Today, inside a swanky booth at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, Rogers announced GamePlus, a new multi-camera feature that they’ll be adding to GameCentre Live this season. On hand was legendary former Oiler Mark Messier, who talked a bit about the service, his new job, and his playing days.
“I’ve really enjoyed it.” said Messier, regarding his role as Rogers’ NHL ambassador. “I enjoy it because I love hockey, because I’m a fan, because I can watch hockey with my boy. I’m involved with the Oilers still, so it’s a way to stay in touch with the league and the players. Rogers are an incredible group of people with a passion for the game. They want to do what’s right for the game in every regard, but also want to evolve the game too. Which only makes sense, to grow the game in every area, not just on the ice.”
Messier was introduced by Rogers at a media event in Toronto in early September. Since he had spent years of looking like he would be headed towards the front office side of the game, I asked him if this was the direction he envisioned himself taking after retirement. “I didn’t really envision anything, really, other than just following where my heart lead me, and doing what I think is fun and productive. This is something that is so important to our fans, our people, and the game, and if I can help out in any way, it makes a lot of sense to me. I love the innovation, so I’m really happy with what I’m doing.”
There were some concerns from others that the new technology that the company is introducing may be a bit jarring and unnecessary, something that Mark brushed off. “Just because we’ve done something for fifty years doesn’t mean it can’t be better. That’s just the evolution of any sport. The NBA put in the three point rule and the three second rule. They didn’t allow zone defencing. Why did they do that? Because it made the game better. We took out the red line. We stopped hooking and holding. We changed the rules of of the game to make it better for our fans. Why are we using new technology to change how we watch the game? To make it a better experience. That’s just what technology and evolving the game is.” I asked him if he felt this sentiment applied to the way the sport is broken down from an analysis perspective, and he agreed. “Absolutely. Everything has evolved, and that’s no different.”
Messier also talked a bit about winning the Stanley Cup with the 1984 Edmonton Oilers, who will be reuniting on October 10th at Rexall place.
“What could you say? It was our first cup ever. A great journey. Nobody on that team had won a Stanley Cup prior, so we had to slog our way through it and find our own way together. It was a great bunch of men who came together to succeed. Looking back on it now, a lot of sacrifices are made by any Cup winning team, and certainly for us as well. It was incredible.” When asked about his famous end-to-end goal from Game 3, he continued to reminisce on the journey as a whole. “It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but I guess it is. All of the memories are so vivid, and that’s the beauty of winning a Stanley Cup and going through the process and journey. Having that respect for the guys that you played with, and the moments that turned the tide. Whether it was a successful moment or one that caused a lot of heart ache, you remember them all. But when you finally come out on the other end, and you’re able to hoist the cup, it makes those moments that much richer.”
Moving forward, Messier will be spending a lot of time working in his ambassador role with Rogers, including more on-air work, and taking part in their new “Hometown Hockey” tour.
Oh, right. There’s still a matter of the thing he was there to help launch. Rogers announced GamePlus today, which, as mentioned at the top, will allow GameCentre subscribers to access multiple camera angles. Rogers executives demoed the new service today by showing preseason footage from Leafs home games, and a live demo with some of their staff hitting the ice.
Noteable angles include a first-person, head-mounted referee camera, an overhead cam similar to the one used for play reviews, and a “Star Cam”, which focuses on one specific player when he hits the ice. James Van Riemsdyk will be the first person to get the Star Cam treatment on Wednesday night, as the Leafs take on the Montreal Canadiens.
One notable omission from most arenas is the Sky Cam – similar to the slight overheads used by the NFL, this option will only be available at the Air Canada Centre to start. Rogers plans on setting it up in other NHL rinks as soon as possible, but want to make sure it doesn’t impact the sight lines of ticket holders first.