FoxTrax (colloquially also called the glow puck, smart puck, laser puck, Fox Puck, or super puck) was a specialized ice hockey puck with internal electronics that allowed its position to be tracked designed for NHL telecasts on the FOX. Primarily, it was used to visually highlight the puck on-screen and display a trail when the puck was moving rapidly.
In 1994, Fox won a contract to broadcast NHL games in the United States. A common complaint among American fans was that the puck was difficult to follow on the ice. Thus, FoxTrax was created to remedy this problem. The FoxTrax puck was first used during the 1996 NHL All-Star Game. It was last used during Game 1 of the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals. Fox was scheduled to televise Games 5 and 7, but the series ended in 4 games. Had there been Games 5, and 7, then Mike Emrick (play-by-play), John Davidson (color commentator), and Pierre McGuire (reporter) would've called it. In August 1998, the NHL broadcast rights went to ABC, and FoxTrax was not brought back for the final season except for the game on April 4, 1999 between Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars.
Construction and operation Edit
To create the FoxTrax puck, a standard NHL puck was cut in half, and a tiny circuit board with a battery was placed inside. The circuit board contained a shock sensor and infrared emitters that were located on the flat surfaces and perimeter of the puck. The enhanced puck was engineered to have the same weight, balance, and rebound as the original puck. The two halves were then bonded with a proprietary [epoxy compound and the puck could be used for gameplay. The FoxTrax was developed with assistance from News Corp's Etak navigation subsidiary. While the batteries were designed to last for 30 minutes, and some were successfully used in tests for more than 60 minutes, a typical puck lasted only about 10 minutes on the ice. For that reason 30 FoxTrax pucks were provided for each game. The puck was activated when it was dropped by the ref or struck by a hockey stick.
During a Fox NHL broadcast, the puck emitted infrared pulses which were detected by both the 20 pulse detectors and the 10 modified IR cameras that were located in the rafters. The shuttering of the IR cameras was synchronized to the pulses. Each IR camera had an associated 486-66 PC to process the video locally and transmit the coordinates of candidate targets to the "Puck Truck" (a 55' production trailer). The truck contained computers that superimposed computer graphics on the puck coordinates, which could be seen by viewers at home.
The visual result was a bluish glow around the puck. Unfortunately, blue does not show up very well against the white of the rink. Passes were indicated with the bluish glow plus a comet tail indicating its path. When the puck moved faster than 70 miles per hour, a red comet tail was added.
Despite rumors that FOX employees would sometimes go into the stands to retrieve a puck that left the playing area, the pucks were not re-usable. Like any other puck that left the ice, the FoxTrax pucks became souvenirs.
Public response Edit
There was a divided response to the implementation of the FoxTrax puck. Newcomers enjoyed the feature, since they could follow the game more easily. In fact, a Fox Sports survey found that 7 out of 10 respondents liked the new puck.
However, there was a strong backlash among hockey purists. They argued that the video graphics were a distraction and turned hockey into a video game. Others said that it really shouldn't be that hard to see a black puck on white ice.
Despite the puck having passed rigorous tests by the NHL to qualify as an official puck, matching the non-enhanced puck in every material way, some players claimed the enhanced puck had more rebound, and were frustrated that the pricey pucks were not available for practice.
The concept was later parodied in a Molson Canadian beer advertisement where an American marketer is attempting to sell the idea to a boardroom full of Canadian executives. As he is forcibly ejected from the room, a blue comet trail follows him (i.e. "they passed").
Canadian news satire program This Hour Has 22 Minutes parodied the concept, promoting a glow that recognized when Americans would appear on screen.
Canadian Folk/Comedy trio The Arrogant Worms satirized the glow puck in their song Proud to be Canadian with the line "we don't need no microchip inside our hockey pucks."
Sportswriter Greg Wyshynski named it the second-worst idea in North American sports history, trailing only the infamous Ten Cent Beer Night promotion that baseball's Cleveland Indians threw in 1974, in his book Glow Pucks and Ten-Cent Beer.
- "The FoxTrax Hockey Puck Tracking System" in IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications
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