marketing opportunities around their content.”

The agreement is in line with the stance the league has taken on the very popular YouTube, which allows users to post video content on the web free of charge. Major League Baseball and the National Football League have worked extensively to shut down files that include game footage and other copy written material. Both leagues offer video highlights, pod casts and online shows through league websites.

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Hand it to Electronic Arts, which finally delivered a next-generation console hit when it released NHL 07 last fall. The graphics were stellar, the game play smooth and the revolutionary skill stick gave users more control than ever before.

But fans will get an added bonus when buying the 08 version in September, as for the first time EA has acquired the license to use American Hockey League clubs for the first time. This, along with an advanced franchise mode, which was 07’s weakest link, should keep the gaming giant one step ahead of it’s competition, 2K Sports’ NHL 2K8, next season.

Screenshots of the game and the new RBK Edge uniforms for the Blue Jackets, Bruins, Capitals and Hurricanes can be found here:
http://www.easports.com/article.jsp?id=nhldraft

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