NHL Overtime Shows Promise for VERSUS, May Need Later Timeslot

Greg Wyshynski reported earlier in the day that NHL Overtime,  VERSUS’ new entry into the formerly NHL Network monopoly of the late-night hockey show genre, was quickly announced and “it’s been a mad dash to get it on the air.” It reminds me of the speed that VERSUS, then known as OLN, had to get their entire NHL package on the air prior to the 2005-06 season, in which they had about six weeks to assemble a studio, personnel and production crews.

So, let’s just say that Overtime’s debut is a lot less inauspicious. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it wasn’t bad. For now, it has little to differentiate from Hockey Central. Having the same host for both programs doesn’t help. A different set of voices, and at least one that improves from the dull nonsense of the earlier post-game show is a start. That said, as I’ve often said, having hockey on TV is always preferable to not having hockey on TV. NHL Overtime didn’t come out claiming it’s territory as the best thing in the world, but it’s certainly more watchable than Hockey Central. What I won’t do, for now, is compare it to NHL On the Fly until the end of the week, then the end of the month, etc.

What’s interesting about the very nature of NHL Overtime is that the show may have an expiration date already. Many insiders have claimed that the NHL will remain on VERSUS in some form when the new TV contract is negotiated, but what if it isn’t? It’s almost entirely certain that VERSUS would dump the show in June, so for now it’s just a show that’s in limbo from it’s first episode. It’ll be interesting to see if the attitude and production values of the series changes should the NHL remain exclusively a VERSUS product.

For the time being, here are some things I’d like to see from NHL Overtime. First of all, I think the show should become a showcase for Billy Jaffe and a different host. John Buccigross and Barry Melrose became stars every night on NHL 2Night with the formula of an outspoken, larger than life personality of an analyst mixed with a witty, caustic host who could set him up well and move the show along. Bill Patrick seems like a good guy and is fine for what he does, but I love to see someone else with a little more of a fast wit for late night. Maybe keep on Liam McHugh, the host of the cancelled The Daily Line, who seemed to be in that vein. Or, you know, you could hire me! (NOTE: For a resume, please contact me at stevemlepore@gmail.com)

Anyway, here are some very serious criticisms of the show. There was one big controversy on this day in the NHL, and it was the Colin Campbell e-mail scandal. This was not discussed whatsoever. I felt like it could be a good idea for the network and the show to establish credibility with the fans. That’s how the MLB Network made it’s name, by covering the Alex Rodriguez steroids scandal and not shying away from some of the major issues of hockey. Instead, we got a debate on whether or not a Sidney Crosby video I’ve never seen before was real or fake. If TSN or CBC had ignored this story, they’d have been hammered by the national media. NHL Overtime won’t face that level of scrutiny, but I am a little bit disappointed.

Otherwise, it was a largely watchable, inoffensive way to spend an hour. I think the show could use a later timeslot so it could focus on the west coast games, and I will look to see if there’s some sort of west coast focus on the Tuesday show, which airs at 12:30 AM ET. For gosh sakes, I certainly hope the show is live, otherwise that would damage the show’s credibility immediately. Overall though, NHL Overtime isn’t bad, but could certainly get better. However, I’ll choose to judge it as I would a typical late night show. Expiration date or night, it’ll take a little while to get into a rhythm. A good start, regardless.


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