At Some Point, There Needs to Be a ‘Red Zone’ Type Channel For Big Hockey Nights

During my time at the Sports Business Journal’s Sports Media & Technology Conference in New York last week (more on that later in this week) I spoke to Marc Sokol, Executive Vice President of NeuLion, the company that has brought you the miracle of GameCenter Live (another thing I will get to later in the week). The most interesting thing I took away from our chat was that, when I posed to him what the “next big thing” might be for this sort of technology, he wasn’t really certain. One of the ideas he mentioned to me, however, was one that I’ve been pondering – and a few other folks I converse with fairly regularly have been thinking about – for quite some time: an NHL edition of the NFL Red Zone channel.

Now, I work at an NFL stadium that hosted a primetime game last night, so from around 5 p.m. ET on, they had the Red Zone channel on all of their big screen TVs. The thing basically redefines everything you thought watching football on television could be. Even if you have a rooting interest in one of the teams playing on Red Zone (which I did) you don’t necessarily feel like you’re missing anything essential. That said, it’s way better when you’re not following a team on a football Sunday. I’ve become way more interested in teams I used to not care about since the channel was invented. It’s a sugar-rush for the ADD generation, and loses everything that bores me about football.

So there’s got to be a way we can do this for hockey, right? Here are three separate proposals:

1. An actual ‘NHL Power Play’ Channel/app. A channel that simply cuts around to every NHL game each night when the game either hits a power play, the last few minutes of the period or game, cutting to highlights in between. No analysts, just a host to direct traffic from game to game. There is an obvious logical problem to making it happen: hockey doesn’t play enough games every night. Well, only do it on nights when there are seven games or more to make it feasible to have enough material for a long night of hockey. This may not be do-able as a television channel, but what about as an app for tablets and on the internet, as an addendum for NHL Game Center Live? You can buy it, stand-alone for say … $70, or get it for $20 if you buy GCL.

2. Do it only on Saturdays, on NHL Network. Give up the 7 p.m. ET Saturday night game on NHL Network, which doesn’t really do anything for anyone when it isn’t a Hockey Night in Canada game anyway. Use the formula I mentioned, and go from 7 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. ET with NHL Power Play, or just a Red Zone-ified NHL On the Fly. Promise no analysts or chatter until possibly the late games, just a host. You can still show Coach’s Corner and Satellite Hotstove during the intermissions, and even wrap-up with After Hours, the HNIC post-game. That way, NHL Network can still air games on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Saturday nights will be devoted to this, and possibly the last week of the season or on NHL Trade Deadline day.

3. Add it to NHL Center Ice. Center Ice currently has this awkward channel way down the dial where they’ll show four games at a time in little boxes (sort of like what you can do on Game Center Live). Replace this channel with Power Play. Hell, you don’t even need a host for it, just whip people around to the games, let them know where they’re going and why they’re going there (show the penalty or display it as a graphic) and let everyone enjoy the hockey.

I’m curious to see which, if any of these, you folks would be interested in. Please leave your opinion in the comments. For now, back to watching hockey the old way, with just two channels and one showing highlights of every game. We’re all so spoiled sometimes.


8 Responses to At Some Point, There Needs to Be a ‘Red Zone’ Type Channel For Big Hockey Nights

  1. Nick says:

    Here is a better idea. Spread out the games. Why play so many games at the same time. I also hate how when east coast teams play on the west coast and they play at 10:30 on the weekends. Its like the NHL doesnt care about getting more viewers.

  2. kevin says:

    No there doesn’t……………

  3. Kevin says:

    I think a channel like that would be great, but only if it’s free. That’s why I like NFL Red Zone, be cause it’s free. I think option #1 works, but only if it’s free (I said it again lol).. Go to option #2 if they have to charge for #1. They can go live to powerplays, end of games, and any exciting games in between. Thursdays and Saturdays would be a must for this. Those are the days where the NHL has the most games.

    NFL Red Zone has really increased my NFL viewership on Sundays. I play in one Fantasy League (For fun, and the money lol) every year and it’s great for that (I’m not wasting money with DirecTV).. I used to just watch Jets games, and maybe the Sunday Night Game, but now I see a lot more, from different teams I would’ve never watched if I didn’t have it.

    The NHL should do something like this, either using NHL Network, or a new channel. Then try to make it so that it reaches as people as possible. Marketing Saturday nights (And Thursdays).. Later on in the year (After January) when there is no College Football, they could work in NBCSN or even NBC. Try a 1pm and 4pm games with them, then put the rest on this new channel @ 7-10 (Staggering times by a couple of minutes). They always have 10+ games on Saturday. After College Football is over with, there really isn’t anything on, on Saturdays. The NHL has been trying new things and most of them work. Next up is this Thanksgiving Black Friday game. I feel like NBC has been willing to try anything with the NHL.

  4. kevin says:

    NHL Network is awful. Do you really think they could do a Red Zone channel? Don’t think so…..

  5. leafsfan1967 says:

    It is beyond me why the NHL Network is now running their dreadful crawl across the screen all the time. They used to remove it when they were showing live games, but not any more. It is in the way.

    On the point of this original post the idea has some merit although it should be pointed out that the mosaic channel isn’t available in all versions of NHLCI. For example, DirecTV doesn’t have it.

    Now that NHLCI is finally showing some HNIC games in HD I’m watching the NHL Network less and less so they need to do something to recapture viewers.

  6. I would vote for a secondary channel for the reasons you mentioned, but also to run HNIC straight through Saturday night. The secondary channel can start with Game Day at 5 pm Eastern. Then a 30-minute 6 pm NHL on the Fly preview, followed by CBC coverage live until 1:30 a.m. Eastern. Or go really crazy and run the 1-hour condensed versions afterward.

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