Sports Netcasters to call hockey at ice level

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TORONTO -- In a first for the National Hockey League, sportscasters for the Sports Network, Canada's cable sports channel, will call the New York Rangers-Buffalo Sabres game at ice level.

Leaving the broadcast booth view from high above the ice at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, veteran play-by-play commentator Chris Cuthbert aims to get TV viewers closer to the action by calling the game from between the two team benches.

But for the occasional passing official or opposing player obscuring his ice level view, Cuthbert expects to get more in-your-face game detail into his live broadcast.

"The impact of the hits, the speed of the players, the trajectory of the puck -- that's the beauty of the game you hope to get out this," he said before TSN's Friday night telecast.

Canadian broadcasters have long used ice-level camera shots to give a fuller view of the game, and TSN earlier this season began interviewing NHL players on the ice during play stoppages.

But the Canadian sports channels' novel game call follows TSN televising seven NHL games earlier this season in which Cuthbert followed the action from the broadcast booth, while hockey analyst Glen Healey lent color from ice level.

Cuthbert insisted you can't always tell why goalies give up certain goals, or players miss the occasional shot, when you have a fish-eye view from five or six stories up in the arena rafters.

He recalls a game two weeks ago in Pittsburgh where, from the vantage point of the broadcast booth, a player inexplicably fanned on a shot in the crease. It was only with TSN's "one-up, one-down" experiment that Healey at ice level noticed that the players' hockey stick shaft snapped just as he made contact with the puck.

The only other time an NHL game was called from ice level was in 1972 when Russian broadcasters called the historic Canada-Russia Summit Series down low, as they routinely do back home.

TSN president Phil King said few NHL arenas can accommodate two broadcasters at ice level, and that the HSBC Arena in Buffalo is one.

"As is the case with all of our initiatives, we will evaluate all aspects of the telecast post-game," King said.
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