The NHL lockout has been in effect for nearly two months now, and so, with no actual games to report on, we’re going to link to a different hockey video every day until a new CBA is reached. Today: the FoxTrax puck, in action.
In the summer of 1994, Fox bid $155 million to televise NHL games for five years. In The Instigator, his book on Gary Bettman’s NHL, author Jonathon Gatehouse writes about how the network had ideas for some pretty drastic changes, even if it didn’t wind up with as much influence as it would have liked. In the book, Brian Burke says that the network pushed hard for the league to enter new American markets, which led to a round of expansion that added four teams between 1998 and 2000. But other Fox ideas didn’t go anywhere. Writes Gatehouse: “Their efforts to convince the league to move to two halves instead of three periods and to add more and longer timeouts for commercials never gained traction.”
The broadcasts themselves were distinctive — animated robots appeared onscreen after every goal — but the NHL on Fox is best remembered for the FoxTrax puck. For those unfamiliar, Fox developed a system in which a transmitter embedded inside the puck would make it appear to glow blue onscreen, in hopes that it would be easier to follow, especially when it was up against the near boards. To make it look even more like something out of a video game, when the puck reached a speed of 55 miles per hour, a red tail would appear behind it. The puck recieved plenty of negative press, though Gatehouse writes that David Hill, the head of Fox Sports, was thrilled about all the free publicity.
And so, on Day 59 of the NHL lockout, here’s a video from the 1996 All-Star Game, when the puck made its debut. Enjoy.