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Image is everything: 3D hockey a hit at Garden

Fans watch the first ever 3D NHL broadcast

Fans watch the first ever 3D NHL broadcast between the New York Islanders and the New York Rangers in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. (March 24, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/Christopher Pasatieri

Madison Square Garden pulled out all the stops last night for its historic presentation of the first hockey game in 3D - and the first live sports event telecast directly to homes with the technology.

There was a red carpet, star Rangers of the past, assorted models, actors and Knicks, the owners of the Rangers and Islanders and the commissioner of the NHL. But the real star was the image itself, shown to 2,600 plastic-glasses-wearing viewers at the Theater.

"It's beautiful,'' Islanders owner Charles Wang said after the first period, even though his team trailed 3-0. "When you see people flinch when the puck comes, it's a great sign.''

Whatever flinching there was occurred when the director cut to the camera in the corner that looked onto the ice at ground level, which greatly enhances the 3D effect.

Several times when a player was checked into the boards, it appeared as if he were headed for the audience's laps. The 3D impact became less dramatic at the slightly elevated angles used closer to center ice.

"I think over time they'll figure out which angles work best and enhance the experience,'' commissioner Gary Bettman said. "But like HD was a huge step forward, I think the future is extremely exciting with this.''

The images were much clearer and more three-dimensional on the TV sets in a lounge near the Theater than on the 32-foot-wide, 18-foot-high screen in the big room.

Naturally, the TV image was more relevant for those who see a bright future for the technology. Compatible sets hit the market only this year, and their use is expected to spread as 3D programming expands.

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