VERSUS Airing NHL Network Programming After Hockey Broadcasts

You may have noticed that last night, after VERSUS’ broadcast of the Sabres/Rangers game, they aired two episodes of a program called Frozen in Time, a show originally produced for the NHL Network. It was the first time since 2008 that an NHL Network program had aired on VERSUS when they stopped showing On the Fly during the playoffs.

Well, it appears that this will be a more common appearance, at least in the short term. VERSUS plans to air episodes of NHL Network Top 10 tonight at 10:00 PM ET after Hockey Central following the Toronto-Pittsburgh bonus telecast. Next week, on Monday the network will air two more episodes of Top 10 following the Washington-Tampa Bay game, as well as at 10:30 PM ET on Wednesday after the Chicago-Tampa Bay bonus game. Meanwhile, Frozen in Time will return on March 15th after Hurrcanes-Sabres. Looks as if NHL Net programming will become a frequent addition to the VERSUS lineup towards the end of the year.

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Puck the Media’s Uncut Interview with John Buccigross

I thought the interview with John Buccigross was good stuff for the article I did, so I felt it’d be interesting if you got to read everything I talked to him about. It isn’t too long, but I think some of the stuff he said about the reaction inside ESPN to the Gold Medal Game is pretty fun to read about. Thanks again to Bucci, who is a pal to the blog.

Puck the Media: Looking back on it, where does the Gold Medal Game rank on games you’ve seen all-time?

John Buccigross: To tell you the truth, I remember very little about the game outside of Crosby, Parise and hoping Chris Drury would somehow add the final championship pelt with dramatic flair. Because of all the highlight restrictions with Olympic video it’s challenging to have indelible Olympic images seared into our hard drives. When was the last time you saw Peter Forsberg’s postage stamp goal? What I remember most about the US-Canada game is that every TV at ESPN had hockey on it. Sadly, that’s the only time hockey is a national sport. Even the Stanley Cup is mostly a parochial event. I don’t understand why they can’t see what I see or feel what I feel watching hockey. I’m a pretty reasonable dude. But, to somewhat answer your question, when Zach Parise scored I had enough adrenaline to power all seven of Melrose’s garage door openers at his Tampa Bay Lightning financed crib.

PTM: Do you think the game and that tournament/the US run has helped increase the awareness of hockey in the US? At ESPN?

JB: Certainly, the ratings show people watch, lots of people watch. I imagine lots of those people watching are NHL fans but as my ESPN story above shows a lot people who don’t normally watch were watching hockey. And it may have fed fuel to youngsters playing the game and may have caused some kids to take up the game but I don’t think overall it causes people to make hockey consuming a part of their everyday lives. Olympic hockey has very little real effect on the NHL. That is why Gary Bettman has not embraced it wholly-because I’m sure his owners don’t because it doesn’t help their bottom line. Do you ever watch a track and field event on TV that’s not the Olympic? No, you don’t. That’s how the non-believers (of hockey) approach hockey consumption-like we approach track and field consumption. ESPN does not need to be made aware of hockey. They have all the data on the awareness and interest of all sports and make their business decisions accordingly. They work for Disney-they make decisions with their heads not their hearts.

PTM: As someone who is around a lot of different levels of hockey, do you think at the youth level there’s been an effect yet from the Olympics?

JB: It’s interesting, I just don’t hear a lot of NHL talk around the rink . There are a few kids who know the players but they are rare so I wonder how the Olympics effect them. USA Hockey continues to get smarter and evolve as a kid friendly, proactive organization committed to developing the best hockey players in the world and growing the number or participants.

Part of kids not talking hockey is that is we at Sportscenter don’t celebrate and cover NHL players outside of Crosby and Ovechkin. Kids get most of their sports from Sportscenter. Matt Duchene is the talent and excitement equivalent of John Wall of the Wizards yet America has no idea who Matt Duchene is because we don’t show Matt Duchene highlights.

But, at some point it has to stop being Sportscenter’s fault. Their has never been a better time to be a hockey fan. I can listen to a game on sattelite radio in my car as it goes to a shootout, pull in my driveway and run inside my house and catch the shootout on the Center Ice Package before changing to NHL Network and watch the night’s highlights. I can check Twitter for any news before bed. I can wake up and check TSN and ESPN’s Stats and Notes. I can consume all day. If we can get kids to play hockey and then begin to consume hockey via all media then that will grow the game. We will have fans for life. That’s where the growth potential is-kids, the rink, and social media.