Hockey has always been known as a spectator sport. For the longest time, it was very difficult to watch hockey on television. The cameramen had difficulty following the puck because both the puck and the players moved very quickly. Broadcasting was also an issue. From the 1940s to the 1980s, only games local to areas that had hockey teams had their games broadcasted. There were no out-of-market games. This limited the number of new fans that the NHL could have had.
Television audiences are the thing that can bring in new potential audiences or destroy the ones that you currently have. Today we have many different options for viewing sports games. Whether that is cable, satellite, streaming services, or some other internet format. Following the puck is important for TV broadcasting. Baseball’s viewpoint is usually behind the pitcher. It is set up this way so that the TV viewer can see which pitches are being thrown to the batters.
The 1940s was the start of TV coming into homes in both America and Canada. The games were broadcasted in black and white. Up until 1967, there were only six NHL markets for NHL games. They were Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York, Chicago, and Detroit. If you weren’t living near or in these markets, you couldn’t watch the games. For example, if you were living in Los Angeles at the time, you couldn’t watch any NHL games because there was no NHL team and there was no infrastructure to broadcast any NHL game across the country.
In 1967 the era of the original six came to a close. After that final season, six more teams came into the league. Those teams were the California Seals (later renamed the Oakland Seals and then the California Golden Seals), Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and St. Louis Blues. There were now six new markets for the NHL. Also, the NHL could broadcast its games to millions more viewers.
The Late 1960s would usher in a new era of TV. Color TV broadcasting was brand new at the time. It was revolutionary. Now you didn’t have to rely on a black-and-white television to see the game. You could see the game for what it was. Hockey fans could see the outlines of the blue lines, red lines, and goal lines. Colored television also helped newcomers understand the rules of the game.
In the 1980s and 1990s, cable became the standard for TV viewing in households. There were new channels and ways to watch TV. Also, during this time, there were 21 NHL teams.
In the 2000s Satellite TV became the premium way to watch TV. If you wanted to watch a sports game that was taking place in LA, but you were on the East Coast, you could do that. The two main Satellite services were Direct TV and Dish Network.
Streaming services are the newest way to watch television. With streaming, you can now access exclusive channels, shows, and out-of-market sports games. With a streaming service such as Hulu, you can watch live sports that are out-of-market. You don’t need satellite TV or any special subscription. Just sign up and pay your monthly bill. For NHL fans, this is perfect if your favorite team doesn’t broadcast games in a specific area.
Today there are 32 NHL teams. Some markets overlap each other. However, whatever NHL game is on television you can pay to watch. Whether it’s on NHL.com, cable, or some other streaming service, you can find any NHL game and watch it. No matter where you are in North America. TV’s role has been a very important part of growing hockey. Being able to watch games has become easier with the advancement of technology. Not only has the NHL fanbase expanded, but hockey itself has expanded overall.
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