What’s it like to be a UK hockey official?

October 3, 2015

Without officials there would be no competitive ice hockey and that’s especially relevant in the UK, where the game that I love is very much a minority sport.

Accordingly, those charged with keeping order on the ice are part-time and hold occupations like the rest of us.
Thanks to the varied world that is Twitter I’ve met some interesting people I would not have necessarily done otherwise and one of those is Nick Hayman.
Currently retraining as a teacher after working backstage in theatre, in his spare time Nick is an official for the English Ice Hockey Association and about to embark on his third season donning the black and white stripes.

I spoke with him recently about what it’s like to be a hockey referee in the UK and the challenges faced.

So I suppose the obvious first question is how did you get into ice hockey officiating?

Actually, in the UK the question has to be how I got into ice hockey in the first place – no TV coverage, no national press, it’s a minor sport in the truest sense of the word.

I fell into hockey when a rink was built in my hometown (Guildford, about an hour’s drive from London) in 1993 – I was 14 years old. I started watching the semi-pro senior team, & became hooked on the game. When a minor hockey club was formed later that year, I joined and was a member of the Under-16 team for their inaugural season. I went on to play one more season before academic commitments (not to mention lack of ability) made continuing impractical.

I then basically forgot about hockey for many years – my parents eventually threw out all my playing kit & the only time my skates came out of the closet was to take my nephews skating once or twice. I went to university in a town without a rink, & then spent a decade working as a stage manager in theatre and opera, which meant no evenings or weekends to watch hockey, let alone play.

I got into officiating because in 2012 I made a decision to try to get more balance in my life – working in theatre is all-consuming, and I felt I was becoming very one-dimensional. I was looking for things that I could fit around my schedule, & was also inspired by the London 2012 Olympics with their emphasis on youth sport as a legacy. I remembered how much I had loved hockey as a teenager; being able to support the game at a youth level as an official felt like an opportunity to give something back.

Can you explain to those reading the level you officiate at and the set-up involved?

I’m an on-ice official for the English Ice Hockey Association, which administers the sport at all levels in England & Wales from youth hockey to our second-tier pro league. Unlike Canadian minor hockey with its multitude of levels (Rep, AA, AAA etc), there is only one level of youth hockey in the UK; however each league has two divisions, with the stronger clubs in Division 1 & the weaker clubs, plus the stronger clubs’ B teams if they have them, in Division 2.

For many years our youth hockey age groups were Under-18, Under-16, Under-14 & Under-12, with an cross-ice Under-9 league appearing more recently. For the 2015/16 season, they are U20, U18, U15, U13 & U11, with the cross-ice U9 games continuing as before. This was motivated mainly by an IIHF requirement that we run a domestic U20 league in order to continue participating in IIHF tournaments at that age-group.

Although I primarily officiate minor hockey, the pool of on-ice officials is relatively small, & many officials who work senior pro games will also work a junior fixture earlier in the day. Often the linesmen for the senior game will referee the junior fixture, for example.

How easy is the balance between work and officiating, and just how much travelling is involved for someone at your level?

In the UK, with very few exceptions, games take place on the weekend; so someone with a Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 job would have very little in the way of conflicts between work & officiating. While I was working in the theatre industry, my work involved a lot of travel, and (obviously) a lot of evening and weekend work. Moving into education has meant that I am in one place & only work Monday to Friday, at least in theory; so I am finding it much easier to balance work and officiating now.
Leagues are organised geographically: southern England & Wales play in one league, and midland & northern England in another. As this is a small country, that keeps the travel time to a maximum of a couple of hours, and the majority of games involve maybe 60-90 minutes’ drive for me.

During a normal week how many games would you be asked to officiate in?

Because hockey is such a minor sport here, there are relatively few games: throughout the whole of England & Wales, across all levels, from the youngest minor hockey players to the second-tier pro league, there are perhaps 100 games, in total, each weekend.

With only around 200 registered officials to cover those games, your chances of being allocated to a game are pretty high. But the logistics of travel mean that you only do one or two games in a day – with each rink in a different city, and almost all games taking place in the afternoon and evening, it’s just not feasible to do more than that.

Given my level of experience, I would not yet be considered for senior games except in an emergency; so I anticipate that in 2015/16 I will probably work between one and four games per weekend – where possible, minor hockey clubs will run several age group games back-to-back with the same officiating crew to save on our travel costs.

You’re a part time official  in a minority sport. Does the compensation for doing this just cover your costs and therefore this is very much a labour of love?

In terms of game fees, the amounts are pretty tiny – this weekend I was paid £14 ($28 CAD) for lining an U15 game, and the rate only rises by a few pounds at the older age-groups. Referee game fees are similarly low. Mileage is paid at 45p ($0.90 CAD) per mile, which means that a lot of the money I earn from hockey comes from the travel expenses; but apart from the odd scheduling blip where I get sent on a 150-mile round-trip because all the local refs are already working other games, I wouldn’t expect to clear more than £70 ($140 CAD) in a weekend – which represents a time commitment of around 12-14 hours if you include game prep & travel, as well as the time actually spent on the ice.

Also it’s worth North American readers bearing in mind how much more expensive fuel is here than it is over there! (Current UK prices are around £1.10 per litre)

Looking at this in purely financial terms, I am certainly not doing much more than breaking even; but then it isn’t really a financial proposition for me. I get to do something that gives me exercise, a challenge & a real sense of enjoyment; at the same time, kids are getting to play the game they love, they’re having fun too, and I am doing something tangible to help grow the game I love.

We hear stories about officials having to deal with abuse in junior hockey over in North America and that would be the same for many football (soccer) referee’s in the UK.
Does that carry over into UK hockey or is it a much more pleasant experience?

It is well known that referees in youth soccer here come in for appalling amounts of abuse, verbal and occasionally physical. That hasn’t been my experience of youth hockey, and talking to colleagues it doesn’t seem to be the experience of other minor hockey officials here either.

I think there are a lot of factors behind this. One is that hockey costs, especially if you have several kids playing. A rough estimate for minor hockey expenditure per child in the UK would be £1500 ($3000 CAD) per season – which is tiny by comparison to the amounts Canadian parents put into their children’s’ minor hockey. But when you consider that the most popular sports here require almost no equipment to play, it does mean that whether a child gets to play hockey or not in the first place, can certainly be decided by family income.

On the other hand, that’s often the case in North America too, so why the discrepancy? Some of it’s to do with the lack of a hockey culture here – the parents have generally not played the sport themselves, and certainly didn’t have dreams of lifting the Stanley Cup one day, therefore they’re not trying to live those dreams vicariously through their children.

However, I suspect that the real answer is a pretty simple one, and one that explains why the same unfortunate behaviour occurs on soccer touchlines here as in the stands at rinks over there: money. A player in English soccer’s Premier League can earn money that makes NHL compensation look stingy. But as a hockey parent in the UK, your child is not going to get drafted, or earn a college scholarship (university sport works on an entirely different basis here anyway).

If they’re talented and dedicated enough to graduate to playing in our second- or third-tier senior leagues, they will probably earn around £200 ($400 CAD) per week. The most talented might end up in our top tier, where they could earn three times that – which is still only just about enough to even think about raising a family on.

I do think that lack of the promise of riches or college tuitions keeps a lid on parental behaviour. Without that, kids get to play for enjoyment, not with one eye (usually their parents‘ rather than their own) on a career or an education.

How much are you critiqued through the season by the EIHA and are you given regular performance feedback?

As a minor sport, there is not a lot of money in hockey; even at the national level, almost all of those involved in administering the sport are doing so in their spare time around day jobs. The whole of British hockey is built on people putting huge amounts of their time and passion into the game – whether it’s keeping track of stats, being a scorekeeper or penalty-box attendant, selling 50/50 raffle tickets on game nights, or whatever.

That’s very inspiring, but it does mean that some things simply can’t be done in a top-down manner, because the people at the top only have a limited amount of time at their disposal. So the stuff which needs to be done in that way – game allocations for officials, for example, or player registrations – gets done, and things which are less critical to the running of the sport don’t.

We have a new Referee In Chief this season, and one of his aims is to overhaul the system of formal assessment for officials. In the meantime, though, most of the assessment & feedback you receive as an on-ice official comes from your colleagues. No-one would argue that more formal assessment isn’t a good thing, but there’s also a lot to be said for an informal system where the people working the game with you will give you feedback on your performance, and you on theirs.

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Do you have any memorable or even better, funny moments, that you’re allowed to share?

1) Fairly early on in my career, working a two-man system with a more experienced colleague, I skated to centre-ice to take the opening face-off of the second period, raised my whistle-hand to my mouth, and realised that the whistle was where I had left it, in the dressing room. That’s the sort of mistake you only make once…

2) Last season I was sent to a rink I had not visited before, and got very lost trying to find it – so lost that I only arrived a few minutes before the game was due to begin. As I had been driving for a couple of hours whilst taking on fluid, I badly needed to go to the bathroom; but since I barely had time to get into my equipment I had to wait until the end of the first period, when I hustled off the ice to answer the call of nature.
Unfortunately, minor hockey games usually dispense with an ice cut between periods, and only take a 3 minute break; which is not long enough to take off the equipment, do the necessary, put the gear back on & get back on the ice. I emerged from the bathroom to find both teams already out on the ice and the referee signalling a delay of game penalty at me…

What would you say are the best things about being an ice hockey official?

A major attraction for me is that it gives me an opportunity to give something back to the sport I love. I want the game in the UK to grow, and in particular for young British players to make it to our top-tier leagues and even beyond. That won’t happen without them being given the opportunity to play; so being an official means I make a tangible contribution to that happening.

But it’s not all altruism; I get a lot out of officiating too. I get to do something which challenges me physically & mentally, and if I have a good game there is a sense of real satisfaction. Officiating gives me a reason to stay healthy, eat right & maintain fitness, all things that a demanding job can stop you doing.

There’s also a lot to be said for doing something which forces you to concentrate hard for several hours. Whatever has been going on in my life during the week, I have to leave it in the officials’ room, because once you drop that puck, the only way you can do your job is to focus completely on what’s happening, moment to moment. That doesn’t sound relaxing, but in a world where we very seldom get to concentrate on anything to the exclusion of everything else, it’s very liberating.

Do you have aspirations to climb the ladder and officiate at the highest level you can?

This is something which has actually changed since I started officiating. When I began working hockey games, I was still a theatre stage manager, which meant a lot of travel, and working most evenings & weekends; so I was resigned to only being able to work games when my schedule allowed it.

With the move into education, I am now in one place, and don’t work weekends, which means I can go from working a game or two a month, to working several each weekend. It’s very hard to improve if you go for weeks between games, because you don’t get a chance to put what you learnt on the ice into practice while it’s still fresh in your mind. If you have another game the following day, you can build on it, and you can’t really fail to improve.

Part of me would like to see how far I can go in officiating, whether I can make it to our Senior leagues. It would certainly be nice to know that I could cope at that level. However, I’m also realistic about the fact that I started officiating relatively late (I worked my first game at the age of 34), and just as I found that 14 was too late to start playing if I wanted to reach a high level, I have to be realistic about how long I could keep up with the higher levels of the game.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to improve as much as I can; the Under-11 teams need (and deserve) competent officials as much as the pros do. I want to be the best official I can be, otherwise there really isn’t any point in my being there.

Another thing about being that bit older is that things like family need to be factored in. After a decade in an industry with very unsociable hours, I’ve no intention of swapping one all-consuming lifestyle for another. I want to be able to balance my life, and spending my weekends chasing round the UK to the exclusion of spending time with my loved ones isn’t balance.

So I am not looking to break into officiating in our top-tier Elite league or get my IIHF licence. What I am interested in doing is continuing to learn & develop as an official. I’d like to work towards refereeing as well as being a linesman. I’d be very interested in getting involved in the training and development of new officials, once I have enough experience under my belt to not be considered one myself.

Life gets in the way of a lot of things, and I don’t know how long my knees or my back are going to hold up. But even if they do, the day I look at the clock in the last couple of minutes of a game and don’t find myself thinking “I don’t want this to be over” is the day it’ll be time to hang up my skates.

A huge thank you to Nick for the time and effort he put into this interview.

If you’d like to follow Nick Hayman on Twitter you can do so at @NickHaymanSM

AHL eligibility outdated?

September 27, 2015

Per AHL By-Laws, the age limit for eligibility to compete in the American Hockey League is 18 years or over, on or before September 15 of each season of competition.

However, that only applies to players drafted outside the Canadian Hockey League.
For example the NCAA or European drafted players

Those drafted while playing for CHL team, incorporating the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Western Hockey League (WHL), and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) can only turn professional in the minor pro leagues (AHL/ECHL) when they turn 20 (by December 31st of that season) or have played four seasons in the CHL.

Understandably, the CHL wants to protect the competitive nature of their leagues and the undoubted money and status procured from having the best young players, therefore they do no want their top talent leaving as soon as they get drafted. For that reason, the CHL and NHL reached the above agreement.

A team can choose to play their young draft pick in the NHL before he’s eligible for minor pro hockey at any time after being drafted. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are both very likely to take that exact step in 2015/16.

There are of course many examples of players at the age of 19, having played three years of junior, who are in a state of limbo. Not considered ready by their NHL teams for any number of reasons, but yet another year in junior where there will dominate seems a waste for their development.
It’s an issue that’s become more widely discussed and tossed around for a while now and perhaps the rigid rules and agreement between the CHL and NHL needs adjusting. I’m sure many an NHL team would like some flexibility in the matter.

Born in Calgary, William Nylander moved to Sweden with his family after playing some early junior hockey in North America. Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014 while he was a member of Modo Hockey Club, Nylander joined the Toronto Marlies (Leafs AHL affiliate) last season at just 18 years of age, showing just how good he was and his readiness for the professional game.
Had his family stayed in North America, it’s likely the young Swede would still be playing in the CHL and that’s why he’s an interesting point in case.

Possibly an anomaly, rather than likely to set a trend at this stage is Auston Matthews, an 18 year old projected to be a top pick in the 2016 NHL draft.
An American born Centreman, Matthews chose to sign a one-year professional contract with ZSC Lions in the Swiss National League A, instead of joining Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League .
Now not every young player is good enough to play pro overseas at such a tender year, yet alone have the courage to up-sticks but you have to wonder how much of his decision was based on the fact of not having to play another two seasons of junior after being drafted.
Certainly a kick in the teeth for the CHL and some food for thought.

Sean Day/ Mississauga Steelheads. The latest player to be given exception status.  Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Sean Day/
Mississauga Steelheads.
The latest player to be given exceptional status and eligible for 2016 NHL draft. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Now the agreement in place and AHL rules are not just to protect CHL interests. There is also the interest of the young men, jumping from junior to pro-hockey, which can be a bigger gulf to some than others.

The opening night of last season provides a warning tale as renowned thug and enforcer Trevor Gillies took it upon himself to challenge Rochester American’s left winger William Carrier.
Now Carrier was an AHL rookie at the time, making his debut no less and made the smart decision not to fight his bigger and more experienced opponent. Despite his refusal to engage the then Adirondack forward, Gillies threw the young man to the ice, grabbing hold of Carrier’s head and slamming it into the ice as hard before throwing countless punches.
With that being said, that’s the exception to the rule but it should not be forgotten if any changes were to be implemented.

What I put forward is that every season or every other season, an NHL team is allowed an exemption rule for one of their young draft picks. In the same way players like Connor McDavid have been given an exceptional player status in junior hockey (http://www.ontariohockeyleague.com/article/ohf-announces-exceptional-player-status-for-connor-mcdavid/119258).

So at 19 years of age, or after three years in junior the player chosen could skip the last year of junior and join said NHL teams affiliate. Perhaps limited to something like 70-75% of that teams regular season’s game with no call-up allowed to the NHL would be a fair compromise and make the decision as to whether to do so a tougher call, while protecting the players all-round interests.

Now this is all conjecture on my part and I’m sure as many reading this will agree as disagree vehemently. It’s certainly a hot topic for many fans of NHL teams rebuilding through the draft.
The rules mentioned in the beginning of this article only apply when players are looking to start a season with a team outside the NHL.
Players from OHL, WHL, and QMJHL are allowed to and routinely join AHL teams after their seasons end for the remainder of the AHL team’s season on an Amateur Tryout Contract (ATO).

Viewing the NHL in the UK 2015/16

September 19, 2015

With the 2015/16 NHL season almost upon us, I thought I would update the ways of viewing for fans of the sport in the UK.

As I’ve said in previous articles, it’s no secret that there are lots of ways to watch using unlicensed streams online but I’m going to focus on the legal ways you can legally pay to watch the NHL in the UK. There is also the HockeyStreams website, which is by invite only at this point.

First up is the channel named “Premier Sports” which I’ll refer to as PS for the rest of this article.
They broadcast on SKY channel 428 in HD,Virgin channel 551 and TalkTalk channel 526.
The channel is also available online in HD through the Premier Player.

Viewers in Northern Ireland can view Premier Sports via Setanta Sports 1 in that territory.
Visit http://www.setanta.com/ie for more information.


PS show around 15 games per week, though it should be noted not all of these are live broadcasts, with some delayed by a few hours, others until the following day.

Their coverage for the first nine days of the season is as follows:
Thu 08 Oct New York Rangers @ Chicago Blackhawks Live
Thu 08 Oct San Jose Sharks @ Los Angeles Kings Live
Fri 09 Oct Edmonton Oilers @ St. Louis Blues Live
Sat 10 Oct Toronto Maple Leafs @ Detroit Red Wings Live
Sat 10 Oct Arizona Coyotes @ Los Angeles Kings Live
Sun 11 Oct Tampa Bay Lightning @ Buffalo Sabres Delayed
Sun 11 Oct Philadelphia Flyers @ Florida Panthers Delayed
Sun 11 Oct Anaheim Ducks @ San Jose Sharks Delayed
Mon 12 Oct Montreal Canadiens @ Ottawa Senators Live
Mon 12 Oct Tampa Bay Lightning @ Boston Bruins Live
Tue 13 Oct Florida Panthers @ Philadelphia Flyers Live
Tue 13 Oct Vancouver Canucks @ Anaheim Ducks Live
Tue 13 Oct Columbus Blue Jackets @ Buffalo Sabres Delayed
Wed 14 Oct Montreal Canadiens @ Pittsburgh Penguins Live
Wed 14 Oct Vancouver Canucks @ Los Angeles Kings Live
Thu 15 Oct Ottawa Senators @ Columbus Blue Jackets Live
Thu 15 Oct Boston Bruins @ Colorado Avalanche Live
Fri 16 Oct Nashville Predators @ New York Islanders Live
Fri 16 Oct Minnesota Wild @ Arizona Coyotes Live

“NHL Tonight” is also listed as being part of the package.

There are no hard and fast rules as to which games they show every week or any way of knowing which teams will be featured. You take that risk that you may only see your team’s games a handful or less times a month. PS have no control over which feed of the selected game will be shown either.

In the past PS have broadcast the iconic Hockey Night in Canada but for at least the duration of the rest of this television deal, they will not show HNIC for the following reasons which they have listed on their website:

“There are 2 reasons.
The first being we do not want to be tied into showing Canadian teams during primetime Saturday games.
The second reason is we no longer have the shared fibre access across the Atlantic with Rogers Sportsnet. This means we would have to bring in 7 hours of programming every weekend ourselves using satellites at a cost of around £250,000 per season. This would also not include rights for the programming from CBC. Again this makes HNIC totally unfeasible this year vs. the number of subscribers actually willing to pay for that extra content.”

Intermission coverage is down to the host broadcasters allowing them to be viewed overseas and are not down to PS, as they themselves refuse to pay the extra to show these which when you consider the “alleged costs” of doing so is unfeasible in monetary terms.

PS finally broadcasts in HD after many false promises in the past.

The channel costs £11.99 per month SD, £12.99 for HD, with a 2 months minimum contract. A £8 connection fee also applies. Alternatively, you can opt for a 12 month season which saves you around £50.
Free access to the online Premier Player and 7 day Catch-Up service also form part of your subscription.

For those that might want just online coverage, details can be found at http://www.premierplayer.tv regarding information on pricing and service requirements.

All game broadcast live (and at times delayed) on PS, are blocked from being shown LIVE on the NHL online service “Game Centre Live”, as this is the only way for PS to protect the investment they have made in broadcasting NHL games via their channel. This included playoff games, the Winter Classic, All-Star Games, any other classic games and the Stanley Cup Final.

A totally understandable protection for them to have, if not frustrating for those who only wish to pay for the NHL’s online service.

It would be impertinent of me not to mention that PS don’t just broadcast NHL hockey but also EIHL, CHS and GB Men’s games in IIHF World Championships.

It has to be said that PS coverage of NHL has been far from perfect. I’ve heard so many stories of subscription issues and terrible customer service, of which I’ve endured the latter.

Many times the feeds are of poor quality or cut out totally, with them blaming everything from the weather to the NHL, but never taking responsibility themselves, an issue I’ve had with the company from day one.

Undoubtedly there is nothing like watching a game on your TV set but those issues and the cost have to be balanced out against the possible issues.

The other option available is to subscribe to NHL’s Game Centre Live online service which I’ll refer to as GCL for the remainder of the article.


GCL is a online subscription service offering streaming video of live out-of-market games.
Prices as per the email sent out to last years subscribers are as follows:

“”“We are pleased to notify you of the annual automatic renewal of your subscription to the NHL GameCenter LIVE All Access Yearly Package. Your NHL GameCenter LIVE All Access Yearly Package is priced at last year’s full season price- only USD $99.99 for the entire year ($15 lower than the 2015-2016 regular full yearly price)”

In addition, we are now offering monthly packages – only $19.99 per month. If you prefer the NHL GameCenter LIVE™ All Access Monthly Package simply (click link). If you do so, you will be charged $19.99 for each month of the 2015-2016 NHL season and your NHL GameCenter LIVE All Access Monthly Package subscription will automatically renew annually at the prior season’s regular full monthly price.

There is no action required for you to continue your current subscription. Unless you select the All Access Monthly Package or cancel your subscription before 12:01AM ET on October 1, 2015, the payment card you have on file with us will be charged USD $99.99 on or about October 1, 2015, and your subscription will automatically renew annually at the prior year’s regular full price (USD $114.99 for 2015-2016). Please note additional taxes, such as sales taxes or value added taxes, may apply in certain jurisdictions. For example, sales taxes will be charged in NE and TX, and VAT taxes will be charged in European Union countries. Please contact the applicable taxation authority for details. To update your credit or debit card information, simply (click link).”””

2015-2016 NHL GameCenter LIVE™ Features

Watch either the home or away team’s broadcasts
HD Quality
Watch games on a variety of supported devices ***
On-demand full length and condensed replays
Follow the action from multiple games at once with Mosaic® view and picture in picture
Access to live stats and play by play from the NHL GameCenter™
Download the free NHL® app and get access to live game video, radio, highlights and more by linking your NHL GameCenter LIVE™ account to your Android phone or tablet.

Download the free NHL® app on your iPad®*, iPhone® or iPod touch® and sign in with your NHL GameCenter LIVE™ account for access to live game video, radio, highlights and more. *iPad 2 or newer required for video content.

Apple TV
Access the NHL® app on your Apple TV® and sign in to watch live games, post-game replays, on-demand video highlights and more.

The Roku streaming player lets you access your NHL GameCenter LIVE™ subscription on your TV—without a PC. Watch your favorite team or catch action from around the league, live or on-demand.

The NHL® app on Xbox 360 and Xbox One brings you live games, replays, classic games and videos from the NHL VideoCenter, plus controller-free entertainment with the power of kinect.

PS3™ and PS4™
The PS3™ and PS4™ video game systems instantly stream hockey so you can watch the action like never before.

Phone Coverage
Download the free NHL® app from Google Play (Android phones and tablets) or the App Store (iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad), and then sign in with your NHL GameCenter LIVE™ username and password to access live games and replays. You may sign in from the “Settings” section of the app or when prompted.

Television Coverage
You may use your NHL GameCenter LIVE™ subscription to watch games through several gaming consoles and Internet-connected devices compatible with your television.
Subscribers who have an Apple TV, Roku, Sony PlayStation®3, Sony PlayStation®4, Sony PlayStation®Vita, or Xbox 360 may use the NHL® application on these devices to sign in and watch live games with a valid subscription. Select Sony TV, Blu-Rays and Home Theater devices enabled with Bravia Internet Video also offer live games through the NHL® app.

Tablet Coverage
NHL GameCenter LIVE™ subscribers may sign in to watch live games and replays through the NHL® app on Android tablets and iPads.
Simply download the free NHL® app from Google Play (Android) or the App Store(iPad). You can visit the “Settings” section of the app to sign in with your existing NHL GameCenter LIVE™ username and password to access live games and replays.

Non-subscribers may also upgrade to an NHL GameCenter LIVE™ subscription through the NHL® app on iPad and Android tablets. If you make a purchase directly through the apps (on iPad, it will be using your iTunes account), you will have access to live games on your tablet alone, unless you complete the process of creating a username and password that will enable you to sign in online and on other supported devices.

Note: Any purchase of NHL GameCenter LIVE™ made using an iTunes account on iPad or Apple TV is subject to Apple’s refund policy. Any purchase of NHL GameCenter LIVE™ made using Google Play on an Android Tablet is subject to Google’s refund policy.

watch on Mobile devices


watch on other devices


Automatic Renewal
E-mails are in the process of being sent out as of 18th September 2015.

Although not thoroughly advertised it appears NHL Vault is still available for just under five dollars a month. Features full and condensed replays from the current season and archived games since 2007/08. Big thanks to Kim McGreal for the heads up. https://gamecenter.nhl.com/nhlgc/secure/vaultsignup?intcmpid=nhl.com:gcl:newlgnpgvaultbtn

Contacting NHL GCL Support

For those outside of the US the telephone number is +1-407-708-1356, between the hours of 9am to 2am ET.You can also submit your question online by visiting the online Customer Support Page or by using the Live Chat feature. This is available at the GCL signup page which I will put a link to later in the article.


On GCL you have the ability to watch live games, replay at your convenience which can either be the full game or a condensed version.

Home or Away broadcasts or available for the majority of games, alternate camera angles, multi-game views, live rewind, restart or pause a game and slow motion.
There may also be other new features the NHL are working on or have not announced yet as per the new working relationship with MLB as I recently wrote about.

It should be noted that there is no HNIC full coverage but the games are shown and intermissions are again at broadcasters discretion. I’ve seen games where intermission coverage is provided on the away feed but not the home. It’s varied and if you get the intermission coverage it’s accepted as a bonus.

Games that are broadcast by PS are blacked out on GCL. These are generally available to view 24 hours after they have finished on PS.

Let’s not beat around the bush though, as we know there are means and ways around this issue that I won’t post here. I would say however, that bragging about it to the NHL or on the Facebook page of PS, is not particularly brave or clever. The NHL does have the power to revoke your subscription should you violate the terms of the contract you sign in buying GCL, which although they are highly unlikely to do, why give them any cause to do so or upset PS viewers in the process?

Personally I love the NHL GCL package and I think it offers incredibly value for money as you’re able to watch whatever games you wish to, at your convenience, bar the blackouts.

Approximately a little under £70 for every game of the NHL is unbeatable, less than £1 per game for just the team you support.

Goes without saying you need a computer/device in good working order and a reliable broadband service but in my experience, GCL has proved superior to PS in terms of reliability of service.

The GCL signup link is below and at the foot of the page is an FAQ section which is very expansive as well as the option of contacting them about any queries you may have.

NHL GCL signup page:

Currently not available as of September 19th but due to be online next week.


However you spend your money this season, I hope you enjoy the 2015/16 NHL season and the thrills and spills our great game has to offer.

AHL announce Californian outdoor game

September 5, 2015

A mere six days after the release of the American Hockey League schedule, we had the announcement of an outdoor game to be held in California.

It should come as any surprise that this contest will feature two teams from the newly formed Pacific Division, with the AHL and NHL both needing this venture to work and therefore promotion is a vital tool.

It’ll be the first time an AHL game will be played outdoors in western North America, and the eighth in league history since 2010.

Raley Field in West Sacramento California, will play host to Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames) and Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers), both newcomers to the league having previously been ECHL teams. Due to be held on Friday December 18, this will be a regular season match-up.

It’s not merely about the promotion of these teams in a brand new division, or about the AHL.
The game will be the highlight of the Golden State Hockey Rush, an event being hosted by Entercom Communications Sacramento, Raley Field and RS Ice Sports & Entertainment.


Titled the “Biggest Show on Snow,” this will be a six week event running from Nov. 20, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016.
A number of local amateur hockey teams will play on the ice for the first-ever Golden State Hockey Rush Holiday Tournament.
There will also be number of other attractions, including the “Monster Ice Slide,” public holiday skating, theme nights, Santa Claus picture opportunities, rides and more.
Clearly the aim is to engage the local public and encourage them to use the ice.

A locally based charity will benefit from the event in the shape of the Treat’em Like a King (TLK) Foundation, founded by former Sacramento Kings basketball player Harold Pressle.

Raley Field is the home of the Sacramento River Cats minor league baseball team in the Pacific Coast League. Hosting everything from local events to some big musical names, an ice hockey event for six weeks should test everyone’s capabilities as we’ve witnessed the issues trying to keep a rink in good condition when the weather is far from winter like.

Recent history tells us this is unlikely to be the only “classic game” the AHL puts on this season and hopefully that’s the case, with so many good candidates in the league for such events.

Bears climb to early success

September 4, 2015

Medveščak Zagreb won just 17 games in regulation during the 2014/15 season.

As they seemingly lurched from one disaster to another last year, the summer of 2015 brought much trepidation for the Bears fans.
A brand new looking roster without much KHL experience and a rookie head coach in the shape of Gordie Dwyer.

Even the most ardent Medveščak supporter could not have envisaged such a positive start to this season, five games in.
Despite blowing a two goal lead in a opening day home shootout defeat to Amur, the Bears from Zagreb have not been defeated in the four games since.
Admiral and Sibir were both beaten in regulation and let’s not forget how good the latter were last season (second in the East) and once again look a force this year.
Finding different ways to win despite sometimes being the architects of their own downfall, Medveščak downed Metallurg Nk in a shootout thanks to an incredible game winner from Colby Genoway. They then proceeded to take down Dinamo Riga in the last outing. The hero in overtime was Marek Kvapil with an absolute snipe to secure the extra point, which took them to the top of the standings in the West.

All this despite having issues between the pipes so early in the season. Danny Taylor had looked superb until apparently injuring his knee in game three. Cal Heeter came in to secure the victory and then proceeded to win his first start. Gordie Dwyer then threw a curveball by starting third string net minder Kroselj Gasper but the 28yo making his first KHL start allowed just one goal in 62 minutes to prove his coach made the right call.

After allowing almost 200 goals last season it’s the defensive side of things that has been more impressive thus far with Medveščak allowing only nine goals in five games. It’s been the key to the success, as has generally staying out of the penalty box.
Last season Medveščak racked up over 1000 penalty minutes at a staggering average of 17 per game.
Cutting that in half so far, the Bears have looked more disciplined but will need that downward trend to continue against some potent power play units in the KHL.

Goal scoring has been by committee with the 14 tallies shared by ten players and defensemen have stepped into the fold.
Patrick Bjorkstrand leads the way with three (he scored just seven the whole of last season), Marek Kvapil has two, as does defenseman Geoff Kinrade, with both turning out to be game winners.
Stefano Giliati is the teams surprising points leads at this juncture with four to his name in what’s been a good start to life in the KHL for him.
Kvapil has an assist to go with his pair of goals, while Simon Gysbers has a goal and an assist from the backend. The team will doubtless be expecting more from the latter with his booming shot not really enough of a factor yet.

Medvescak Celebration

The power play, which wasn’t a pretty sight last season, has had it’s struggles this year, running at under 12%. Often guilty of looking for the perfect play, there isn’t enough urgency with the extra man as yet, which has belied the teams excellent work at even strength.

During five-on-five play Medveščak have thoroughly impressed at times with sheer hard graft and a strong fore-check. Opponents have struggled to clear their own zone as the Bears sheer will to shut down clearing lanes along the boards has resulted in turnovers and greater offensive zone time.
The will of this team to work extremely hard is not to be underestimated. There doesn’t appear to be any prima donnas amongst the troops.
Clearing and exiting their own zone has been another positive for Medveščak for the most part. At their best when looking for the simple, effective play and only falling into strife when trying to be fancy with no-look drop passes and the like.
Offensive zone entries are certainly a work in progress but I would not doubt this teams ability to work that out as the season progresses. You have to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff, headed up by Gordie Dwyer.
Some of his decisions have been questioned but so far all the answers have been forthcoming. A three game road trip in six days will doubtless pose more questions but you can only tip your hat to Dwyer so far. Calling a timeout in overtime to set-up the power play in the last game against Riga certainly proved to be the smart call.

Human cost of hockey realignment

August 31, 2015

The American Hockey League has gone through the biggest realignment in 15 years due to the formation of a new Pacific Division.

It’s a move that hasn’t pleased everyone, especially with the contrived schedule due to be employed from this upcoming season.

What’s been slightly lost in all the upheaval is the human cost factor.
Now I’m not fool enough not to believe that hockey players are at the end of the day commodities to the teams they sign a contract with. Deals and trades are made, and the result is players have to up-sticks in the middle of a season, perhaps to the other end of the country, possibly away from a place they’ve made home for a long time and from their nearest and dearest.

What’s different on this occasion is the sheer level of upheaval and the distances involved.
In all, eleven rosters will have to uproot in preparation for next season.

The merry-go round begins with a four NHL teams involved in swapping affiliations.

  • Colorado’s players head from Lake Erie to San Antonio (1400 miles).
  • Florida’s from San Antonio to Portland (2100 miles).
  • Arizona’s from Portland to Springfield Falcons (190 miles).
  • Columbus from Springfield to Lake Erie (500 miles).

Those latter two of those listed are by far the shortest distances involved as the next batch of relocations will show.

  • Adirondack Flames to Stockton Heat:
    Glens Falls, NY, USA to Stockton, CA, USA is 2900 miles.
  • Hamilton Bulldogs to St. John’s IceCaps:
    Hamilton, ON, Canada to St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada is 1490 miles.
  • Manchester Monarchs to Ontario Reign:
    Manchester, NH, USA to Ontario, CA, USA is 3000 miles.
  • Norfolk Admirals to San Diego Gulls:
    Norfolk, VA, USA To San Diego, CA, USA is 2700 miles.
  • Okalahoma City Barons to Bakersfield Condors:
    Oklahoma City, OK, USA to Bakersfield, CA, USA is 1300 miles.
  • St. John’s IceCaps to Manitoba Moose:
    St John’s, NL to Winnipeg, MB, Canada is 2670 miles.
  • Worcester Sharks to San Jose Sharks:
    Worcester, MA, USA to San Jose, CA, USA is 3000 miles.


Travelling from one end of the country to the other brings about different problems from the norm like a new climate to deal with, or, especially relevant to those travelling West Coast, a more expensive place to live but on the same salary as before. That’s without the concern players with young families must have.
There are a million different issues you just don’t think about until being put in that position.

It isn’t just the players though who have to deal with this. There are forgotten members of a team like hockey operations, of which there can be as many as ten members.
If a team is moving it’s front office as well, that can be upto another 15 people on top.

There are also job losses with people choosing not to move with their former teams or being told they aren’t required moving forward.

Also those who shouldn’t be forgotten are the fans who no longer have a team to cheer for.
In the overall scheme it maybe a selfish point of view from those in the stands, but hockey teams are often a vital part of a community and an outlet for a lot of people in so many different ways.

A hockey team moving on from a location doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it often has far reaching human implications that just aren’t thought about by the average Joe.

Imagine the fall out when eleven teams take that path.

MLB/NHL media rights deal – repercussions for European NHL fans.

August 29, 2015

In the hullabaloo of the announced six-year digital media rights partnership between the NHL and Major League Baseball, I couldn’t help but wonder what might be the knock-on effect for European NHL fans.

We are currently locked into a TV deal that is due to run its course after the 2015/16 season, with the NHL currently trying to sue the middle man in that arrangement (Medge/AMI) for non payment.

This deal between the MLB/NHL at this point is just a digital media arrangement with the new tech company “MLBAM” responsible for GameCenter Live, NHL Center Ice, NHL Network and NHL.com and possibly more that we aren’t aware of at this juncture.
The launch won’t be made until January at the earliest, so it will be business at usual regarding all digital platforms including GameCenter Live in October and apparently NeuLion, the NHL’s current digital partner, will help facilitate the transition to make sure it runs smoothly.


Users of GCL I believe should be positive about this partnership. I’ve sporadically used MLB.TV in recent times and on each occasion it’s been very smooth online with no buffering or issues of any kind, and extremely good quality.
If this standard could be transferred to GCL down the line then this can only be a good thing moving forward for those wanting online coverage.
This quote from Gary Bettman confirms we are likely to be dealing with MLBAM.
“As part of the deal, MLBAM will serve as the distribution arm for GameCenter Live and NHL Center Ice subscription services in the United States and certain international markets. The League and its clubs will retain editorial control of the content.”

As per the official press release, MLBAM has similar partnerships with a host of other companies in the sports and entertainment fields. It provides streaming or infrastructure support for YES Network and SportsNet New York, WatchESPN, CBS Sports’ March Madness, World Wrestling Entertainment, and HBO Go.

A very professional outfit who have paid a fee reported to be $100 million annually for the rights to all the NHL’s digital platforms, and the NHL gets up to 10 percent in equity in MLBAM.

Now the MLB has a reputation for cracking down on fans making Gifs, vines and podcasts using their footage but when Collins was asked about this by Yahoo Sports, he basically inferred that this was still the NHL’s business and they have the right to make the call.
With the amount of illegal streaming of NHL games that goes on and the workaround on blacked out games, I’m sure that comes as a relief to fans for the time being. What happens after this season is certainly up for discussion however.

The following is a stab in the dark on my part but what many of you may have already been thinking.
With the NHL’s television rights outside North America up for grabs after next season, what price that MLB’s partner in the UK takes a punt on the NHL. Many have wanted BT Sport to take a run at the NHL since it’s launch in 2013.
Premier Sports have finally got themselves a HD channel up and running this season but their problems broadcasting NHL during the length of this current deal don’t need to be reiterated again.

Next summer should be interesting, if not a worrying time, for the NHL overseas television rights, but it appears that the digital side of things are in good hands.


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