NHL Playoffs Coverage Takes Back Seat To Kentucky Derby

Exactly How Far Has The NHL Fallen? What Does It Take To Be Able To Watch A Whole Series Anymore?

4/30/09 in NHL   |   Pat   |   5229 respect

The Penguins and Capitals play in an upcoming series that is the NHL equivalent of the Lakers and Cavaliers. Or at the very least, the Cavaliers and the Magic. It's not the NBA Finals, or even the Stanley Cup Finals, but two of the games best and most popular players squaring off in a huge series to determine who gets to play in the Eastern Conference finals. Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs is the NHL's dream matchup.

The first game is on Saturday, and will be shown on NBC. This is great for the NHL, since very few of their games, even in the playoffs, have been making it to network television. So this is a great thing, right? Well... kinda.

Just like it was almost impossible for anyone outside of New Jersey or the Carolinas to see the epic Devils-Hurricanes game 7, the NHL has been relegated to the back burner of TV coverage. If, by chance, Saturday's game is such a thrilling matchup that it goes to 2OT, it will be moved to Versus, in favor of the Kentucky Derby.

Far be it from me to criticize the Kentucky Derby, but are we serious? I know the chances of the game going into 2OT are extremely slim. But if it's really that great of a game, do we really want to shuffle it to the side in favor of horse racing? We're talking about a competition (not even a sport) that people pay attention to 3 times a year, and most of them can't even honestly tell you why they care at all about the Kentucky Derby.

Is this what the NHL has become? It's sad that this once-proud league is now taking a backseat to around 60 seconds of unknown horses running down a track.


NBC gives Crosby, Ovechkin four periods, but no more [Watchdog]
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5/1/09   |   MCnine   |   7 respect

I think hockey is doing just fine. I enjoy the coverage they provide when the Caps aren't on our local provider. I worried about VS. and hockey in the future, because there is a strong chance that the NFL network may be partnering with them soon like they tried to do with espn last year.

5/1/09   |   ML31   |   3671 respect

nyrangers wrote:
ESPN made POKER popular. That's not even a sport. I'm pretty sure ESPN can make anything popular, at least to the mindless masses that follow it blindly.

You don't even nesesarily have to show games, just more coverage on SportsCenter and actually have a discussion about a topic on some of the talk shows (PTI, Around the Horn, First Take, etc)

Well think about it.  ESPN dumped the NHL.  Why should they spend more time on it on those shows than just the token mention?  Hell, they barely mentioned it when they were showing games!

5/1/09   |   nyrangers   |   192 respect

ML31 wrote:
The reason is because not enough people watch hockey.  No one is going to put hockey on if they can't sell the games.  They can't sell the games because the ratings just aren't good enough for advertisers.

The only reason hockey has SOME games on NBC is because the NHL buys the time from them.  Well, not entirely.  The NHL and NBC have entered into a partnership.  NBC allows some games on their air but the NHL sells the time and does the bulk of the work.  IF any money is made, it is split with NBC and the NHL. 

I love hockey and wish this weren't true.  But I don't live in a fantasy world.  Putting the games back on ESPN would not make hockey more popular.  Period.  Not enough casual sports fans watch it.  As I said above, too many casual sports fans (that is people who watch things other than hockey) think the NHL is a joke.  The fights have helped create this perception.  The NHL is at a semi crossroads.  Do they want to continue to be a cult sport in the USA, or do they want to try and grow the game and actually become relevant on the sports map?  What TV network they are on plays no part in that decision, btw.  If people want to watch hockey, they will find VS.  Just like people who want to watch basketball seem to find TBS.  Or TNT, or whoever it is that has basketball.  I never watch those channels, but if they had on something I wanted to see, I would find them.

ESPN made POKER popular. That's not even a sport. I'm pretty sure ESPN can make anything popular, at least to the mindless masses that follow it blindly.

You don't even nesesarily have to show games, just more coverage on SportsCenter and actually have a discussion about a topic on some of the talk shows (PTI, Around the Horn, First Take, etc)

4/30/09   |   ML31   |   3671 respect

evreitor wrote:
I actually think that Versus is doing much better job positioning themselves against ESPN.  Lately, ESPN shows so much crap, that I just don't understand if it's a sports channel any longer:  cheerleaders, billiard, poker...  I don't remember the last time I watched a meaningful game there, besides UEFA Champions League.  The only thing still going for them is SportsCenter (where hockey is mentioned maybe once a week), but even that can be easily taken away from them.  My last straw with them was the college football obsession during the fall, when you couldn't even get a decent baseball playoff coverage from any of their channels.  I really hope that Versus will give them a good run for their money.

VS is using hockey like ESPN used hockey.  Both were start up networks looking for a commodity to make them "legitimate".  If VS does get to the point where they are a true threat to ESPN, they won't need hockey anymore and probably dump the sport as ESPN did.

4/30/09   |   ML31   |   3671 respect

rtripper06 wrote:

The NHL playoffs is hockey at it's best.  I've gotten the hockey package for a few years now, and I could watch the games all night.  The hitting action is incredible.  The league has to do a better job of marketing it's product in the States. 

They need to find a way to change their perception.  Jokes like "I was at a fight and a hockey game broke out" don't help.  But that is the way most non-hockey people see the sport.  That must change somehow.

4/30/09   |   ML31   |   3671 respect

nyrangers wrote:
I don't know why any other national network doesn't show any NHL games. NBC only airs games on the weekends, and that usually means only Sunday afternoons. How about a weeknight game on FOX or something, instead of that VERSUS crap that most people don't get or even know about

The reason is because not enough people watch hockey.  No one is going to put hockey on if they can't sell the games.  They can't sell the games because the ratings just aren't good enough for advertisers.

The only reason hockey has SOME games on NBC is because the NHL buys the time from them.  Well, not entirely.  The NHL and NBC have entered into a partnership.  NBC allows some games on their air but the NHL sells the time and does the bulk of the work.  IF any money is made, it is split with NBC and the NHL. 

I love hockey and wish this weren't true.  But I don't live in a fantasy world.  Putting the games back on ESPN would not make hockey more popular.  Period.  Not enough casual sports fans watch it.  As I said above, too many casual sports fans (that is people who watch things other than hockey) think the NHL is a joke.  The fights have helped create this perception.  The NHL is at a semi crossroads.  Do they want to continue to be a cult sport in the USA, or do they want to try and grow the game and actually become relevant on the sports map?  What TV network they are on plays no part in that decision, btw.  If people want to watch hockey, they will find VS.  Just like people who want to watch basketball seem to find TBS.  Or TNT, or whoever it is that has basketball.  I never watch those channels, but if they had on something I wanted to see, I would find them.

4/30/09   |   ML31   |   3671 respect

dumpsterdave6 wrote:
I'd say its number 6 in popularity behind NASCAR and Golf unfortunately.  You have to put more games on TV for it to be popular. People are interested in Rodeo and Poker because its on TV all the time and you get familiar with the players/contestants.  The NHL only has itself and Gary Bettman to blame for its lack of popularity.  This is not to say its a great game with great athletes, because it is.

I disagree.  Poker was on nearly every night for a while.  But you know what?  I was never interested so I never watched it.  I sort of think the poker on TV thing was really a flavor of the week.  While it is still shown, it is not getting nearly the numbers it used to.  ESPN showed a lot of hockey too.  For years.  I didn't help their ratings one bit.  Sadly, as great as you or I think hockey is, the truth of the matter is that unless the general sports viewing public (in the USA) perceive it as a joke, or as 'boxing on ice', it will NEVER garner even decent ratings.  It will always be a niche sport.

4/30/09   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

Hockey is alive and well, it's just the four-letter network ignores them. Turn on TSN sometime....hockey. Period.

4/30/09   |   nyrangers   |   192 respect

evreitor wrote:
I actually think that Versus is doing much better job positioning themselves against ESPN.  Lately, ESPN shows so much crap, that I just don't understand if it's a sports channel any longer:  cheerleaders, billiard, poker...  I don't remember the last time I watched a meaningful game there, besides UEFA Champions League.  The only thing still going for them is SportsCenter (where hockey is mentioned maybe once a week), but even that can be easily taken away from them.  My last straw with them was the college football obsession during the fall, when you couldn't even get a decent baseball playoff coverage from any of their channels.  I really hope that Versus will give them a good run for their money.

I agree with you in the sense that ESPN shows a lot of useless crap and repeats stories over and over. However, they know that the majority of sports fans will continue to tune into their channel, and therefore the viewers will absorb whatever is on, and that topic becomes more popular. ESPN is just a very strong media force that, in a way, tells it's viewers what to think and what to care about. And therein lies the problem of the lack of hockey popularity

4/30/09   |   evreitor

nyrangers wrote:
I don't know why any other national network doesn't show any NHL games. NBC only airs games on the weekends, and that usually means only Sunday afternoons. How about a weeknight game on FOX or something, instead of that VERSUS crap that most people don't get or even know about

I actually think that Versus is doing much better job positioning themselves against ESPN.  Lately, ESPN shows so much crap, that I just don't understand if it's a sports channel any longer:  cheerleaders, billiard, poker...  I don't remember the last time I watched a meaningful game there, besides UEFA Champions League.  The only thing still going for them is SportsCenter (where hockey is mentioned maybe once a week), but even that can be easily taken away from them.  My last straw with them was the college football obsession during the fall, when you couldn't even get a decent baseball playoff coverage from any of their channels.  I really hope that Versus will give them a good run for their money.

4/30/09   |   rtripper06   |   1 respect

The NHL playoffs is hockey at it's best.  I've gotten the hockey package for a few years now, and I could watch the games all night.  The hitting action is incredible.  The league has to do a better job of marketing it's product in the States. 

4/30/09   |   Wolfie75   |   68 respect

I dont care what anyone says I love hockey play offs

4/30/09   |   Seachickenhawk

nyrangers wrote:
I don't know why any other national network doesn't show any NHL games. NBC only airs games on the weekends, and that usually means only Sunday afternoons. How about a weeknight game on FOX or something, instead of that VERSUS crap that most people don't get or even know about

Here's your answer...MONEY MONEY MONEY.  The NHL has always struggled to truly find a TV audience...even when it was on "The Deuce."  The league is starting to show a little improvement in its TV numbers, but it's got a long way to go before the top networks would even think about putting the NHL on their airwaves.

It's really too bad...I miss being able to watch entire hockey games nearly every day of the week without having to pay over $200 for the Hockey Package.

4/30/09   |   dumpsterdave6   |   1 respect

I'd say its number 6 in popularity behind NASCAR and Golf unfortunately.  You have to put more games on TV for it to be popular. People are interested in Rodeo and Poker because its on TV all the time and you get familiar with the players/contestants.  The NHL only has itself and Gary Bettman to blame for its lack of popularity.  This is not to say its a great game with great athletes, because it is.

4/30/09   |   nyrangers   |   192 respect

I don't know why any other national network doesn't show any NHL games. NBC only airs games on the weekends, and that usually means only Sunday afternoons. How about a weeknight game on FOX or something, instead of that VERSUS crap that most people don't get or even know about

4/30/09   |   cpkennedy8   |   1 respect

It still is a proud league, if you live in Canada!  The fact that NBC will cut to the Derby is there deciession, not the NHL's.  My issue with the NHL is hockey in the afternoon, it SUCKS.  Put the game on at 7 or 8 when it should be played.  Players are use to night games, and they are thrown off by these mid day games.