05.17.09

Brooks : The NHL Playoffs Are A Secret Kept Too Well

Posted in Hockey, Sports TV at 11:27 am by

(attn hockey fans in Westchester, NY : apparently, the Bruins and Canes played a decisive game of some sort of another)

Calling Sidney Crosby’s Game 7 breakaway goal against Alexander Ovechkin’s Caps, “the NHL’s equivalent of Smokin’ Joe Frazier’s 15th-round knockdown of Muhammad Ali in the 1971 ‘Fight of the Century’ at MSG”, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks surmises “if you weren’t watching at the moment, you probably didn’t see it anywhere.” Not a heavy You Tube user, presumably, Brooks dubs the NHL’s contract with Versus through 2011 “a six-year commitment as crippling in its own way as the Rangers’ six-year commitment to Wade Redden.”

If the first two rounds of the playoffs have been a showcase for the NHL’s greatest young players — start with Crosby and Ovechkin, go directly to Evgeni Malkin, then to Eric Staal, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews — it also has exposed the folly of Gary Bettman’s love affair with Versus and the grudge he carries against ESPN.

It has exposed the NHL’s empty approach to a television strategy, even as Bettman risks dislocating his shoulders in patting himself on the back for his league’s innovative approach to blacking itself out.

The NHL Network is no help. Somehow, this network doesn’t seem to have the authority to pick up local feeds. When Bruins-Hurricanes Game 7 was being played in Boston, the NHL Network was showing a 300th rerun of a Patrik Elias feature.

That Game 7, by the way, could not be seen by Cablevision subscribers in Westchester (and parts of Connecticut) even by people with subscriptions to the NHL’s Center Ice package. Every channel on the system was dedicated to baseball. So an NHL Game 7 was played in the dark . . . until Versus, which did not go live to the game between periods of its Anaheim-Detroit Game 7 telecast, joined in progress.

6 Responses to “Brooks : The NHL Playoffs Are A Secret Kept Too Well”

  1. john says:

    Versus did not go to Boston live because that game had its period breaks at pretty much the same time as the Anaheim-Detroit game.

  2. Greg D. says:

    What’s even more pathetic about Versus is when you watch their games in HD they look like absoulte dogshit like a 6th Grade Television Production class could do a better job at HD Presentation the picture is all grainy and crap you’d think they just upconverted the SD Feed or something.

    In contrast when they showed the Bruins/Hurricanes 3rd Period from TSN after Red Wings/Ducks, The TSN HD Feed was 1,000X Better than Versus HD’ feed.

    How does Gary Bettman think this crap with Versus is good for the NHL?

    Is he high?

  3. Jason Cohen says:

    Can someone explain to me what TV deal Bettman was supposed to take instead? During the lockout ESPN was getting higher ratings with poker and Tuesday night Temple-St. Bonaventure games. NBC gave the league the same deal as Arena Football. And even if they were on ESPN the same people would be bitching about the same stuff (“how come the Bruins game isn’t on?” “How come the Wings game is on ESPN2 while the NBA game is on ESPN?” “How come Yankees highlights get more time on Sportscenter than hockey?” Has ESPN made MLS especially popular (to TV viewers?)

    Arguably hockey never would have gotten the ABC/ESPN exposure they did in the first place had Disney not owned one of their teams, and that’s also the real problem with the VS deal – I don’t know that Bettman has a grudge against ESPN but the very existence of VS is due to another NHL owner (Comcast) fantasizing about competing with ESPN (which also ties in to the NFL network litigation, because Comcast wanted those games for itself).

  4. GC says:

    it stands to reason poker and college hoops would have higher ratings than NHL games during the lockout. I don’t think anyone was watching NHL games that weren’t being played.

    The MLS comparison is interesting. The answer to your question is obviously “no”, though keep in mind at one point, the MLS package came to ESPN not because the network was particularly eager to air the fledgling league, but because MLS was presented as part of a package deal with U.S. Soccer’s qualifiers and friendlies.

    Brooks might well wonder why the NHL isn’t being cross-promoted on NBC. Surely there was a Sean Avery storyline that could’ve been shoehorned into “30 Rock” this past year.

  5. Jason Cohen says:

    You know what I meant. The replacement program ESPN chose outrated the hockey games they used to show.

    The other obvious comparison point is the NBA. ESPN/ABC paid handsomely for the ability to share coverage with TNT. That wouldn’t happen with the NHL and Versus, ESPN knows perfectly well they’d be doing hockey a favor. I seem to recall ESPN’s interest was initially more in the NBC side of the deal (i.e. they’d pay nothing) than Versus too.

  6. GC says:

    “The replacement program ESPN chose outrated the hockey games they used to show. ” True, but we’ll never know for sure how the post-lockout games would’ve done on ESPN. I’m gonna presume not as well as poker.

    some clarification. Prior to 2007, MLS was essentially paid programming on ESPN. Despite the fact the WWL is currently a paid rights holder, you’re not seeing a ton of MLS coverage on the channel (while they’ve been very aggressive at promoting the Champions League, despite losing the European club competition to Fox next autumn).

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