NORWALK — Around this time a year ago, the Norwalk/McMahon high school hockey team was one game away from the semifinals for the the first time in recent history.
Then the coronavirus came, cutting the season short. Last month, Norwalk’s hockey players finally hit the ice again after almost a yearlong unplanned hiatus. While they’re practicing and competing again, due to Norwalk’s COVID safety guidelines, no fans are allowed in the rink while they play.
Like many others, the team is relying on technology to stay connected. But in order to livestream their games for free, the hockey players need 1,000 YouTube subscribers.
The team and its fans have been trying to promote their channel through networking and social media in order to reach this mark. Brien McMahon Athletic Director John Cross said the team has a little over 280 subscribers so far.
“We got a good positive initial response but it has leveled off, which is disappointing because all it is is clicking and registering,” Cross said. “I hope in the next week or two we’ll be able to get up to one thousand subscribers mark. The stands are empty. The arenas are silent. You don’t hear the cheering from the stands. You don’t hear yelling from opposing fans. You don’t have that excitement, you don’t have the anticipation.”
The idea to turn to YouTube to livestream the games came from Kevin Remson, a longtime hockey parent who has been filming his sons’ games for 15 years. Even before COVID, he was livestreaming games on Hudl for parents who couldn’t make games, up until the platform was discontinued. Then he would videotape games to share with the team.
When COVID hit, Remson began researching other platforms and found that games could be livestreamed on YouTube if the hockey account hit 1,000 subscribers.
“It’s very simple,” Remson said. “If I send the link, they can click on it and hit subscribe. It takes a second and a half out of their day. But here we are. It’s been a little frustrating. … Last year we got a lot of fans because we were winning games. To be able to livestream would keep that momentum going. It would mean a lot.”
Remson knows what it’s like to not be able to watch kids play live after his older son went on to play at the University of Louisville.
“A lot of these kids have brothers or sisters who are off at college,” he said. “You grow up watching your siblings play and then you go away and can’t watch. If you have that availability on a livestream, it’s great. When my oldest went to college and he played at Louisville … they had a livestream. It wasn’t the same as in-person, but it was something.”
Cross said LocalLive Networks, a local video company, can set up and stream games from high school gymnasiums and main fields, but their capabilities don’t cover the SoNo Ice House where the hockey team plays. The rink does have some livestreaming capabilities through a subscription service, which Remson said has a long lag time.
“If you’re a hockey family, I imagine most may subscribe already,” Cross said. “But the average high school student isn’t likely to do that.”
To follow the channel, a person needs to hit “subscribe” on the hockey team’s page. Cross said it would be particularly meaningful for the team to livestream games after losing out on the end of such a great season last year.
“I think it would show support,” he said. “They’d feel good. … It’d be nice for families too. They played their first game the other night and won in overtime. It was good to see the kids on the ice react in a positive way. They love each other and that’s the main thing.”