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Volume 21 No. 2
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NHL makes games the stars of its home page is shining a bigger spotlight on games.

The NHL on its home page recently debuted a new look that features a larger navigational bar with the scores and time clock of all games being played. The central position of the page then highlights one game — based on fan preferences or an obvious top game of the night — with a scoreboard, updated statistics and running social media commentary.

“We felt that our home page didn’t do the best job with the game experience,” said John Pacino, vice president of digital design at the NHL. “It was more news-driven. We made the change because fans are coming to at night to get connected to the games.”

League officials decided it made sense after the March 5 trade deadline had passed to alter the emphasis from player personnel news to game results during the chase for playoff berths and through the Stanley Cup Final in June. Of course, there also were business considerations.

“We wanted to drive even more awareness of GameCenter Live,” said Stephen McArdle, NHL executive vice president of digital media and strategic planning, referring to the league’s game-streaming product that is touted as part of the new-look nav bar.

The new evening design (top) and the daytime site 

“There’s a more in-your-face view of what’s going on that night, and that includes GameCenter Live sampling. We’ve taken what’s going on during the games, and also around the games with analysis and social media, and placed it more up front.”

The new-look scoreboards on the home page only appear while games are being played. Each morning, returns to having its prior focus on news and features.

The new look also is presented only on the league site, not on the sites of the NHL’s 30 teams. According to McArdle, there are no plans to attach a sponsor to the new scoreboards at this time.

The early results have been positive. Although he declined to divulge specifics, McArdle said new subscriptions to GameCenter Live “have increased at a rate in excess of last season at this time.” He also said that since the change to the home page format debuted, “We’re seeing an increase in page views and in time spent on the site. The impact has been powerful.”

The code for the new scoreboards was written by Pacino’s design team, which is based out of the league’s headquarters in New York. Pacino worked with NeuLion, the NHL’s Long Island-based technology partner on GameCenter Live, to optimize video quality and traffic flow.

As for how the highlighted game is selected for specific users, Pacino said, “If you are locked into your account, we will default you to the game of your favorite team that you selected in your profile. If you don’t have an account but, say, have spent a lot of time on, the lead game on our home page for you will be the Rangers game. Our editorial staff can also set up a game of the night, in the case of a game of major significance: a big rivalry, a national telecast, a huge game in the standings.”

The league has monitored response on Twitter and Facebook to the changes. After fans suggested that the scoreboards would be easier to read if they weren’t on a light-tinted background, Pacino’s staff created a darker background that debuted last week.

“The response has been very positive,” McArdle said, “but we’re also open to suggestions from the fans.”