Monday, May 21, 2007

NHL/NBC - My Take

Punk'd Again

I stood there dumbfounded for around 3 minutes on Saturday after I realized NBC was switching to the Preakness pre-race show in lieu of friggin OT in potential deciding game of the Eastern Conference final. As an afterthought I flipped to Versus and caught the end of the game...the series...the Eastern Conference final. Yeah it wasn't a dramatic series end - no crescendo of action, just a wee Alfredsson wrister through a screen of meandering blue sweaters, but it's the principal that matters here - the principle of self-respect. I would argue the NHL brass has none.

Where's PETA when you need 'em?
Taken off the air for a horse race pre-game. Not the Kentucky Derby, not National Velvet or heart-wrenching Barbaro is dead re-sets - just the friggin' Preakness Stakes. A few months ago, Iditarod Gal took me to task in this forum for a tongue-in-cheek riff about the Versus broadcast lineup. She reminded me how cruel the Iditarod was for the puppies. Where are you now Iditarod Gal? Isn't it cruel and unusual punishment to force poor defenseless animals to dash at dangerously high speeds around an oval with a 8o lb human tormentor on their back? Horses should be free to run, eat, get eaten, crap and procreate at their leisure. Well shouldn't they? Where were the legions of PETA protestors on Saturday afternoon when I most needed them? Wouldn't a huge pile of hemp-clad slackers stacked en masse around turn one have been just the ticket? Then we could have gone right back to OT in Buffalo. But noooooooo!!!!

NHL is still Sweet, Sweet Connie doing her act...
Hockey is loved and respected by a legion of fans. I wish I could say that about NHL leadership. You all in the NHL head-shed F'd with our collective karma with the lockout. For the most part, you've got the faithful back, but I, and hopefully I really mean we, are disgusted with the way you continue to prostitute yourself in pursuit of the shallowest of relationships with major media. You may want to be somebody's Ho, but I don't. If Versus is where the sport is loved, so be it. At least Versus doesn't treat hockey like it's coyote ugly.

The villain here is not NBC, it's NHL HQ. How desperate for love and some semblance of a broadcast network presence are they that they'd cut this deal? For three-hours of broadcast time on a Saturday afternoon when everybody with a life is out doing something else (leaving me among those without a life, I guess), league brass took the risk of total public humiliation-and got it in spades.

The biggest obstacle to the expansion of hockey culture is not the difficulty of tracking pucks on TV or the age-old perception of the sport as a haven for wayward ruffians. It's a league leadership committed to erecting shallow facades. Ooooh, look, the cast of General Hospital loves hockey! I'll love hockey too! The league is like Moose, the fat guy in the Enterprise Rent-a-Car commercial who rents a nice car to take to his high school reunion. Nice car fat looser. People aren't stupid. They see thru to the underlying desperation. And desperation is never sexy.

What the league needs to do is invest long-term in the expansion of hockey culture. Not just financially, but thru the direct involvement of player-mentors and role models in the community and in the media. And they need to get more families into the building on game nights...and not make them sit up in pigeon heaven. One of the most fun nights I ever had at a hockey game was in the ATL during a pre-season tilt between the Thrash and the Preds. Right down in Row 5 sat a bunch of rotund African American ladies who hooted and hollered every time the puck or a body slammed into the glass in front of them. They had a great time. They left hockey fans. Going to a hockey game is a great time. Spread the word eh? Make it an accessible and affordable event whenever possible. Don't hold that box seat for Kid Rock. Give it to Joe Six-Pack, missus Pack and the Pack-lings.

And the NHL needs to treat we, the faithful, as partners whenever possible. Unfortunately for those of us who love our game, even high-paid ho's are rarely interested in long-term relationships.

What others are saying

Joe Ovies-850 the Blog
Eric McErlain-Off Wing Opinon
Greg Wyshynski - The Fanhouse

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