Hockey on Television Hits an Intriguing High With 24/7, NHL 36 Premieres Tonight

You American hockey fans these days are spoiled. Used to be there wasn’t even hockey on national television on a Wednesday. You had to hope that your team was playing or you got nothin’. Tonight, well, here’s what were gonna’ see:

  • The second NHL season premiere of the Emmy-award winner 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic on HBO at 10:00 p.m. ET. This season, the show features the Rangers and Flyers. It’s a documentary series that gives you a behind the scenes, uncensored look at what’s going on with two National Hockey League teams. The series goes on for four weeks, yet you kind of wish it would last 40.
  • The world premiere of the new VERSUS series and NHL Original Production, NHL 36, sort of an individualized, cleaned up version of 24/7, which follows around a hockey superstar (in this episode, Patrick Kane) for 36 hours of his life. It’s the first project from a production company headed by the mastermind behind 24/7 created exclusively to film documentaries about hockey.
  • Oh, by the way, the two best teams (record-wise) in the Western Conference are going to play on VERSUS. The aforementioned Kane and his Chicago Blackhawks are taking on the Minnesota Wild in between those two shows.

This, as we say in most scientific discussions, is pretty damn cool. It’s what diehard hockey fans want, to immerse themselves into their favorite sport completely for as long as they possibly can, because your favorite things a release from whatever other awful things are going on in their lives. It’s just natural for us as human beings. The longer there’s stuff related to hockey on, the longer that man or woman isn’t thinking about something terrible that’s going on with them. Or even something good that’s going on with you. It’s been written many times, many ways, sports – or anything you love as much as you love a sport – is just a complete escape from the bounds of real life. The fact that NHL fans have more hours to escape into their sport is great.

It is, yet again, a testament to, or perhaps a comment on where hockey is in the television world right now. In the ESPN world, none of this probably happens. Sure, maybe you get another token 30 for 30 documentary here and there, and maybe NHL 2nite is back, but the NHL is a niche sport right now, and ESPN is for the broad world. ESPN wouldn’t be able to do any of this, certainly not 24/7 due to language restrictions (though they are fewer than on broadcast television, they still exist). However, VERSUS exists in the more niche world of cable, where they superserve what they have instead of underserving everything to appear fair to what they’ve got. Also, HBO is the no-nonsense rogues of the cable world, they do whatever they hell they want.

But the NHL remains a niche product, and it’s offering itself to the right people. In VERSUS and the NBC Sports Group, they’ve got the right people to super-serve that niche and slowly grow it. With HBO (and the newly founded NHL Original Productions), they’ve got creative minds trying to expand the experience of hockey on television with looks that neither diehard fans nor casual onlookers have seen before. It’s the right combination of people who work hard inside the box, and people with enough vision to create something outside the box. It’s a good mix of networks to have right now.

Hockey has somewhat remained the most secretive and closed-off of the major sports. We have access to NFL locker rooms after games to see rousing speeches that coaches are giving their victorious players. We can get inside a baseball clubhouse or a basketball locker room and see what the dynamics of the sport are just from basic coverage given to it. But hockey remains still at somewhat of a distance, either from lack of desire to crack the code or lack of ability from other networks. Yet, we see the two programs debuting tonight, trying to break us, the fans, in there. We’ve got a hockey game airing with a guy between the two teams benches who gets to interview each coach during a period. We’re getting closer and closer.

There’s some other stuff I’d like to see, and I’ll get into it at another time, but that’s not the point. I’m always going to come up with silly ideas for new stuff to do with hockey because I’m self-centered and I think I’m a genius and that everyone should listen to my ideas. Ignore that. The point is, the National Hockey League is currently aligned with companies that are there to help you immerse yourself totally in hockey. It’s not helicoptering you to and from the rink in between SportsCenters. You get everything you need right now if you’re a hockey fan, and that is a very good place to be. Enjoy tonight, everyone.

5 Responses to Hockey on Television Hits an Intriguing High With 24/7, NHL 36 Premieres Tonight

  1. Stephen says:

    Great article you wrote and I agree on this.

    It’s getting the fans what they want as in they want the NHL to get enough attention. Can’t wait to see the show tonight of Patrick Kane’s on and off the ice along with the Blackhawks/Wild game as well.

    Even great, can’t wait to see Rangers-Flyers 24/7 with John Tortorella on audio as well.

    This is something that ESPN never does. By the way, three weeks from this past Monday, NBC Sports Network debut on the day of the NHL Winter Classic, January 2nd.

  2. Joe M says:

    Steve, I usually agree with you and enjoy your site. However I think hockey has elevated beyond a niche sports. A few examples. The NHL on NBC averaged 1.6 million viewers for regular season games compared to MLB on Fox which averaged 2.7 million viewers. A couple of differences is that MLB does three regional games vs one for the NHL. There are six markets compared to two markets. I would think if the NHL had two additional regional games it may add 200,000 homes and ghat would put the NHL at 2/3rd’s of the audience for baseball. Not exactly a niche audience although hockey trails the other major sports.

    • Joe M says:

      Sorry, I accidentally hit post comment. Another quick example is the Stanley cup finals generally average 5 to 6 million viewers on NBC and have had one game on each of the last three finals average over 8 million viewers. Many niche sports don’t reach that level. Versus ( NBC Sports Network)can is a niche channel at this point which makes it tough to generate rating for the regular season. Atleast the fans have tuned in for the playoffs. I guess as I think about it I do agree it has an element oforangniche sport but it is provably somewhere between a niche sport and mainstream.ol

  3. Sean says:

    So NHL 36 was decent. Bit slow and dry at times. But there were moments that had a feel of NFL films. Though there were a few slow mos that yielded nothing. They should just go with NFL films approach on games. Music seemed right fit for NHL films. B rating.

  4. Sean says:

    24/7. A+. Better 1stepisode than last year….still hav them on my DVr

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