The NHL TV Set, Part 1: The NHL On The CW Network

Editor’s Note: This is the first of our four-part series, The NHL TV Set, in which we speculate on alternate scenarios for the National Hockey League on broadcast television, where we believe the league could thrive.  Please keep in mind that these are merely alternate scenarios, not rumors or things that may actually happen.

Chances are, you’re probably laughing already at this first concept.  But chuckle all you want, The NHL on The CW is the proposal – of the four I’m submitting to you, the puckhead – I’m the most confident in, and were I given my choice, would go as far as advising the league to seek out.  

The CW contains a small, cult audience of shows with younger viewers that the league desperately wants to get it’s advertising hands on.  The CW needs to boost it’s profile among the major networks (if you can call it one) and also, conveniently, does not broadcast on Saturday nights.

Think about it… and… there it is!  You know what I’m thinking, it’s that The CW and the NHL partner up for Hockey Night in America.  Seven hours of hockey airing live every Saturday night on The CW.  With little competition from the other networks, and the correct promotional campaign (The CW has ties to CBS and it’s stable of networks) who’s to say the NHL can’t carve out a niche for itself on Saturdays.  Here’s how you do it:

Pre-Game Show: Every night at 6:30 PM, host John Buccigross hosts a 30-minute program that shows off what this new, youthful breed of NHLer is doing.  Free of boring in-game analysis, what it will do is teach the game to a new generation of kids, introduce stars to the people and be inoffensive enough to the hardcore fan that it will make everyone in the mood for hockey on Saturday night.

Game Coverage: Now, as NBC Sports’ NHL producer Sam Flood said the year before the NHL stopped regionalizing games, “You have to regionalize hockey” to make it work.  That’s why I say we show four games a week, mixed in between 7 and 10 PM, and obviously featuring the biggest market teams.  For example, this Saturday would look like this:

7:00 PM 
Boston vs. Washington OR 
Chicago vs. St. Louis OR 
Anaheim vs. Minnesota

10:00 PM
Detroit vs. San Jose

It’d obviously look different from week-to-week, but you get the point here.  The entire eastern seaboard will get Caps-Bruins, while the rest of the country would receive a mix of Ducks-Wild and Blackhawks-Blues, with everyone uniting for Wings-Sharks at 10PM.

Personalities: We love Mike Emrick and Dave Strader and the great voices of hockey.  But if we’re going CW, we’re going a little younger.  John Forslund will be the #1 play-by-play voice of The NHL On CW, with Jeremy Roenick starting his retirement at the top of the analyst spectrum.  LA Kings in-game host Heidi Androl will be the ice-level reporter.  The rest of your announce teams for The NHL On CW:

#2 – Randy Hahn, Jim Dowd and Dan Moriarty 
#3 – Judd Sirott, Eddie Olczyk and Bob Harwood 
#4 – Chris Cuthbert, Billy Jaffe and Lindsay Soto

Who else?  Well, the studio show throughout the night will once again be anchored by John Buccigross.  His co-horts at the desk will be Ray Ferraro along with Pierre McGuire and a rotating cast of… GASP!  BLOGGERS!  Dun duh dunnnnnn!  Greg Wyshynski, Eric McErlain, John Press, David Pagnotta and others rotate in, giving a hipper, less “good ol’ boys club” view of the league.  I think that would provide a new spin that’d appeal to almost everyone the NHL is seeking with this deal.

Playoffs and Finals: The CW will air playoff games on Saturday afternoons and nights, as well as Sunday afternoons.  They will air an entire Conference Final series (It’ll flip between East and West each year) and air the weekend games of the other Conference Final.  They will air the entire Stanley Cup Finals in primetime, though weeknight games will begin at 7:30 PM, unless one of the teams is located in the mountain and pacific timezone.

I think this could easily be a success.  The CW would be able to call itself a top-flight network, as it’s now broadcasting on seven night.  The NHL gets to keep saying the finals are on broadcast TV, a key point in keeping the critics from placing it in with MLS and the WNBA, and putting it with the big four where everyone keeps claiming it belongs.

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About stevelepore
Steve Lepore is the Managing Editor of Puck the Media. His work has been featured in The Hockey News. Feel free to contact him at stevemlepore@gmail.com

2 Responses to The NHL TV Set, Part 1: The NHL On The CW Network

  1. Jeff says:

    Here are the flaws with this plan.

    1. You honestly think the CW has enough money to pony up the cash for a rights fee. Not a chance; and the current NBC situation is almost the best you’re gonna get – a better situation would be a 12:30 east coast game and a 3PM west coast game after their golf coverage – I will give you that argument.
    2. As long as NBC is involved, do you honestly think they will allow another broadcast network to show hockey – much less one owned partially by CBS.
    3. Do you really think the local affiliates will be so thrilled with giving up this air time.
    4. Who exactly is going to replace all of these announcers on their own local broadcasts. Perhaps go with one national crew for the designated game of the week and then on the other broadcasts let the local guys do it. And honestly, you think TSN is just going to give all their announcers away like that.
    5. The RSNs (at least most of them) have lucrative deals with their respected rightsholders. You’re now asking them to give up more dates. I’m sure NESN will be thrilled to give up all these Saturday night Bruins games to replace with old Red Sox games.

    The primary problem with the VS setup is that they have no pregame show, a bland studio show, and an unfathomable refusal to show west coast games. Fix all that first.

  2. dyhrdmet says:

    Good points, both by our host and the first commenter. Would you really put the NHL on a “network” that doesn’t appear anymore in TV Guide? I’d also try to keep the regional games starting at 7:00 or 7:30 local time (so some viewers ket the pregame at 7 ET, some at 8 ET/7 CT, etc, based on their game). I’d also consider using more rotating local announcers like VS does, but sticking to the younger ones, for maybe 1 or 2 of the 3 games. There is one problem with a youth movement and Saturday nights. Let me know if I need to spell that out for you.

    Think about this. We probably did laugh just as much at the NHL on OLN in 2005 as we did here.

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