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So a week or so before the Olympic break I was asked to review the NHL's GameCenter Live and in exchange I would get use of the service for free for the rest of the season. Well do bloggers love free. I kid, ok we do, but I was actually interested in this one, I jumped at their offer. Since I got asked so close to the Olympics I held out to write my review till we got back into actual hockey since it didn't make sense to write it earlier. In retrospect I wish they had asked to review this product back in November when my giving a good review of it would actually make you consider buying the service for the entire year, maybe I will repost this again next season after I've seen what it looks like next season.

The NHL gave a similar free trial to anyone during the very early part to the season, and I had tried it out then, but since I wasn't in to hockey enough to want to watch many games of other teams, the service didn't have the same draw that it had about a month or two into the season.

First off, if anyone has seen what GameCenter looked like last season, this years version has made leaps in improvement in regards to features and quality. There are pros and cons with GameCenter, and it's not perfect yet, but it's definitely gotten better.

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Now as a fan of more than one team (the Canucks and Lightning) who lives in Vancouver, this product had it's pros and cons.

Click read more for a look at the features after the jump...

First off, you can't watch local games that are on TV in your area. So the Canuck games that are on Sportsnet, TSN, CBC or the PPV ones, those are all blacked out. This really is the biggest drawback to GameCenter. This is annoying because if I want to use GameCenter to catch the game while my roommate is using the TV to watch something else, I can't do that. Or if I'm at work and don't have a TV there, nope. So if you are only a fan of your home team and won't want to watch anything else, GameCenter isn't really for you.

Another drawback is they don't make the PPV games included or available to buy for a per time usage fee which I think I would go for since I don't subscribe to digital cable and usually forfeit watching the PPV games

  • Where GameCenter does come in handy is if you travel for work, you can catch all the Canuck games while on the road.
  • Or if like me and you are a fan of a team that isn't your hometown team, GameCenter is great for watching those games since they are never blacked out.
  • Or if you are a die-hard hockey fan and love to watch hockey on any given night, especially nights the Canucks don't play, then it's definitely worth it.
  • If you have ever streamed games online (not saying you do), well the quality of the stream of GameCenter trumps any online feed you can find. The picture really is great, even better than what my normal TV broadcast can do (when viewed on a high bitrate). Really, unless you are a starving student who can't manage to allocate the funds of a couple nights of drinking money for this, $20 bucks a month is a small price to pay for good quality picture. Again, picture quality is great, once you watch it, it will be hard to go back to anything else you can find online.

Features I loved

  • You can adjust the bitrate of the feed so if you are on a cable modem you can set it for high quality, or if you are in a hotel somewhere can set it to a lower rate. There's also a feature on the adaptive mode that automatically adjusts depending on your internet speed. I really liked the adaptive mode for that.
  • With the DVR plugin you can rewind the game to either 10 seconds before, restart the game, jump to significant events (goals, scoring chances), or click the LIVE button to jump back to the live stream of the game
  • You can watch any game in their archive dating back to the 2007-2008 season. So if you want to rewatch that game between the Canucks and Blackhawks where Bieksa skates off missing half his shirt, um you can. Or if you wanted to watch a game you missed earlier in the week you can catch up on that too.
  • There is a Classic Game Archive of games selected by the NHL Staff
  • PIP feature for when you want to focus on one game but keep an eye on another

Features that were there, but didn't really matter to me

  • 4 games at once - For me, I really can't follow 4 games at once, but maybe some other people can
  • There are some on ice stats stuff that you can have running, since I'm not a stats junkie I haven't found a huge use for it - yet.
  • Also the stats had only majors ones available like goals assists and plus/minus but missing hits, turnovers or or shooting percentage

Things I didn't like

  • Again, blackouts
  • After a blacked out game, you have to wait 48 hours before it comes available to view in the archive.

So in the end, I loved GameCenter. It works well for me because besides the local team, I have an away team I like and I'm a pretty die-hard hockey fan that enjoys to watch other teams.

So right now, I recommend it for anyone who either likes a non-local team or really really likes hockey. The quality is really fantastic. If the NHL were able to get around the local blackouts and offer the PPV games somehow (even at a tiered price of blackout, no blackout except for PPV, and no blackout whatsoever), I would recommend it to everyone.