Yet Another Reason Why Fans Don’t Watch Hockey On TV

Hey, y’all. My name is Bryan. I’m one half of a blog called The Rivalry where we discuss the Islanders and Rangers. It’s nice to be here at Puck The Media – thanks to Steve for letting me crash here today. So, without further adieu, here we go.

We’ve heard all the excuses for hockey’s low TV ratings. It’s too hard to see the puck. I can’t find Versus on my cable package. ESPN doesn’t cover hockey, so I don’t care about hockey. Yet somehow, the laundry list of grievances held against hockey – and, more specificially, why people don’t watch it on TV – is missing one critical component.

The intermissions are too damn long.

As hockey fans, we don’t even question the length of intermissions. But when was the last time you sat through an intermission and intently watched the intermission report? Odds are good you spend your time between periods browing the Internet, texting your friends, buying beer, or something aside from watching whatever your local broadcast presents to you as intermission entertainment. So if you, the average hockey fan, can’t keep your attention on an intermission report, what do you think a casual hockey fan is doing? That would be changing the channel – and, in all likelihood, failing to return for the next period.

Let’s look an example of what we see immediately after a period ends, taken directly from the second intermission of last night’s Islanders-Penguins game. Commercial, boring interview with a player, commercial, random featurette, ticket plugs, commercial, highlights of the previous period, commercial, more highlights, start of next period. It’s about as exciting as it sounds. Now, compare this with what you see during your typical NFL broadcast on CBS or Fox. You have a commercial break, a minute-long discussion about the game you’re watching, highlights from around the league, another commercial break, and you’re back for the second half. And since there’s very little filler, you’re more inclined to stay tuned for the second half, which means you’re ready to talk about the game at work the next day. See where we’re going with this?

In just about every sport besides hockey – basketball, football, soccer – the halftime break is something like 10-12 minutes long, which isn’t too bad. Hockey’s intermissions are seventeen┬áminutes. Worse, there are two of them. That means if you want to watch a hockey game on TV, you’re spending 34 minutes (approximately 25 percent of your viewing time) watching nothing but crap. Who’s willing to do that?

And why, exactly, are these intermission breaks so long? Well, nobody really knows. It’s certainly not for the benefit of the players; all they do is march into the dressing room, take their pads off, listen to their coach talk for approximately ninety seconds, put their pads back on, and hit the ice again. The length doesn’t do much for the fans at the game, either. Sure, it’s nice to have a little cushion in the event that the bathroom lines are a little long, but do we really need to watch little kids play or hockey or some idiot fan failing to shoot a puck into an open net from the blue line? It takes approximately ten minutes for the Zambonis to clean the ice; therefore, a 12-minute intermission isn’t out of the realm of possibility. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a bone thrown to fans who want to watch hockey, but can’t stand being bored to tears by two lengthy breaks in one game.

Sure, there are more barriers to great TV ratings than the length of the average intermission. But this is such a quick, easy fix that it’s incomprehensible why nobody’s thought of it yet. Aside from the fact that, you know, this is the NHL we’re talking about here. The intermission is the easiest time for someone to reach for the remote and leave hockey behind. Why give people that option? Show something worth watching, and people will watch.
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3 Responses to Yet Another Reason Why Fans Don’t Watch Hockey On TV

  1. You’re right.

    But think of just how awesome it is for those 8-year-olds to have half an arena cheering you on the ice. I think that’s important for building hockey interest, myself. Or maybe it’s more like showing center ice commercials on the NHL network, but whatever.

  2. Bryan says:

    No question, it’d be the coolest thing ever to play in an NHL rink, even for a few minutes. And I’m sure advertisers love the extra commercial breaks and the opportunity to sponsor contests that occur between periods. But there’s just way too much down time, with much of it not being used efficiently. I was at an Islander game on Saturday and the Zamboni came out five minutes after the period ended. That’s five minutes that could easily be chopped off an intermission. It might not make a huge difference to anybody at the rink, but someone who keeps clicking back and forth between channels waiting for the game to come back on might be less inclined to give up. Either way, those intermission reports could easily be used for highlights around the league or a roundtable discussion of media members instead of the fluff they usually present us with.

  3. MCPuck says:

    I agree with you that the lengths of intermissions are a bit aggregious (I believe that only nationally televised games reach 17 minutes. I think the issue of the Zamboni is what really creates the need for a 15 minute intermission… it’s a world class sport played by world class athletes at world class speeds. If the ice is even a bit rushed then it can create a hell of an interesting next period (often with a lot of fans screaming about why the puck is bounding around the rink like a bouncy ball). I think a 12 minute intermission would work, like you mentioned, but I doubt very much that they’d consider it.

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