The NHL is out of touch with its fans. Nearing the three-quarter mark of the 2015-16 season, it has become clearer than ever that the NHL has no idea what its fans want. The list practically writes itself with this season alone, ranging from the blunders in handling Patrick Kane's case to their villainous role in John Scott's folk hero All-Star story.
In the grand scheme of this season, a website and streaming service doesn't rank very high on a scale of egregiousness. It is, however, the most recent example of how removed the NHL's ideals are from their fans.
Of the pair that were introduced to the hockey community on Feb. 1, NHL.tv has the most upside. The league-wide streaming issues that plagued the first few days of its existence aside, the service has mostly provided an upgrade on the NHL's old product. The delay times seem nonexistent now compared to the 60-90 seconds of years past, which is really all the service needed to do to improve itself.
The redesigned NHL.com is a different story.
Imagine this for a moment: someone breaks into your house while you're sleeping. They completely move all the furniture, hide some of your valuables in places you'd never think to look and maybe they even nick a few items for themselves before leaving. When you awake, your bed is in the kitchen, your alarm clock has been stuffed in between your couch cushions and your trusty coffee maker is nowhere to be seen.
Basically, the new NHL.com is a mess, and they've given fans and media alike no guidebook to traverse its unfamiliar terrain.
How about https://t.co/Fzm3J6N1IR issuing an explainer on where all the stuff that used to be on the site has gone so we can find it again?— Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington) February 5, 2016
Why is everything so big? Where are the game sheets? How do you embed videos? Why is everything opening in new tabs? Everything we thought we knew about the old NHL.com is gone, replaced by a slimmer interface that instead looks more like a generic Wordpress blog theme than a website for a national sports league.
People aren't happy, and rightfully so. Many of the loudest complaints have come from the reporters covering the game. We media folks gripe about a lot, to be fair, but the last thing reporters should have to worry about when sitting down to write a story is navigating the NHL's website. What took one click to get to the relevant information now takes five or six, if you can infer the meaning behind phrases such as "GameCenter" first.
Of course, NHL.com is a service for the fans first and foremost, but the league's redesign feels more like a blind attempt to catch up with the mobile device revolution than anything else. This inability to listen is the reason why websites like hockey-reference.com and the hundreds of advanced statistics pages do so well in the hockey community. The NHL is still a step behind its audience, and its website redesign is a culmination of its troubles connecting to the fans.
Giving credit where it's due, there are some things the new NHL.com does right. Placing "last game" and "next game" columns into the standings pages eliminates the need to backtrack and find the relevant information via Google or the team's schedule on its website. The redesigned stats page from last season finally seems to fit with the overall monochrome look while the column headers also follow you down the page the further you get from the top.
Those small changes would have been welcome if not for the massive overhaul of a system that was working quite fine on its own. Aesthetically, the NHL had the right idea to smooth things out away from the cluttered homepage of years past. There was a lot of information coming at you on the old NHL.com, but instead of striking a happy medium, the redesign sacrificed all that information for looks -- and it doesn't have much in the way of looks going for it either.
To be fair to the NHL, we might not have seen the full potential of their new redesign. The overhaul has come with a plethora of new job opportunities, ones which might have an impact on how NHL.com conducts their day-to-day business. On the other hand, the aesthetic redesign and all its annoying quirks seem here to stay, despite how hard it now is to find information in a convenient and timely manner.
As the old saying goes: if it's not broke, don't fix it. Sure, there were quibbles with the old NHL.com, but now there are triple the problems from before while the old issues still remain. All of this frustration over a website, just because the NHL has yet to listen to its fans.