Death of the Doubleheader

Look at that face.  Yipes.  Can you believe that face contained the voice of the NHL inside it.  Anyway, his face (sort of) brings me to the topic I discuss with you this morning.

Last night was a good one for hockey in my household.  The night before was, too.  Why, might you ask?  Well, because of the freak accident that I happen to live in an area with three New York-area teams, we had a doubleheader night.  Tuesday night, it was Devils-Leafs (and the occasional flip to Isles-Caps) and the Rangers-Ducks.  Last night, Devils-Sabres and Rangers-Kings.  All done without the help of illegal web streaming.

Which takes me to one of the (few) reasons I miss ESPN/ESPN2 as the cable home for the National Hockey League.  They used to show a ridiculous amount of doubleheaders.  We just don’t see that anymore in our game on TV.  The doubleheader is a puckhead’s dream.  6 hours of consecutive hockey.  But the lockout tapering off the fan’s apparent appetite for hockey has made the networks pensive towards airing any game west of Denver.

I don’t have too much evidence to prove this, as television schedules from years before the lockout are fairly scarce.  If you can find any or have any, please E-Mail me.  But I do have the 1999-2000 NHL On ESPN/ESPN2 schedule.  Here are all the Doubleheaders that ESPN2 aired that year:

Oct. 5 
7:30
Dallas vs. Detroit
10:30 Anaheim vs. Phoenix

Oct. 6
7:30  
Los Angeles vs. Florida
10:30 Chicago vs. Vancouver 

Oct. 14 
7:30 Pittsburgh vs. New York Rangers  
10:30 Ottawa vs. Phoenix 

Oct. 20 
7:30 San Jose vs. Detroit 
10:30 Boston vs. Los Angeles

Oct. 27
7:30 Colorado vs. Detroit 
10:30 Pittsburgh vs. Anaheim 

Oct. 28 
7:30 Colorado vs. Philadelphia 
10:30 Pittsburgh vs. Los Angeles 

Nov. 3 
7:30 Buffalo vs. Dallas 
10:30 Philadelphia vs. Anaheim 

Nov. 17 
7:00 Dallas vs. Washington 
10:00 Florida vs. Colorado 

Nov. 18 
7:30 Dallas vs. Philadelphia 
10:30 Phoenix vs. Los Angeles 

Nov. 24 
7:30 St. Louis vs. Detroit 
10:30 New Jersey vs. Anaheim 

… and so on.  ESPN2 would go onto air 14 more doubleheaders that year, for a grand total of 24.  That’s not even counting nights when ESPN would air a game as well, or they doubled up wit a day game on ABC.

How many doubleheaders is VERSUS airing this season? 4.  One of those being opening  day in Stockholm and Prague, opening night in Detroit and Denver, and two of them coming in the last two weeks of the season.  How ridiculous is this?  It’s essentially shutting the rest of the league out to the teams on the west coast.  You saw that schedule.  Basically, anytime a big market team rolled through LA or Anaheim or Phoenix, it was on the Deuce.  

Why can’t we do this, now that we have a schedule where everyone plays everyone?  Why can’t we show Rangers-Ducks, Pens-Kings, Bruins-Yotes, Flyers-Sharks, et al.  VERSUS needs to commit to building a bureau out on the west coast, which will make it easier for them to cover events out in the Pacific and Northwest.  Otherwise, the NHL’s next TV partners must commit to a weekly doubleheader.  Because hockey fans are creatures of habit, and there’s not a chance they’ll change the channel.  Hell, it’s kept me watching the Rangers two nights in a row.

4 Responses to Death of the Doubleheader

  1. dyhrdmet says:

    you should have a piece on “Whatever happened to Gary Thorne”. I want to say (without looking it up) that OLN/Versus did have doubleheaders more often before this season, but still not that many. They may have the secret – do the people west of Denver/Phoenix watch the games that are on too late for us on the east coast to see? Aside from Denver and the resurgence of San Jose, it just may not be worth it. In Canada, when other networks may only be showing test patterns, Hockey Night In Canada sees a viewership dropoff for the late game (but it is a doubleheader available here on NHL Network every Saturday night, and the viewership is good for the number of total viewers in Canada), figure what a 10pm game on a weeknight wouldn’t do for Versus.

  2. stevelepore says:

    Gotta’ tell you, sir. Not a big Gary Thorne fan.

  3. CMG says:

    I liked Thorne as a baseball announcer, at least when he was with the Mets, but I actually thought Steve Levy was better at calling hockey than him.

  4. TJ says:

    I found this old post – baseball has the same problem, ESPN used to have wednesday night doubleheaders, plus espn alternate feeds (ESPN had alternate hockey games, too), now its just a single wednesday night game. I bet even if ESPN got hockey back, it would still have the east coast bias that it has for all of its big properties, but at least Gary Thorne would be back

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