Enhancing the Fan Experience: Watching the game at home

For Montreal Canadiens fans, there's a handful of ways to enjoy a game; in person at the Bell Centre (or an opponents rink), watching at home on TV, at a bar or friend's home, or going old school and listening on the radio.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting some ideas and suggestions as to how fans can add to the enjoyment of the game in the selected environments.

This week focuses on watching the game in the comfort of your own home. For most of you, there may not be anything new here, but you never know.

So there you are, at home about to watch the game on the tube. "The tube", there's a rather outdated term in today's technology. These days it's a flat panel plasma or LCD display, and if you have high definition capability, the more power to you! High-def gives such crisp detail, you an easily trace the outline of chip on a players' tooth.

The bigger the better always seems to work in this case, and surround sound adds to the "home arena" atmosphere. Now, don't go Tim Taylor (the Home Improvement character, not the hockey player) and break the bank on getting a Samsung 65" Class 8000 3D LED TV, with built in Smart TV apps, if it's realistically out of your price range. But if  you can.....

For Habs fans residing in Canada, there's a multitude of ways to view the game on TV. RDS carries every game, and even if you don't speak French, you can get around it. I'll get into that later.

TSN recently announced a new regional broadcast, on top of there existing national schedule,  which brings more games to all points east of Belleville, ON and of course there's good old Hockey Night in Canada, which is sometimes limited to regional coverage. As a Canadiens fan located in Leafs country, that part was once a frustrating situation.

OK the game is about to start but whoops, there's a problem. You had a big argument with the significant other, earlier in the day, and she/he (it is the 21st Century) wants to watch "What Not to Wear", so you're stuck to use the backup. Aarrgh ! The kids are watching a Hannah Montana marathon on the number two set. Now what?

This is where our friend the World Wide Web comes to our aid. In situations when the TV is unavailable, or you are in a blackout area, or don't have the coverage through your service provider, your trusty computer is your best friend.

The best bang for your buck is NHL GameCenter. It's a bit pricey, but you get access to almost every game (blackout restrictions apply), as well as several vintage games from years gone by. You can also scroll back just like a PVR to a missed moment and go back to the live feed. Plus, full the replay is usually available later on, in case you missed it live. You can access GameCenter through the NHL.com scoreboard at the top of the site.

For those streaming online though, I highly recommend not using a laptop, unless you have a high end one with a good wireless connection.

Even if you don't subscribe to the live action, GameCenter offers a comprehensive stats and update package free of charge.

All HNIC games are available online, so even if your local stations don't have it  you can watch it on your computer, and there are also several "other feeds "available for those outside the regular viewing areas.

As I mentioned earlier, unless you are fluent in French, a lot of the play by play and commentary can be hard to understand on RDS. Fortunately CJAD covers all the Canadiens games online in English, so you can turn up the audio on the computer and turn down the TV. There is typically a delay in one direction or the other, but you will be more up to speed. I sometimes do that watching HNIC as well. Plus you get to hear the extra Habs related features between periods, rather than sit through Don Cherry or Mike Milbury.

In the event you can't find a video link, you at least know you can rely on the audio feed to keep you posted on the action.

To be honest, having access to the computer during the game adds to the experience to a level never dreamed of in your grandfather's nights of watching Foster Hewitt call the games on the old black and white.

Stats are available readily and up to the minute, there are numerous online chats, game threads and live blogs to see what other fans are saying about the game. If you are in front of your TV, you can even have one game on there while streaming another. The possibilities are endless, and some watch more than one TV or feed at once!

My only suggestion is not to get overly involved in chats, etc. Sometimes online discussions can get heated and you will lose focus of your primary goal, to actually watch the game.Trust me it happens!

Oh, and if you are watching the game with friends, just stick to watching the game, stay out of the chatrooms and enjoy the conversation with actual living people! Remeber these are your guests, they didn't come over to watch you debate Carey Price vs. Jaroslav Halak for the umpteenth time on Twitter with Alan Walsh.

Trust me, it can happen.

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