Technology makes it simple to deliver live, HD video with only a camera and internet connection.
Other than the rare goal that is scored in such blow-your-mind fashion it briefly takes the world wide web by storm, youth hockey videos produced out of the HarborCenter attract a small but rabid viewership.
Typically, the live streams of games beamed from the two-rink venue in downtown Buffalo, New York, are watched by the likes of the grandfather in Arizona, the aunt in Saskatchewan and the working dad on assignment in Des Moines.
They are for guys like Mike Donlin, a youth hockey coach and dad who lives in Syracuse and can’t get to his son’s every tournament game but greatly appreciates the ability to watch them from afar.
“Oh yeah, I’ve watched it several times,” Donlin said about his son’s recent HarborCenter tournament game. “I have also watched video of plenty of friends’ kids play there, too.”
“I wish more people would (stream youth games), because it is not that hard.”
Donlin, it should be noted, has a vested interest in the future of streaming youth sports events. He is Vice President, Sports Development for BoxCast, a Cleveland-based technology company that creates the tools to stream live, high-definition video. He worked in a similar role at PrestoSports (a company known mostly for creating websites for college sports teams) for more than six years before joining BoxCast in 2013.
When Ryan Vinz, HarborCenter’s Director of Hockey Technology, was shopping for an easy, affordable way to stream all of the venue’s 800 or so games each year, he eventually connected with Donlin. Now every game played at the facility is streamed using BoxCast technology.
That technology includes the “BoxCaster”, a device about the size of an oversized smartphone that plugs into any camera and connects to the internet. Video streams through the device and to the cloud, where it is formatted to be broadcast online in high definition.
HarborCenter hosts tournaments every weekend during the hockey season, about 23 of them in all. All games in both rinks are broadcast live. Vinz says the setup has become so routine it takes about a minute for the camera operator to start streaming. Updated game scores are automatically shown on the video using an integration with the rinks’ scoreboards.
The streaming videos are embedded on game pages in the tournament section of HarborCenter’s site. The work that goes into that setup has been reduced greatly thanks to an integration with Sport Ngin, the HarborCenter’s tournament platform provider. An application programming interface (API) allows for game scheduled on the Sport Ngin platform to appear on the BoxCast game management page. Once those games are checked off as broadcasts, the embed code automatically appears in the proper format and location on the game page.
“We used to have 50 tabs open on both sites as we were cutting and pasting the code from one to the other,” Vinz said.
Live broadcasts of games are free. It costs $5 to watch a recorded game or $10 to download the game’s video file. It’s not uncommon to have more than 200 people watch a live broadcast.
“We get so many compliments on the video,” said Vinz, who previously worked in the Buffalo Sabres’ video scouting department. “It’s one of the bullet points when we are promoting our tournaments. Teams get a four game guarantee, and games are streamed live for free.”
BoxCast got its start in 2008 streaming, of all things, funerals. Improved technology and an influx of venture capital and grant money have allowed the company to expand its base of clients. Colleges, high schools, youth sports organizations and facilities such as HarborCenter all fit snugly in the company’s target market. Donlin estimates the company has 175 sports clients, including a dozen or so facilities.
“For us, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t take off at all levels of sport,” Donlin said. “A parent might not be able to see a daughter’s Division III field hockey match on a Saturday morning because that same person has a younger daughter playing in a select tournament and wants to watch that, too. The goal is to make it possible for that person to watch both daughters play."
Because BoxCast connects to Sport Ngin through its application programming interface (API), game information (date, times, team, venue) is pulled directly from League into the BoxCast software.
In turn, once games are selected as broadcasts, the embed codes automatically are embedded on the game pages on the Sport Ngin platform.