The NHL Has A Night Made For Next Year’s TV Deal, But Not This One
April 21, 2011 12 Comments
So wasn’t that a great hockey night? Aside from depressing possible end to the Phoenix Coyotes, there was some fantastic stuff last night. From the clip of Marian Gaborik clearing the puck into the stomach of an opposing player who tapped it in for a double overtime winner that will likely make the sports blooper reels for years, to James Neal’s equally chippy double overtime winner for Pittsburgh. To the very fact that we saw two overtimes. Teemu Selanne and Ryan Miller continued to amaze, and the Detroit Red Wings continued to be as sure a thing as Mike Keenan interrupting someone trying to make a point.
The only problem was, if you don’t own Center Ice or Game Center Live … you missed almost all of it. VERSUS aired the Rangers/Capitals game – which had every bit the intrigue that San Jose/Los Angeles had the night before – to it’s double overtime conclusion, then cut over to two and a half periods of the Detroit/Phoenix game. In fact, the best situation someone could hope to be in is a fan living in New York or Washington, who got the Buffalo/Philadelphia game on VERSUS on an alternate feed, and saw the opening of Phoenix/Detroit, too.
Not that VERSUS did anything wrong, at least regarding this. The Phoenix/Detroit broadcast was a bit of a mess that saw the network cut away from the Coyotes saluting their fans for what could be the last time. There wasn’t nearly enough done to inform people who might be casual viewers as to why Shane Doan was holding back tears, or why fans were so desperately cheering on their team. That said, this piece isn’t about that. When it came to scheduling, VERSUS did exactly what they were supposed to do, given the circumstances.
However, tonight was the night that the NHL, and every TV network that bid to win the rights to air it’s games, had in mind. Can you imagine it now? An NCAA Tournament-style set-up, with a host directing traffic to the various games. Possibly, in the NCAA vein, a constantly updating score-ticker in the upper corner to keep everyone updated on every game in the busy first round. It could have looked something like this, at least in a hypothetical world:
7:00 Washington vs. NY Rangers, VERSUS
7:00 Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay, CNBC
7:30 Philadelphia vs. Buffalo, USA
8:30 Anaheim vs. Nashville, G4
10:30 Detroit vs. Phoenix, Beginning on USA until the end of NYR/WSH on VERSUS
I mean, the networks might be different, and maybe the scheduling will be a bit more spread out to accommodate everything, though hopefully not like the NBA. Fact is, we could see something like this starting next year. It excites me, and it should excite you. This isn’t like the Olympics, where a hockey game is being demoted to cable for other programming. This is hockey being demoted for other hockey. NBCUniversal wants every hockey game on national television, and so does the NHL.
So get ready for it. Hockey fans who live outside their team’s home city will never have to be stuck waiting for an overtime game to end, or have to shell out money just to see them in the post-season. Hockey fans who just love to flip around will be in the same boat. I keep referencing the NCAA Tournament, but with all the exposure, and all the ability to flip back and forth and use picture-in-picture (in addition to streaming games on the web), the Stanley Cup Playoffs could finally bust out of the cult diehards and become a full-blown TV extravaganza. All while showing the diehards more games. What could be bad about that?