Seven Changes I’d Make to Next Year’s Hockey Day in America

There was a lot of good that I felt came from Hockey Day in America, not the least of which was some of NBC’s best 12:30 PM ET ratings in quite a while. That said, I feel a little more can be done, and a few things can be changed. Here are my suggestions.

1. This is obvious: Get the West involved. You know who I mean. The fact that were doing Hockey Day in America without a team west of Minnesota is borderline shameful. I’m sure that the schedule makers will rectify this for 2011-12. Here’s what I’d like to see: two or three regional games at 12:30 PM ET. One of the games must feature a central time zone team (Dallas or Minnesota or Chicago) but they must be taking on an eastern time zone team (Detroit or Columbus). Don’t make fans show up as early as 11:30 AM local time to see their hockey game, you risk a pretty dead crowd, though Minnesota was definitely the best of the three early game crowds. Even look at starting at 1:00 PM ET/Noon CT to get the central teams at home.

Then, at 3:30 PM ET, I know you like having the national game of the week, but the only logistical way we’ll ever get a California team, or Colorado involved in this event is if you do a regional game. Just for California, air some combination of Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim. You can show Crosby and Ovechkin and whoever else you want to the rest of the country, but throw a bone to the West Coast like you essentially did to the cities of Washington and Buffalo this year.

2. Include a southern team. This year, we focused on hockey’s basis. There was a game in Minnesota, a lot of stuff that was based in Boston. Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, New York. Next year, let’s work on getting the places where hockey is looking to grow towards becoming part of the fabric in those areas. Tampa Bay or Carolina would be perfect to feature in a regional game as beacons of the NHL’s southern success. Those markets may not be perfect yet, but are clearly building towards becoming good places for the league. Here’s what I’d do: Say the Flyers win the Stanley Cup, just for arguments sake. You host the ceremonies from Philadelphia, and make it work like this:

12:30 PM ET
NY Rangers vs. New Jersey
Dallas vs. Detroit
Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay

3:30 PM ET
Chicago vs. Philadelphia
San Jose vs. Los Angeles

3. Use announcers who are typically known as national TV guys. Nothing against Jim Jackson, Ken Daniels and Pat Foley, but they seemed a bit out of place working the games they were working, with Jackson in Philadelphia, Daniels in New York and Foley in St. Paul. I’d suggest either using one announcer from both teams (ex: Jackson working with Joe Micheletti in New York) or borrow from TSN and VERSUS, using guys like Gord Miller and Chris Cuthbert and John Forslund and Dave Strader. It’s something that bugged me a bit throughout.

4. Stagger start times by 10 minutes and not five. This will just provide less confusion and more chances for everyone to see all three games. Because I was streaming Detroit/Minnesota and watching Rangers/Philadelphia, I saw very little of the Washington/Buffalo game. You stagger the start times by a little bit more, and everyone gets a chance to see a good ten minutes of every game.

5. Put all three games on Center Ice. The NBCSports.com stream is a very cool feature that allows you to watch a couple of angles at a time, but the stream is a little weak visually (at least on my laptop). I don’t think you lose that much by putting all the regional games on NHL Center Ice, especially when you had Center Ice on a free preview for the week. At worst, allow NHL Gamecenter Live to stream everything.

6. Don’t make the VERSUS game the Heritage Classic. Nothing against the Heritage Classic, but I feel like it was just too many spectacles on the same day. I found myself growing tired at around hour eight, so perhaps make the VERSUS game that day a solid, cable-made match-up. Possibly featuring a Boston or a Buffalo or a Colorado or Minnesota against a southern team. Put the Heritage Classic on another week so that we can have all our focus be on the game that day.

7. Utilize NHL Network – Perhaps go even further, with a game in the 9:00 PM ET hour on NHL Network? At worst, use NHL Network to get people up early in the morning with perhaps a one-hour pre-pre-show for the day. It’d be cool to make this another event the NHL focuses all of it’s media properties on, something Charles Coplin talked to me about during our interview a couple of weeks ago. Allow for a little bit more storytelling that maybe NBC won’t have time for.

Once again, I dug Hockey Day in America as much as anyone, but I’d love to see it get much, much bigger, and these are merely a few suggestions that I feel are do-able. I certainly would be fine just seeing the event come back next year the way I saw it on Sunday. I’m very grateful to say that we got a full day of hockey on US television this season. It was a big win for the NHL and their fans overall.

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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

4 Responses to Seven Changes I’d Make to Next Year’s Hockey Day in America

  1. Daniel says:

    I realize it’s easier in Canada for ‘Hockey Day in Canada’ with only six teams. However, if you watch CBC’s programming it’s quite the spectacle. 13 hours or so filled with hockey stories that their entire sports team must work for months on. They broadcast from a town to give it the ‘grassroots’ feel, it’s a pretty solid day with the games and everything around it.

    The knock is, with all the sappy feel good stuff, it’s almost too much at this point. But it is something to look at.

  2. Arthur says:

    You say in Point 6 that after 8 hours “you found yourself growing tired.” Yet in the next point you are asking for the NHL Network “to go even further” with a game at 9:00. Will you be able to stay awake?

    • stevelepore says:

      I just mean that it should be a less important game from an NHL standpoint. I’d rather change the channel from a Dallas-Buffalo game than the NHL’s centerpiece game in Canada for the year.

  3. E says:

    Instead of Hockey Day in America, I would love to see an Original 6 day. A tripleheader featuring the original 6 teams.
    Let’s try this schedule:
    1pm Detroit at Boston
    3:30pm Chicago at New York
    7pm Montreal at Toronto

    NBC televises the first 2 games. Versus televises the prime time game.

    Each year, the 6 teams alternate. This would be a great event for the league. It should happen the Sunday after the Super Bowl.
    At each game, a former player from each team comes out and drops the first puck (Rod Gilbert, Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe,,, etc)
    This would really celebrate the game.

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