Do You Care if The NHL All-Star Game is on Broadcast TV?

Before we begin this, let’s start off with a year-by-year All-Star ratings look:

1991, Chicago (NBC, Afternoon): 2.7
1992, Philadelphia (NBC, Afternoon): 2.3
1993, Montreal (NBC, Afternoon): 2.4
1994, New York (NBC, Afternoon): 2.5
1996, Boston (FOX, Primetime): 4.1
1997, San Jose (FOX, Primetime): 2.8
1998, Vancouver (FOX, Afternoon): 2.7
1999, Tampa Bay (FOX, Afternoon): 2.2
2000, Toronto (ABC, Afternoon): 2.7
2001, Denver (ABC, Afternoon): 1.7
2002, Los Angeles (ABC, Afternoon): 1.8
2003, Sunrise (ABC, Afternoon): 1.7
2004, Minnesota (ABC, Afternoon): 1.8
2007, Dallas (VERSUS, Primetime): 0.5
2008, Atlanta (VERSUS, Primetime): 0.7

This would be a weird chart graph if I ever attempted to make it.  It’d go from the highest rated hockey game of the 90′s (The 1996 All-Star Game) to the lowest rated All-Star game, perhaps ever (2007).  The point is that it seems around 2001, people really stopped caring about the All-Star Game.  Many of the All-Star Games in the 90′s drew Winter Classic-level ratings.  It was clear then that the game was the one chance to see all of the NHL’s stars look awesome.

So, what the hell happened?

We can easily blame the the 2001 and 2002 games on people tiring of the World/North America format.  But why didn’t going back to East/West make things fresh again?  Why did people stop caring long before the game was dumped from broadcast TV to VERSUS?  Does it really matter?

Well, I won’t turn this into an ” is the All-Star Game a waste of time” diatribe.  But I do care about the TV aspects.  In an age where the NBA All-Star Game is thriving on cable, and the Pro Bowl and MLB All-Star Game are sagging on broadcast, should the NHL lobby to get it’s All-Star Game back on the networks, or try to build into a destination for VERSUS?

Now, to VERSUS’ credit, they are trying to build it’s programming slate with a campaign centered around the NHL All-Star Game (more on this later today).  They have to be happy themselves with the ratings of their first two games, which out-drew all but two of VERSUS previous regular season NHL telecasts (Both this year and both featured Detroit).  With the game in Montreal this year, the ratings will likely grow to an 0.8 or 0.9, or they could stay where they are due to the lack of Sidney Crosby.

But the NHL has another couple years to reevaluate the All-Star Game as an event.  Hell, they haven’t even announced a host for 2011.  We usually know where the ASG two years from now is being held.  If it isn’t announced this weekend, then you know that the game is in serious duress and a candidate to be replaced.  However, if ratings crack 1 million viewers on VERSUS, you bet your ass the NHL thinks there’s growth potential for the game on the network.

Still though, this is the NHL’s showcase event for it’s all-stars, or at least it used to be.  On a weekend where there is really nothing else airing on NBC (or any other broadcast network) the league should really have done all it could to get the Peacock network to air the game.  Let VERSUS keep the skills show and possibly give them a Legends game (If they’ll air it, who knows).  But the NHL, out of all the major leauges, needs another showcase most.  It needs to be able to get to everyone.

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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

5 Responses to Do You Care if The NHL All-Star Game is on Broadcast TV?

  1. PuckMoney says:

    I still say the “All Star” break be moved to center around the Winter Classic. Ditch the All-Star game, but keep the Skills competition, which would be put on outdoors either on the afternoon of New Years Eve or on the night of December 30th.

    Logistically it may be hard to figure out, but it is not impossible and it will once again up the focus on the Classic.

  2. dyhrdmet says:

    I think the game suffered after ABC’s first year (as the numbers point out). Yes, it needs to be on NBC (as the network rights holder). But I think there’s just more distractions on weekends now than there were a decade ago. Also looking back (some based on memory), when NBC showed the game, it was usually the only appearance on network TV for the NHL (though I think ABC showed playoff games), making it a bit more of an attraction. When FOX had it, I think it was like “FOX ‘Sports’? seriously? That sounds different. Let’s see what they have”. Aside from the return of the game with the glowing puck in ’96, ratings were good until their last year. The “North America vs. the World” theme wore down and I think the game got lost in the shuffle of what looked like “ESPN on ABC” (before it was called that), and the ratings slipped from the NBC & FOX standard. 2 years away (’05 lockout and ’06 olympics) and a move to cable really hurt things.

    casual fans won’t find the game on cable. it needs to be on NBC. being out-viewed by Canada (no knock on them) is bad.

  3. Bryan says:

    It would do a lot for the credibility of the All-Star Game if it were broadcast on NBC. I know the NBA’s All-Star Game is on TNT, but TNT is a big cable network and they have ESPN shoving the NBA down everyone’s throats. The NHL doesn’t have that luxury. And if the NHL were smart, they’d at least see this as an opportunity to get all of the game’s big stars together and showcase these players on national TV. Do you know what’s on NBC on Sunday afternoon? At 1:30, it’s the “USSA Nature valley Freestyle Cup”, at 3:00 it’s the “International Auto Show”, and at 4:00, it’s the “U.S. Championships Men’s Free Program”. So doesn’t benefit BOTH parties to get the All-Star game on NBC?

  4. dyhrdmet says:

    The All Star game SHOULD be on NBC. you want exposure, have Saturday Night Live at the All-Star Saturday post party and the starters, as voted by us, the fans, on a Sunday ‘Today Show’. Seriously though, live Figure Skating would be a good lead-in to the game at 6pm. It feels more legit when it’s on a network (say, what does the CW have on Sunday evening?)

  5. Player to be Named Later says:

    It would be great to see the NHL All-Star game on a major US network. I’m in Canada and we watch it on CBC, where Hockey Night in Canada is a religion. The NHL could do a lot to capitalize on the down week between the NFL conference Championships and Super Bowl. I really think they dropped the ball this year. Celebrating a 100 years of the Montreal Canadiens was more exciting than the game itself. I’d like to see the All-Star game and Winter Classic kept separate from one another. The All-Star game should really rotate in all markets and many don’t have the climate or facility for an outdoor game. Bettman will be making a very big mistake if he takes the Winter Classic to the Rose Bowl or Las Vegas as is being rumored. It should be at the new Yankee Stadium.

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