NEW YORK (AP) -The new-look NHL Web site will be a dream to surfers - the online and remote control kind.
Come Wednesday, hockey fans will have an online place to go for everything NHL and it won't just be a one-stop shop. This innovative digital creation will feature seven ``channels'' of options and it'll all be free.
``We know from market research that our fans are the most Web-savvy of all the sports leagues,'' said Andre Mika, the NHL vice president of broadband and new media production. ``We also know, compared to an ESPN fan, that our fans are worth a 40 percent premium over some of the regular sports fans because of their ability to use technology.
``And in the 18-34 demographic, they are a very sought-after fan. We really believe strongly that our avid fan base is going to love what we're doing because we're actually enabling them to use technology more and more and more,'' she added.
And that fan base is considerable: In Canada, NHL.com is already the most popular Web site, more so than even Google and Yahoo.
The playoffs that begin this week will provide a bit of a test run for the player on NHL.com. The site will then be relaunched in the new format in the fall before next season. For now, the broadband media player titled ``NHL Network Online'' will be an option on NHL.com.
The centerpiece of the site will be ``The Hockey Show,'' a daily live broadcast from the NHL's studio in New York. It will be on five times a week during the season and sporadically in the offseason.
Each day's telecast will include news, highlights and features.
In conjunction with all 30 NHL teams, another channel called ``LiveWire'' will feature sights and sounds from around the league - such as morning skates, news conferences and behind-the-scenes material that would otherwise be unseen.
There will also be a channel devoted to playoff coverage during that portion of the season.
``We really take it seriously because we know our fans are on the Internet,'' Mika said. ``The number one thing the league wants to do right now is to cater to our fans using digital. The commissioner and all the higher-ups in the league as well as the 30 club owners are all on the same page of this being the number one priority of the league.''
An interesting feature of the new site that has a sleek look and many areas to draw attention, is a column displaying scores of the previous night's games. With a user-friendly setup, fans can click on a particular contest to see all the goals, big hits and key saves listed in a boxscore format.
With another click on a particular play, a video replay will be seen. A click on a scorer's name will display all of his goals for the season. Coming soon will be archived footage in which a user will be able to see every goal for the past three years.
``We actually support people snagging content of ours,'' Mika said. ``We love for our fans to share content and to send the links around. It's something we really encourage.''
The NHL is able to control the use and distribution of highlights because it is not locked into television deals with major networks. Using material gleaned from NBC, Versus, and the various regional cable rightsholders packages, the NHL can offer video content to its fans to see and share free of charge.
``We have two layers of access,'' Mika said. ``We're going to serve it to you. Here it comes and here is the show from us today, and here's everything we think you're looking for. Oh, and by the way you can skip around and look at whatever you want.
``We've done a really good job populating NHL.com. It's a great Web site for people who just want to find out everything there is to know about hockey because it's all there - from stats, background, schedules, everything,'' she said. ``What we've really never been in the business of doing is programming on NHL.com. What we want to do is program an experience for you.''
The other NHL broadband channels include ``NHL Productions Presents,'' featuring retrospectives and other special programs from NHL Productions; ``NHL Radio,'' containing programming from XM Radio and including select video simulcasts; and ``The Podcast Channel,'' an all-in-one place for subscription, download or play.
``I know who your team is ... and I kind of have an idea of what you're looking for,'' Mika said. ``I know your behavior, and that way I can program an experience for you to give you the one or two things you came to see but also give you the 10 things you didn't know you wanted.
``That's the big difference for us.''

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