The World Junior Championships: One of 75 Hockey-Related Things that VERSUS Has the Time and Money to Air, Yet Doesn’t (Plus WJC TV Schedule)

This came into my consciousness about a week ago, and I’ve been meaning to do something with it, but didn’t have the opportunity until now.  I’ve always wanted to check out the World Junior Championships, but haven’t for a bunch of reasons.  NHL hockey is on, I’m too uninterested to find a website.  But most importantly because, you know, no American network will go near broadcasting the tournament.  

Here’s last weeks press release from USA Hockey about the NHL Network’s Originally Produced (and some simulcasted) coverage of this year’s tournament.  I have some thoughts on it, after the jump.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Matt McConnellDave Starman and Fred Pletsch will make up the broadcast team for the NHL Network’s coverage of U.S. games in the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, Dec. 26 – Jan. 5 in Ottawa.


The NHL Network will televise all U.S. games of the event. In addition, the Network will broadcast all medal-round games and all of Team Canada’s preliminary-round games. The U.S. games will have a production and broadcast team, while all other contests on the NHL Network will utilize a feed from TSN.


McConnell, who will handle play-by-play duties, has 12 years of experience as an NHL broadcaster. He is currently the lead play-by-play broadcaster for NCAA hockey on CBS College Sports and also fills in on Atlanta Thrashers broadcasts on SportSouth.


Starman, who will serve as the analyst, is currently the lead analyst for CBS College Sports coverage of NCAA hockey. His resume includes previous broadcasting stints covering both the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders.


Pletsch, who will serve as the rinkside reporter, is in his ninth season as an analyst on the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Game of the Week on Fox Sports Detroit and has also worked as a sideline reporter for ESPN during the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship. He is currently the associate commissioner of the CCHA.


The first NHL Network broadcast from the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship will take place on Dec. 26 at 3:30 p.m. EST, when Team USA faces Germany. The complete schedule is below.

NOTE: Broadcast coverage of the IIHF World Junior Championship on the NHL Network is only available to viewers in the United States.

This is amazing stuff.  It’s the first original production of the tournament in the United States since 2004, when ESPN2 showed most of the tourney from North Dakota to a hockey-starved, lockout-inflicted fanbase.  Gosh, I don’t miss those days, when Gary Bettman would have an ESPNews-broadcast press conference stating there was no progress every two weeks.

But you see what I mean here, right?  This tournament could become big in this country, at least among diehard puckheads and those who say they “love Olympic-style hockey”.  VERSUS should really commit to it’s responsibility as the cable home of hockey and at least simulcast some of the tournament, yet it doesn’t.  This is because, as I mentioned in the doubleheader post, they simply aren’t willing to take a risk when it comes to a sport they’ve invested millions in, which is just preposterous.  

VERSUS needs to take a hint from NHL Network and starting giving a damn about promoting the sport, which means more than two random games per week.  It would cost you very little to simply simulcast TSN’s feed, in fact, it’d likely be better than the production NHL Network will put together, no offense to those great folks.  But VERSUS has no interest in actually growing the game, even if it means denying hockey fans a chance to see the game’s future.

But kudos to NHL Network, for taking a chance and making the WJC it’s “big thing” that Americans can’t see anywhere else.  They also have a really cool “Outdoor Day” scheduled for Christmas that Leahy has the scoop on.  It sounds quite awesome.  The next day, NHLNet begins it’s WJC coverage.  Here is their schedule for the tournament.  Reminder that all Team USA coverage is an original NHL Net-US broadcast, any others are just a TSN simulcast: 

December 26, 3:30 PM – Germany vs. Team USA 
December 26, 7:30 PM – Canada vs. Czech Rep.
December 28, 3:30 PM – Kazhakhstan vs. Canada 
December 28, 7:30 PM – Team USA vs. Czech Republic 
December 29, 7:30 PM – Germany vs. Canada 
December 30, 7:30 PM – Team USA vs. Kazhakhstan  
December 31, 7:30 PM – Canada vs. Team USA 
January 2, 3:30 PM/7:30 PM – Quarterfinals
January 3, 3:30 PM/7:30 PM – Semi-Finals 
January 5, 3:30 PM/7:30 PM – Bronze & Gold Medal Game


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