By Ira Podell
Associated Press Hockey Writer
NHL.com (linked here) is getting its own extreme makeover for the postseason.
Starting Monday, one day after the end of the regular season and two before the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the NHL’s signature Web site will have a totally new look and feel through thePORTAL at NHL.com.
Regular users of the site will notice the changes, but will still be able access player profiles, stats and video clips, as always, but the new format will highlight vast playoff coverage up front.
“Everything is still there,” said Andre Mika, NHL senior vice president of broadband and new media. “All we’ve done is make it easier to get to strictly playoff content.”
The NHL usually uses its Web site during the season to highlight major and special events, such as opening day, the Winter Classic, the All-Star game, the postseason and the draft. Instead of creating a “micro site” for those events, that can be linked to from the home page, this time NHL.com is changing at its core.
The differences will be front and center, so instead of seeing the every day version with the familiar black ice background, a new color and art scheme with the Stanley Cup serving as the backdrop, will frame the various options that can be clicked.
A playoffs at a glance section will highlight each postseason series — starting with eight in the first round — and site visitors can tap into each one separately to get news, features, and video and read comments from bloggers and writers on scene.
“The schedule comes out, the matchups are there, and people really want to get as much information about the matchups as they can — everything about the series,” Mika said. “We’ve created an experience around that.”
Building off a playoff-centric Web site from a year ago in which information was distributed to the media whenever a controversial call was made on the ice or if a goal was reviewed at the league’s situation room in Toronto, the NHL is giving fans greater access into the decision-making process.
“In our sport, there are times when plays on the ice are confusing to everybody,” said Mike Murphy, the NHL senior vice president of hockey operations. “If you can get to the rule and get a better understanding of what happened and why it happened, I think it just makes the viewing that much better.
“We just want to keep everybody up to date about what is going on,” he added. “I know the NFL, I watch the NFL a lot and I appreciate the excellence with which they do their video review. I pay attention to it and understand it, but sometimes something happens and I go, ‘What the heck just happened? I don’t get that.'”
Bloggers will be sharing information from the situation room and explaining how each ruling was made shortly after it is rendered.
“You’re never going to get it perfect,” Murphy said. “I’m not going to being telling the people in the stands or reading the blog before I’ve told the people on the ice.
“Anytime you can make the game better for the viewer, that’s what it’s all about.”
A greater in-depth video look will be provided the next day on key calls, with Murphy holding a video review online that will break down the process from the time the situation room is notified about a questionable call until a decision is handed down.
Those talks will be part of a daily online pregame show that will set up each night’s games, It will run on NHL.com from 1:30-3:30 PDT, and it can also be accessed online in whole or in parts on demand.
“Absolutely this is user-friendly, Mika said. “I think they’ll really love it because if they’re coming to NHL.com, they’re avid hockey fans. What we’ve done is streamlined an experience for them and we actually treat it like a show.
“We’re updating things during the day on a constant basis as we’re getting information from the teams and morning skates,” he added. “On top of that, we’ve created a video show that plays on every game day.”
In addition, a news ticker will operate on the site at all times to provide updates, and a March Madness-type pick ’em contest will also be held.
“We are expanding our coverage to unprecedented depths,” Mika said. “We’re doing an entire site takeover for the playoffs. We’ve designed NHL.com to relaunch as kind of a different Web site. What that affords us is the ability to really change the look and feel of the Web site on the home page.”