Sunday, December 2, 2012

Something to fill the time

While I try to gather the words to express my feelings about the NHL lockout (and I've tried multiple times since the 82 game season was no more to do it in more than 140 characters on twitter), I offer this alternative to fill the void in NHL programming.

This is directed at both NHL Network US and NBC SportsNet.

I can't say what's been televised in every US NHL market. I live in northern New Jersey and see what's on in the NYC market. NHL Network US has televised some Stanley Cup clinchers, some classic recent playoff games, some Stanley Cup films, and last season's playoffs. NHL Network has also televised some of the Canadian Junior Hockey leagues (OHL, WHA...I think they're the junior level). MSG Network has televised some of last season's MSG-produced Rangers, Devils, and Islanders broadcasts, and is starting a new series that focuses on the Rangers' rivalry with both of their in-market competitors. I think the Rangers lose some of those games. Don't get me started on the Devils and Islanders playing on a TV network owned by an in-market league rival. MSG has also had Rangers broadcasters calling KHL games off monitors and even the College Hockey game at MSG last weekend. NBC SportsNet has added some College Basketball to their schedule (something they should be doing anyway) and some more College Hockey (or at least, bringing their top NHL broadcasters into the college game).

There seem to be 2 things missing from that. One is the AHL. I've made the trip up to Albany, and I plan to do it again, to see the Albany Devils in AHL action. I remember MSG televising some games during the last lockout just to give us a taste of live televised hockey (maybe the KHL is a cheaper alternative to that). Nobody has picked up any AHL games yet this year. I'm not even sure how much of a local TV contract they have in different markets. There is a lot of AHL in the Northeastern U.S., but it's not really national like the NHL tries to be.

So what's left? One of my favorite hockey competitions to watch. International Hockey. I know NHL Network will have coverage of the World Junior Championships later this month and into January like they do every year. And I'm sure NBC SportsNet will give some attention to the annual International championships in Europe like they do every spring (and without the NHL, it might be a better competition, since it usually involves NHL players not in the Stanley Cup Playoffs).

But what about showing classic International Hockey games. Surely NHL Network or NBC can acquire the rights (or films/tapes) to the 1972 and 1974 Summit Series, the 5 Canada Cup tournaments (1976, 1981, 1984, 1987, 1991), the 2 World Cup of Hockey tournaments (1996, 2004). Or even the Olympics tournaments with NHL players (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010; the latter 3 of which NBC televised, so I'm sure there isn't much to do). I don't care about the results. Those games are something different, some are part of the sport's history, and some are just classics, regardless of who won.

Give us something different to keep our interest in top-level hockey while we wait for the NHL to return.

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