Next Time on NBC, the NHL Needs to Find a Way Onto Super Bowl Sunday
February 6, 2012 4 Comments
NBC did a fantastic job bringing the Super Bowl to America last night. I may be biased by saying this as a Giants fan, but everything about last night’s Super Bowl was a high point – nay, a pinnacle! – for football, broadcast television, and humanity as whole. NBC’s coverage of the NFL is, save for perhaps Bob Costas’ weekly halftime essay that serves as a preparation for his golden years yelling at children to get off of his lawn, second to none. All class, almost always substance over style. It is a class production, the antithesis to what almost everything football on television has become in the past decade.
Of course, this is a hockey website, so here comes the disappointing twist where I ask: can’t we find a way to throw hockey in there somehow?
Now, of course, the NBC Sports Network did find a way (somehow!) to put hockey on, essentially running an elongated (i.e. with pre-game and post-game) version of NBC Sunday Game of the Week, which should totally be considered for the NBC version that returns next week (i.e. again, pre- and post-game on NBCSN). And a big, heart-breaking, sports-as-a-metaphor-for-the-human-condition commercial for the NBC Sports Network, heavily featuring the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins (delicious irony!) as the first promo after the final Tom Brady pass had been knocked down. Still, it’d be nice to find a way to upgrade all that. The NHL will likely get an NBC game on Super Bowl Sunday in years that the network doesn’t broadcast a Super Bowl, but it isn’t the same.
NBC does not broadcast a Super Bowl again until the 49th edition of The Big Game, tentatively being held on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The NHL will be in the midst of it’s fourth year of a 10-year deal with the network and it’s sports group, and no doubt be looking for a way to spice things up. I have an idea, with a few caveats. No doubt it would take some work to get two teams interested, and it would likely be heavily criticized by the Canadian media as another example of the league taking Their Game and twisting and bending it for American networks. It would also probably be fussed over by the NHLPA. It would also continue to leave west coast hockey fans out, sort of. But, here it is.
Why not play a game at 11:00 a.m. ET?
NBC’s coverage of the Super Bowl began at 12:00 p.m. ET with a one-hour documentary called ‘The Road to the Super Bowl’, with pre-game show beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET. No doubt, the network (and their advertising partners) love that chunk of programming. But couldn’t the documentary, and a half-hour of pre-game coverage, just as easily fit on the NBC Sports Network to turn some folks looking for a Super Bowl fix into that network? NBCSN will have a Sunday morning NFL pre-game show by, at latest, 2014, and they may just be an NFL TV partner by then, so can’t an extension of that just air until 1:30 p.m. ET? Wouldn’t it be worth the potential exposure for hockey? Call it Breakfast at the Rink, and let Mike Emrick narrate somber, yet exciting footage of five-year olds lacing up the skates at some podunk rink at 6:00 a.m. ET. It can be another event where the NHL tells it’s fans it is heading back to the roots of hockey.
There are some other challenges to the idea. You’d need two teams in the Eastern Time Zone (Detroit and New York? Pittsburgh and Washington? Philadelphia and Boston?) and two teams who’d be game to go through with all this, but it can’t be any harder than asking 4-6 teams to uproot training camp to foreign countries 1000′s of miles away to begin their seasons in Europe, can it? It can’t be harder than getting Canadian networks to air games that they should have the right to determine the timeslot of to move to afternoon when NBC wasn’t paying any money to air the league, can it? The NHL does some wacky things for the sake of marketing the game, so why can’t this just be the very next one in a very long line?
This would have to be a pure TV spectacle though. This isn’t the Winter Classic, where you can make millions on tickets and merchandise sales. This is just an ordinary regular season game, one of over 1,200. Bring out some bells and whistles, possibly a cable cam, have the players introduce themselves, football-style. Promise a little bit of football crossover. If the game is in New York, have a legendary Giant (Amani Toomer plays hockey!) show up in the booth or during the intermission, or something similar in other cities. Have everyone on the ice mic’d up, tell them to try and keep it clean and air the best stuff you can get.
I’m not naive. Maybe this ordinary, one of 1,200 regular season hockey game gets the same rating that every other NHL game that airs on NBC gets, but what’s the reason to not take a shot? What is there to lose, other than a half an hour of a Super Bowl pre-game show, which we already know is far too long? The NHL should lobby for this intensely in the years leading up to the next Super Bowl. It could just be the next great hockey marketing idea waiting to happen.