10 Suggestions For Hockey Day in America That NBC Hasn’t Mentioned Yet
January 20, 2011 9 Comments
I’m sure you’ve seen me ramble on about this before, but I’m looking forward to Hockey Day in America in a very big way. I hope were able to do some big things with it here at the site, and I hope American hockey fans tune in, as well as casual fans who may be uninterested in the Daytona 500. The best thing we can hope for is a rain delay down there for a second consecutive year.
Anyway, here are 10 things I’d like to see NBC do that I haven’t seen thought up yet:
1. Make sure the three regional early games are available on NHL Game Center and Center Ice. One of the most fun aspects of the old regionalization in the ABC and the first two years of NBC eras were that you could watch any game you wanted if you had the NHL Center Ice package. If you were, like me, bored of seeing the Rangers in every national window, you could flip to the two other channels and see a game from the west coast, or featuring Detroit or Colorado. While I think Philly/Rangers will be a great game for my area this year, as both teams are hugely competitive, it’d be a great benefit if the three games were all available to out-of-market viewers, to see what’s going on in Minnesota or Buffalo.
Also, it has to be commended that all three games were extremely well chosen, as seven of the teams involved are in the playoff race (i.e. in their Conference’s Top 9 as of this writing) and the eighth, Buffalo, features likely the biggest American-born star to emerge from the Olympics in Ryan Miller.
2. Make sure American players are emphasized when on the ice. I’ve run into many a casual fan in my day, and some of them honestly don’t know which players are Canadian and which are American. NBC announcer Mike Emrick is very good at telling you where the players are from, but make it must that you emphasize which players are from which parts of our country.
3. Show where various American players came from. Show me the path of how a Patrick Kane, or a Ryan Callahan, or Brian Rafalski, or Ryan Miller got to the NHL, all the way from youth hockey to juniors or college to the big show. NBC has six intermission slots, a 35-minute pre-game and natural breaks in action to fill. I imagine we’ll see a lot of this, but it is a good idea, just to show kids and parents who may be unaware of the road to the NHL.
4. Have one of the network heavy hitters, preferably Al Michaels, host it. Come on, if someone hasn’t already begged the man to go to Chicago and do this, I’d be surprised. He’s as synonymous with U.S. hockey as anyone else, and did a great job with the Olympics last year. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him and Jeremy Roenick anchoring things from the rink at Millenium Park.
5. Unlike the Winter Classic, make sure you keep tabs on what’s going on in the NHL. This can be as simple as having an occasional update bug on the screen during the regional telecasts. However, my main gripe with the Winter Classic broadcast is that it should be used, at times, to bring the casual viewer who’s been clinging to the NFL until now up to speed with what’s going on in the sport. By mid-February these playoff races will be serious, keep people informed that these games matter.
6. Mix in some legendary broadcasters. Why not have Mike Lange call a period of Penguins-Blackhawks? Or Pat Foley? How about putting Sam Rosen or Rick Jeanneret on duty for their teams? I’m sure Dave Strader and Darren Pang, NBC substitute regulars, will be involved with the regional broadcasts, but it’d be fun to mix in some of the great names of American hockey announcing (though Jeanneret is Canadian) in on the fun. Or at least to allow them to have some role throughout the game. Gotta have inside-the-glass folks for every game, right? Anyway, here’s my complete guess – for no other reason but fun – on who will cover each game. Using a little bit of former NBC logic, and a little bit of “VERSUS and NBC are now under the same umbrella” logic. Remember, just guessing.
Detroit/Minnesota – Dave Strader, Andy Brickley, Darren Pang
Philadelphia/NY Rangers – Chris Cuthbert, Keith Jones, Joe Micheletti
Buffalo/Washington – Joe Beninati, Darren Eliot, Billy Jaffe
Again, it could look completely different, but I’d imagine Strader and Pang are pretty safe bets for at least one game.
7. Promote as hard as you do for the Winter Classic. This goes on both sides. Come up with promos that evoke a love of the game mixed with some of the special American moments that have helped make it great. Produce tons of merch, including stuff that proclaims Chicago as the first host of the event. Sell stuff at the game sites too, with all the logos of the teams involved and whatnot. Have the teams wear Hockey Day patches.
8. Retro Jerseys. Have the Rangers, Sabres, Flyers, Capitals, Penguins and Blackhawks in their typical or third jerseys (in the Caps case, the Winter Classic threads) to emphasize the specialness and history going into the preparation of the day. I guess either the home or alternate Minnesota jersey works, and the Red Wing logo is always a classic.
9. Make it known that this is a tradition, heck, name next year’s site before the first one even happens. This could become one of those big events that NHL cities bid on to to be a part of. For example, the Rangers could host next year’s event in Central Park, or Washington at that outdoor rink in Chevy Chase, or New Jersey at the outdoor rink at Englewood Field Club … there are limitless iconic (or even non-iconic) settings you could have this event, even at any place where there could be a rink built. Have Dan Craig and that fancy portable ice truck from the Winter Classic come into some town and give them a rink for the day. It’d be a massive surprise and great TV. But make sure you announce your intention to do this annually.
10. Just don’t force anything. While starting traditions is nice, make sure this stays organic and true to it’s intended nature, to spotlight some of the great elements of American hockey and grow the game at the grassroots level. There is very little that could be done to screw up a day like this.