I admitted last week that I was a desperate man: after years of using NHL Gamecenter to provide my hockey fix, I have become incapable of surviving the winter without hockey to watch in the comfort of my living room. In my desperation, I turned to AHL Live and signed up for a $59.99, ten game package. Last night, I finally had the chance to sit down, log in, and enjoy some AHL Hockey online . . . and here’s what I thought of the experience.
Logging in was no problem, but pretty much everything after that was more complicated than it needed to be. Perhaps I was a victim of my expectations: as an NHL Gamecenter subscriber, all I had to do was log in, click on the game I wanted to watch, decide which feed (home or away) I wanted, and was transported to the game. Getting to a game through AHL Live was nowhere near as easy to do. it seemed easy enough: after logging in I found myself on a page that listed all of the evening’s games. However, clicking on a game brought me to a page that looked exactly like the one I had to visit when I was setting up my subscription for the first time. At first, I thought it was going to ask me to pay all over again, but all it wanted me to do was to verify the type of subscription I had previously set up. I had to click on the ten game option, and then I was brought right back to the page showing me which games were available to view! Talk about an unnecessary step: since I had already logged in, the system should have been able to identify my subscription automatically.
Getting Started . . . After I Got Started
That extra step taken care of, I was now able to click on the game I wished to view – in this case, the Hamilton Bulldogs at the St. Johns Ice Caps – and wait for the magic to happen . . . except, it didn’t. The first time I clicked on the green Watch button next to the game, nothing happened. Hmmm. The second time, the game did, indeed start – but the audio did not match the video. At all. We’re not talking a few seconds delay here; we’re talking about me watching the commentators talk during intermission, while I listened to someone (possibly one of those commentators) interview a St. John’s player. Switching to the away team’s stream did nothing to fix this problem; once again I was watching video that did not come close to matching the audio I was hearing. Uh-huh. Sensing a problem – I am pretty quick, ya know – I clicked the Live Chat option, which is supposedly available from noon to midnight on game nights. Of course, my queries were never answered.
Watching the Game – Finally!
Eventually, once the game resumed, the audio fit the video pretty closely, with only a slight delay between the two, which is normal. The video quality was a bit on the low side, definitely nowhere near high definition (not that I was promised such quality), but that didn’t bother me as much as the fact that I could not pause the game. At first, I could not believe it – I looked everywhere for such controls, and when I could not find them, I looked again. I just could not believe pausing the game wasn’t an option. We’ve had the ability to pause and rewind live TV for quite some time now; there’s no reason why you should not be able to pause a live AHL game and rewind it or resume it when you are ready. Granted, now that I have purchased this game, I can always go back and watch it in the archives, and I am assuming I’ll be able to pause, rewind, and fast forward that – but that’s not live hockey, and besides: now that I saw the game, what are the odds of me going back to watch it a second time?
All in all, I’m sad to say that I currently would not recommend that anyone looking for a hockey fix consider the AHL Live a viable option. I’ve still got nine games left on my subscription, so I will use them and see if my experience improves with time. Having read some of the comments on the AHL Live Facebook page, however, I am not optimistic. The AHL may be a nice product to watch live, but for the amount of money they want you to shell out to experience their sport online, the results are dismal.