Why is the NHL Still Scheduling Other Games on VERSUS Exclusive Nights?

I often get tweets on the nights of VERSUS games from fans, but very rarely do they come from fans playing in the VERSUS game that night. They’ll often come from a fan who wanted to watch another game that night that is being blacked out due to the VERSUS exclusive window. While I never quite understand what nights VERSUS has the exclusive on, these dates are typically made public to the teams in a way that they know which nights will be blacked out by the time their local TV schedules come out in August and September?

So this brings us to the question that the title suggests? Why do we still have teams scheduling games on these nights?

Isn’t it time we took some of the blame off VERSUS? I mean, why are we blaming VERSUS for getting the NHL to agree to this arrangement? It’s something that helps them, a timeslot in which hockey fans’ viewing attentions aren’t divided up between their local team and, say, a Penguins/Rangers or Stars/Kings game. The “game of the week” is there so that the average fan can get a chance to see the best in the game without having to flip around. It helps the network ratings-wise, and it gets teams that maybe won’t get a shot at NBC a chance to be on the “big game” of the week on national television.

At this point, the blame has to fall entirely on the teams that schedule it. For example: VERSUS was airing Washington-Phoenix last night at 8:00 PM ET. Because they have the exclusive window for tonight, a Vancouver-St. Louis game is going untelevised in the St. Louis market. Now, VERSUS blackouts – for obvious reasons – do not extend to Canadian teams, so fans in British Columbia got to see the Canucks in action. The Blues, however, tweeted the following:

Tonight’s game will not be televised to comply with Versus’ exclusive NHL national TV window. Come to the game or listen on KMOX 1120.

Now, the NHL is the one that decides on each team’s schedule when all is said and done. But shouldn’t we really have the networks, the league and the individual teams working together to make sure that this sort of thing isn’t happening by now? I mean, it has been five years. I understand that each team and each arena have a limited number of dates to fit games into. That all said, there must be some way to give VERSUS a night that they can have to themselves without making fans in markets feel short-shifted. Is it that hard to keep, say, Monday nights free of games throughout the season?

Either that, or the NHL really needs to reconsider the “Game of the Week” format for VERSUS in the next television contract, because in the end, you’re just angering and annoying potential fans that could be watching the game you want them to watch. They’re going to be annoyed and finding ways to seek out the game they wanted to watch instead of tuning into VERSUS, which they might have done had their own game not been blacked out and instead on another day. It’s a complicated issue, and a lot of blame falls on everyone, but something must be done to prevent this sort of thing from happening again next year.

4 Responses to Why is the NHL Still Scheduling Other Games on VERSUS Exclusive Nights?

  1. jkrdevil says:

    Teams that get those nights scheduled for them are teams that don’t have all of their games contracted locally. Instead they have something like 60 games instead of all 82. So the NHL schedules those already non-tv games in the blackout zone against canadian opponents to fill out the schedule and Canadian tv side of things.

    The Versus thing is just a public dispute. You don’t see teams will full local contracts in those slots.

  2. JP says:

    TSN has the same exclusivity on Wednesday nights, as does CBC on Saturdays. This year, the NHL finally figured out not to put any other Canadian teams’ games on those nights.

    It’s not rocket science.

    • Josh. says:

      Actually… in the case of TSN, it’s more like they just don’t fully respect the exclusivity window. Look at Wednesday, March 2nd: TSN has Pittsburgh and Toronto at 7, with a local telecast of Calgary and Chicago on Sportsnet slightly overlapping, starting at 9. Same thing on the 9th – Edmonton/Washington is on TSN at 7 and Calgary/Dallas is on Sportsnet at 9.

  3. nosferatu says:

    Fortunately Center Ice still provides the Canadian feed of these otherwise blacked-out games, at least when there’s a Canadian team involved. I was a little surprised to not have a St. Louis feed last night; I’d forgotten about the Versus window of exclusivity for a while there because it seems so irrelevant and unnecessary.

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