The Suitor Tutor, Part 4: Where the NHL Network Factors in This

With the NHL nearing a new TV contact, a multi-part series, “The Suitor Tutor”, takes a look at the potential bidders for NHL hockey.

One of the things that I am constantly self-inquisitive about is where the NHL Network can go next.  What is the potential for this now nine years old (coming up on three in the United States) network to possibly grow.

It is obvious that something has to happen in the next contract to ensure NHL Net takes a leap forward.  They’ve been lapped multiple times by NBATV, MLB Network and NFL Network in the past few years.  All three of those stations are more professional, provide more informative programming for hardcore consumers of the product, have more HD production, more games aired, more originally produced games aired, and overall just look cleaner than the poor NHL Net.  In a way,t he NHL Network has represented the NHL’s presence as a whole in the American sports marketplace.

Here’s three things the NHL needs to do in the next contract:

1. Get a Thursday night, originally-produced, Game of the Week

This is a must.  In addition to the simulcast of Hockey Night in Canada, NHL Network should have a functioning Game of the Week every week of the season. Use some of your studio hosts as play-by-play men, and get Bill Clement or Billy Jaffe to do analyst work, since neither are tethered full-time to a team currently.

2. Call dibs on all previously un-televised playoff games.

NHL Network aired two playoff games during the 2009 playoffs, and none during 2010. This must end.  Sorry to those who pay for NHL Center Ice, but that is simply something that shouldn’t exist during the playoffs.  All NHL games in the post-season need to be available to as much of an audience as possible.

3. All HD, All the Time

In this day and age, no specialty network like the NHL Net should be going without as much HD programming as humanly possible. On the Fly, whatever radio shows are being simulcast, should look like a professional studio show, not a cheap ESPNews rip-off.

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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

8 Responses to The Suitor Tutor, Part 4: Where the NHL Network Factors in This

  1. Rhett says:

    I would say these are the things I think that could make NHL Network a better channel:

    -Simulcast the FULL doubleheader of HNIC, instead of just the first game;

    -As you suggest, have a Thursday night game, originially produced, but instead of using their studio hosts, bring in Gary Thorne to do this game on PxP, and pair him with Clement or Jaffe. You know, if they did this, there would be NO need to go back to ESPN.

    -The playoffs as well – any night where there is a game not being televised by VERSUS, they get the game using the Canadian broadcast if there is one, or if not, the home team’s broadcast.

    -More junior and minor league hockey. For example FSN here in the Northwest, where I live, has a deal to televise the Western Hockey League and so does Sportsnet and Shaw Cable in Canada; maybe the NHL Network could work with those broadcasters and the ones doing OHL and QMJHL and the respective leagues to simulcast those games. In other words, make it a channel for hardcore fans with games left and right, and limit the “On the Fly” shows to one or two hours each night following the conclusion of the East Coast games.

    -As for “On the Fly”, aside from limiting how long those shows are on, I’d do nothing to that. Hearing the actual PxP call on a highlight as opposed to some talking head describing it is a heckuva lot better IMO.

    So there’s my two cents.

  2. Chris S says:

    While more HD would be ideal, atleast you guys in the US have the NHL NET in HD, they still have yet to launch in HD in Canada, which should be a national crime! :P

    I agree on the Game of the Week. I think they need originally-produced games that could broadcast in both countries (except when TSN has a game on, of course).

  3. A Moose says:

    Bill Clement is semi-tethered to the Flyers. He fills in for Keith Jones doing Flyers colour when Jonesy is on Versus or during the playoffs. He also picks up some post game.

    I’m all for an ALL HD format for the NHL Net, watching “On the Fly” not in HD when you’re trying to showcase other games isnt very enjoyable.

    NHL net needs to take a lesson from MLB, granted not the same cash stream, but some can be adapted.

  4. E says:

    Isnt Billy Jaffe the Islanders #1 color guy?

  5. danimal says:

    It comes down to whether Comcast or the league itself is willing to fund substantial U.S.-based productions. TSN is always going to focus on its bread-and-butter coverage, so a straight simulcast of the Canadian channel (aside from NHL Live in NYC) can only go so far.

  6. frank says:

    I am all for the network showing saturday night games, but it should NOT be the HNIC games each week.

    Show the best early game matchup and best late game matchup.

    What is so special about watching a lousy leafs team each and every week. That is NOT going to grow the game here in the states.

    • Josh says:

      The NHL Network is not going to grow the game in the US no matter which games it shows. The game will grow via mainstream outlets like NBC.

      The NHL Network should be for the hardcore fan, just like all the other league approved networks for other sports.

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