(Disclaimer: The NHL has again provided our site and the other SB Nation Hockey sites with a complimentary GameCenter Live account with which to watch NHL games for the 2013 season. This is a post about the product written at the League's request.)
Being a fan of an NHL team in a different city can be really tough.
Not only do you find yourself often unable to watch games on TV that aren't being broadcast nationally, but you can also find yourself isolated from your family, friends, and other fans that form the community you've carefully cultivated around a shared love of the game and your local team. On top of that, time differences can make planning ahead and allotting a certain amount of time to watch the game difficult.
A combination of all of these factors can easily cause someone to feel out of the loop when it comes to their favourite team, when before they considered themselves to be very knowledgeable on the topic.
This is what I experienced when I moved to Ottawa from Calgary.
Being unable to afford packages like Centre Ice or additional cable channels like Sportsnet West or Sportsnet Flames, I felt I was also unable to follow my team in the detailed (bordering on obsessive) way I was accustomed to back home.
While it's not perfect, GameCenter Live has been a serviceable product that has allowed me to watch the Flames play online in practically every game that I can't watch on CBC or TSN and that isn't blacked out in my region, which will be few to none this season because of the lack of inter-conference play due to the lockout shortened schedule.
It may not seem like much, but GCL helps me maintain both a connection to the Flames and a connection to Calgary. I'm frequently plagued with bouts of homesickness and even a brief shot of the Saddledome and the Calgary skyline during a local broadcast of a Flames home game can make me feel more at ease. Aside from watching the Flames play, that little slice of home is probably my favourite part of watching games on GCL, and I'm pretty grateful for that.
I know there are probably other people out there who live much farther and several time zones away from their favourite sports teams and associated communities who can relate to these feelings, so I want to know: how do you stay connected to the Flames, other teams you may follow, and other fans when you're in a different city, town, or country?