NHL Center Ice package sees a slight price increase; Is it worth it?

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First things first, let me get to the most important information. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy reports that the NHL Center Ice package will be marginally more expensive for the 2010-11 season than it was last year.

Last year, NHLCI was $163.80 if ordered before Oct. 31. This season, the price has risen to $171.80 (a.k.a. four easy payments of $42.95) if you order Center Ice before Halloween. No word on how high the price is after that date.

Also, NHL Center Ice will offer a free preview for most of the season’s first month, going free from Oct. 7-24.

As far as clearance (Clarence), In Demand told us that NHLCI “should be available to at least as many systems as last year,” and may still add more cable systems as we get closer to puck-drop.

When in comes to the NHL Center Ice pay-per-view package, its beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

On one hand, the quantity of games is gorgeous. There might be some exceptions when it comes to exclusive coverage of individual contests, but for the most part, you could watch just about every one of your favorite team’s (or teams’) matches. (They showed off this strength with an incredibly obnoxious – but perhaps informative – commercial campaign last season.) While national coverage of hockey is growing, it will be quite some time until we get to see wider coverage of the 82-game season, so Center Ice has its strenghts.

On the other hand, the picture quality is downright ugly. While the package occasionally includes one (and maybe more, considering your cable/satellite provider) pristine HD channel, the rest of the feeds are nearly unthinkable in an era of gorgeous high definition broadcasts.

So it really comes down to two arguments. One side will claim that getting comprehensive coverage of daily NHL action for “four easy payments of $42.95” isn’t that bad of a value, really. After all, you can blow that much money on a couple of seats to a live game. That being said, others will remark that paying more than $160 for games with mediocre-at-best picture quality is absurd.

I’m not certain that I can personally afford either of the full coverage NHL options, but if I had to choose, I would go with NHL.com’s Game Center option. In my limited experience with the promotion last season, you can stream up to four games at once and (gasp) even get high definition feeds of many matchups. Considering the fact some fancy pants computers can hook up to your TV, Game Center might just be the better option for hardcore hockey fans.

We’ll keep an eye on developments for that service and possibly any other options for hockey fans hungry for extended coverage. And, no doubt, if Center Ice does improve their feeds we’ll pass that note along as well.