Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Entertainment and Sports Programming Network

It’s 1999, turn on the tube on a weeknight, ESPN or ESPN2 probably was airing a NHL game. 10 years later, the only hockey you see on ESPN is on the top ten segment, and maybe a few game recaps here and there. However, rewind 5 years from the current year, it was almost as if hockey was forgotten outside the hockey bubble. The bad, not the good was what was made public on ESPN. The Bertuzzi incident created a bad public image for the game, and no one has forgotten that. It is much easier to find ESPN clips of that incident on YouTube, rather than any coverage of anything positive.

I've tried really hard to dig up any ratings/numbers from ESPN and Versus, but not much luck. That really isn't even the point of this blog, but more so to talk about the need for the NHL and ESPN to once again have a positive partnership. The funny thing about hockey is a lot of the NHL depends on the people who aren't fans. We need to reach out to sports fans and the casual hockey fans. You cannot tell me you know about Versus unless you are into the outdoors, cycling, or hockey. And that is where the main issue is boiling.

People say that if hockey was on ESPN that only a select few would actually watch it. That if it switched from Versus to ESPN, numbers might go up slightly, but nothing drastic. That's what HOCKEY needs! How could you even complain about more people watching hockey. Versus doesn't have 1/4 of the reputation that ESPN has. Put hockey on ESPN, people will watch. Just like they did a decade ago. I did manage to find ratings from tvbythenumbers.com. If you go to that link you can see that numbers declined after hockey left ESPN. Sure the match-up has a lot to do with it. But when ESPN aired hockey, people knew about it. They promoted it regularly. NBC didn't air nearly any promotion for the Winter Classic this year until the weeks before hand. Sure NESN and Comcast did, but that doesn't help outside their respective markets.

Speaking of match-ups, in 1996 the Colorado Avalanche squared off against the Florida Panthers. Did anyone actually care about this? Maybe some people were pulling for the Avalanche's lineup, but Florida? Really? No, not even the fans down there probably. But it's the championship! That's that. I rank basketball at the bottom of my list for sports to watch, but when the championship is in session, it's on my TV. Something about championships draws people to them regardless of the sport. That is unless no one knows about it. And like I've been saying, as hockey fans we know about the games, dates, and times because we watch and follow hockey religiously.

It's hard to not believe that ratings never dipped below a 3.3 for the Stanley Cup Finals becuase hockey was strong at ESPN and people knew. Sure the 2003 and 2004 finals were weak, but hockey was slowly but surely fading at ESPN and the lockout was looming. But still, a 1.8 rating in 2006, followed by a 1.2 in 2007 is just plain sad. You have to wonder if even the hockey fans showed up those years. 2008 went up to 2.6, but the match-up was more interesting and those numbers are still nothing to get excited about. Puck Daddy over at Yahoo! sports wrote a blog last spring regarding the 2009 playoffs ratings. Things seemed to be fairing well last year, and if the season was to end today, we would have some quality teams and players competing for the cup. ESPN even had a hockey video game! Once Upon A Time

So please Gary Bettman, do yourself, the hockey world, and the sporting world a favor and return hockey to the mainstream. With hockey at an all-time high within the hockey bubble, it's time to move on and capture another fan base as well.

In other news :

-Former St. Louis Blues enforcer Mike Danton has been paroled from his 5-year prison sentence for his murder-for-hire plot to kill his former agent David Frost. Currently he is getting ready to enroll at Saint Mary's University in Halifax with intentions of playing for their hockey squad. All I can say is keep this scum out of the NHL. But, good to know felons can still suit up somewhere. Good to see he always took on the toughest of customers in his old days too:

- I'm not even going to touch on the Alexander Burrows situation. Buotte may do that later, but I could care less about Burrows and this over-publicized situation.

- Next week Buotte and I will be attending the AHL All-Star Classic held in Portland, ME. We should have some good stories to tell afterwards. Hopefully we get a glimpse at some of the future of the NHL in Tyler Ennis (BUF), Logan Couture (SJ), Jonathan Bernier (LA), Lars Eller (STL), and many more. With all the injuries in the NHL, there could be some top prospects yet to make NHL debuts that are knocking at the door.

- I'm sure Buotte will chime in with more on the Kovalchuk situation once again. The Thrashers square off against the Sens tonight. Is Kovy playing some of his last games as a Thrasher, or just the start of many more? What do the Atlanta fans actually want?

That's all for right now. Look out for Buotte's post later today. I may post some final thoughts late tonight. Have a great day!


  1. I always thought that FOX was a more "sports friendly" channel than NBC for finals games. ESPN is partner of ABC?

  2. I completely disagree with 90% of this post.

    First of all, ESPN killed hockey long before the lockout ever did. From 2001 on, all ESPN talked about when it came to hockey is how no one was watching. When they start talking about ratings more than matchups as early as the 2002 playoffs, you know you're not in for good coverage. In fact, during the 2004 ECF, Tony Kornheiser went on PTI and practically begged people not to watch if the Lightning won the series. When the Lightning won the Cup, they threw the team under the bus, saying that no one cared, and spent the offseason and the first few months of the lockout taking the uphoria away. Not what sports journalists are supposed to do.

    As for Verses, once their parent company Comcast buys NBC later this year, they'll use the network as a trump card to force the last few cable companies to put VS on their regular packages along with Comcast Sports Net as a regular challenger to ESPN. When even Tom Brady criticizes ESPN over their coverage, you know sports fans are jumping off the Disney bandwagon. Add to the fact that VS will be joining the NFL bidding war once that comes around (assuming the 2011 lockout doesn't ruin it), then more people will be watching hockey.

    Mike Danton's target wasn't his agent David Frost. It was his father...or it was Frost. Either way, both had it coming. Frost molested half of his players over a 20 year period, and could very well be doing the same thing with his junior team in Spain. His father was messed up too.

  3. Very interesting post ANON. Well first off, I don;t believe that people will simply listen to what a broadcaster says on the air to heart, especially actually carrying out what they say. The job of broadcasters is to state the facts and their opinions. People watch it for entertainement and information. Having Tony Kornheiser tell people not to watch the game doesn't explain the bad ratings, I am sorry. But that is just garbage.

    Danton's target was his agent, so yeah.

    "Versus" will not be carrying hockey games once hockey is back on ESPN, and that is inevitable, its going to happen.

  4. The last time I remember the Stanley Cup being a big deal like the Super Bowl was the 2001 Finals of CO Avalanche vs. NJ Devils. Granted I do live in New England and anyone that was a Bruins fan was rooting for the Avalanche because of the great #77 Ray Bourque but I recall in 2007 I was sitting in a bar in St. Paul, MN and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks were squaring off against the Ottawa Senators and I heard about 4 people ask for the channel to be changed to the Twins game.

    BUT I must say I do love Barry Melrose and him and the Panger were the main reason why I would watch ESPN because they were/are great commentators and analysts in my book


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