Archive for the ‘NHL is ESPN's battered ex-wife’ Category

How could ESPN be any worse for the NHL than NBC? Tell me. Honestly.

April 19, 2009

Is there any doubt remaining that the NHL needs NBC like a shotgun blast to the head?

The latest in a murderer’s row of terrible PR moves comes with NBC deciding to cockblock the Penguins’ savvy and fan-friendly tradition of allowing people to watch games on a Big Screen outside of Mellon Arena. It was a bottom line-based decision, as the marginal loss in ratings would be too much for the soul-less suits at NBC to stomach.

But in such a marginal ratings grab, couldn’t NBC impress advertisers by showing how much of an “event” their telecasts can be? At this point, it is pretty obvious that hockey games are a largely regional affair. Is a fraction of a decimal point really worth it for NBC, when they can show advertisers that they have an engaged audience?

Or is this just a case of “any press being good press?” Does the constant insulting of the NHL – from moving a heated OT playoff game off the network for a horse race preview show to showing no hint of consistency to slapping hockey fans in the face at every turn – not tell you everything you need to know about this “partnership?”

Hockey fans are the ground beneath the feet of out of touch executives. For every good move – putting the incomparable “Razor” Reaugh on national telecasts – there’s a counter-move of imbecility.

People bash the idea of ESPN covering hockey, but the four-letter network would bring plenty more to the table than NBC. At this point, ESPN’s in a ton of households and would do a much better job of raising awareness for their NHL games (as Puck Daddy and others have stated, the network is a self-promoting brand obsessed whore at this point). You have to be a hardcore hockey fan to be able to follow NBC’s on-again off-again regular season schedule. Honestly, even I was surprised that the network was carrying the Washington-New York Rangers game this afternoon.

You get the feeling that Bucci cares more about hockey than everyone at NBC combined.

Yes, it’s clear that hockey isn’t a ratings force to be reckoned with, but it’s also clear that the league is making baby steps to regain traction with American audiences. If the league isn’t happy with just being a big fish in a little sea, then why not at least stick with a big unfeeling corporate entity that knows how to market the product?

I’d rather have the league give up its shitty, joke of a national TV partner in NBC for the corporate, sports culture dominating behemoth in ESPN. Even if it means going from network TV to cable.

Could ESPN be any worse than NBC?

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Afternoon Cycle: Sometimes we’re wrong (except about NBC)

April 6, 2009

A few concessions are in order this afternoon.

  • First, it looks like the Tim Thomas contract is not nearly as Bruins-friendly as it originally seemed.

As mentioned at Stanley Cup of Chowder, the elder Swede’s dude from Michigan’s (thanks: SCoC) deal is considered a 35+ contract so if he gets injured, retires or turns into the second coming of Roman Cechmanek then too bad so sad for Boston. Thomas has been great this season – without getting deep into research, he might be our gut reaction Vezina winner – but Mirtle astutely points out that the NHL isn’t exactly heavily populated by older goalies these days.

Ultimately, the contract should be judged by how it affects the future of the B’s. Will they have the cap space to retain Phil Kessel, David Krejci and – eventually – guys like Milan Lucic and Marc Savard? Time will tell, but Krejci/Kessel might be sacrificed to the offer sheet gods before this is all over.

  • Our other concession: Alex Ovechkin probably deserves the MVP. For quite some time, we’ve been promoting Evgeni Malkin as the Hart winner but Ovechkin’s goal scoring ability is more of a “game breaker” than Geno’s all-world passing. Not to say it isn’t a very close match and we could always pull a 360 if Malkin scores 8 points this week.

But, really, the question is: will either be worthy of the “Staal” trophy?

  • One thing we have a hard time imagining: CLS ever pumping up NBC when it comes to NHL coverage.

It’s bad enough that NBC decided to show Minnesota vs. Detroit, a game that managed to be bland on two levels: the “familiarity” of seeing the Red Wings again combined with the tedium of watching the Wild. Could we call NBC “talented” at sucking? At least Bettman and NBC had to eat some crow, though, because Puck the Media reports that the game was NBC’s lowest rated match of the season. Shocking, we know.

  • Oh, but it gets MUCH worse.

You may or may not have heard that, in a move that’s just another slap in the face in a series of injustices, the peacock will be televising Games 1, 2 (good) and then 5, 6 and 7 if necessary of the Stanley Cup Finals. That’s right, the NHL might not even have the raising of the chalice on an American national network. Unbelievable.

After NBC’s stunning decision to move a heated Eastern Conference Finals overtime game to Versus for a horse racing preview show, they pretty much were dead to us. But give NBC credit for finding new and exciting ways to pour salt in the wounds of hockey fans.

Illegal Curve makes a good point about another flaw in NBC’s programming decisions: the lack of anything resembling consistency. A casual hockey fan truly can never know if they’re going to get to watch a game each Sunday as there is no clear reasoning to indicate when the NHL will be on NBC and when it will “take the week off.”

With the continued struggles of Versus to find a uniform home on basic cable, finding the NHL is starting to become like a sad sports version of Where’s Waldo. Despite what crazy Boston announcers tell you, the NHL needs one nightly ESPN game so people can at least find one game per week.

Ugh.

Interesting to see that Don was once considered “Dick’s brother” in their home town. You have to wonder if Don Cherry never reacts to being called a dick simply because he assumes the person’s trying to scream at his bro instead.

GHL has some other great posts too, with a look at the evolution of the Cup and also a discussion regarding a female hockey player who looks A LOT like Owen Hart.


6. Columbus
7. Anaheim
8. St. Louis

In case you’re wondering what my voice sounds like (most common response: “Do you have a cold?”) you might get the chance.

Look for a link, unless it ends up being a disaster. If that happens I’ll claim it was a different James O’Brien with the same lust for puns and disregard for personal hygiene and tact. Seriously, there’s about a million James O’Briens/Bryans/Brians out there.

Afternoon Cycle: You are fooorrrrgiiiiiven

March 30, 2009

Note: If you haven’t read Chris Kontos’ Hockey in Japan piece, make sure you do that first. It is absolutely essential reading.

  • There might not be many of you out there with the privilege of seeing much of the NCAA hockey tournament, but it’s been pretty awesome.

Still, deep down, as ESPN U or whatever affiliate covers these games, there’s this other feeling: the strong urge to plead for the NHL’s return to the four-lettered network. Admit it, you thought that as ESPN’s beautiful HD washed over you and creative, interesting camera angles came about.

Now, don’t get us wrong. ESPN left hockey bruised and battered entering the lockout. What’s the best parallel? Should we go to that Rhianna getting roughed up by Chris Brown well again? Or maybe kick it old school with a Bobby Brown-Whitney Houston or really really old school with Ike and Tina Turner?

(It’s amazing how many abusive music industry relationships involve people who either go by only their first name or don’t share a last name. Is the modern era hyphenated last name trend a catalyst for violence? Of course not, but it’s always fun to establish arbitrary reasoning for such things. Violence = not funny; outlandishness = quite funny.)

Either way, it’s obvious that ESPN’s sending subtle little flowers to hockey at work. A hockey highlight prominently displayed in the Sportscenter Top 10? Ohhh you shouldn’t have! Mentioning a hockey player other than Sidney Crosby? Maybe you can change!

Mike Chen, the wily veteran that he is, beat us to the “ESPN should televise NHL games on Thursdays” soap box but it still deserves to be mentioned. Think about it: Thursday is not a designated day for any sport, really. The NHL has three days of the week where the games are bountiful: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Versus covers Tuesday, Hockey Night in Canada owns Saturday … so why not Thursday Night Hockey on ESPN?

They wouldn’t even have to leave Versus, a cable channel we’d compare to an overweight, slightly dopey wife with a heart of gold. Sure, you can’t really brag about her with your office buds at the water cooler. And her production values are pretty terrible. And she never seems to rent the right movies/pick the right games. But she loves you and needs you. That’s got to count for something.

(Ugh, OK, no more bad analogies … until the next bullet point. Ho ho gotcha suckers!)

  • NHL Network was showing Game 7 of the Carolina Hurricanes – Edmonton Oilers SCF, which seemed shockingly old since it was in the pre or early HD era.

Still, it’s stunning just how much energy permeated every cell of that game. Dirty hits were thrown about like 10-cent tacos. Scoring chances abounded. Naturally, there were some GREAT playoff beards.

It really got us pumped for the playoffs. The long grind is almost over, everyone. Are you as excited as we are?

  • Does every NHL season see so many random, out-of-left field surges as this one? At any given time, there seems to be at least one or two RED HOT teams. Right now, the Pittsburgh Penguins are hot but they have big name stars so that’s not too shocking.

The two biggest surprises are the St. Louis Blues and the Carolina Hurricanes. We might take a deeper look at those two teams if possible. Either way, it seems like an odd trend but maybe we’re just paying closer attention these days.

  • Despite only recording one assist between eight guys on Saturday, the Funkillers managed to pull the tights and put their legs on the ropes to advance on to the fantasy hockey finals. The hero of Sunday was Roberto Luongo whose shutout, literally, was the only way this fictional team could win.

We know you don’t care, but just look at how close this was: