Sunday, May 20, 2007

BETTMAN'S LATEST DEBACLE... BY DESIGN?

It's about T minus 10 seconds until someone calls conspiracy on NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NBC in the wake of the league's latest U.S. television travesty.

Who thinks this debacle where the NHL cut away from the Sabres-Senators overtime on Saturday for its Triple Crown horse racing coverage more than a hour before the race actually started might have been the residue of (unintelligent) design? Follow the U.S. TV money the NHL is chasing.

Is it a shock that during a playoff spring where there's been a running debate over changing post-season overtime to better suit the needs of American TV, that one of the NHL's TV partners would do this? It wasn't like there a major American TV market that took a hit here, since people can get the CBC in Buffalo, which is also something like the 49th-largest TV market in the States. (According to Mirtle's post, the NBC affiliate in Buffalo stayed with the game.)

It's hard to imagine the NHL bigwigs did not know NBC might do this, in light of the money the Peacock peebrains paid for the Preakness Stakes. Now the league can turn around and say, "Look, if we want our game to have a place on U.S. television, we need to ensure that we reduce the likelihood a game taking multiple overtimes." (One irony is that Daniel Alfredsson wrapped up the series for Ottawa after about 10 minutes of overtime -- with still more than hour of actual time to chew over a horse race that takes about two minutes.)

No one should put that past Bettman (pictured) and the NHL. After all, they spent lord knows how much energy trying to convince people nothing is worse than a tie game so they could add the shootout, which got old faster than the gags at a celebrity roast. It's not unbelievable that the suits would accept these terms from NBC -- that they could get bumped for a more high-dollar sports property -- and hatch a plan to turn it to their advantage.

In the here and now, it's T.S. for U.S.-based fans, such as an outraged reader of The Universal Cynic who said NBC didn't even shuffle the hockey coverage over to "CNBC, or one of their several other channels that are showing BowFlex ads." In the long run, it's easy to see the NHL using this as ammunition in their (wrongheaded) argument to mess with playoff overtime.

(UPDATE:: Chris Zelkovich notes the league has been strangely silent.)

Bonus irony:
  • Last night, with no hockey game to show since Buffalo-Ottawa was played in the afternoon by NBC's edict, CBC aired the Canada Russia '72 mini-series where Paul Henderson, Phil Esposito and the boys had to score to win the decisive Game 8 in Moscow. They had to score to win Game 8 outright since one of the earlier games had been a tie. That tie actually helped create the drama.)

Barry Melrose Rocks, Hockey's Ladies of Greatness and Deadspin have good posts on this NHL television debacle. Here's the the mainpage.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but are people still watching hockey? Until we get a franchise here in Chicago, I'll continue not caring.

Anonymous said...

They cut away an hour before the race started. plus the probability that the overtime goes longer than 10 minutes is pretty high

Anonymous said...

Bettman has killed the NHL... it's time for him to go!!

http://www.FireBettman.com

sager said...

You have a franchise in Chicago... the Chicago Wolves are still alive in the AHL playoffs for at least two more games.

J Money said...

Ugh, the ignorant comments about hockey not mattering from random people (such as this anon commenter) and supposed sports journalists alike is getting REALLY old. People DO care about hockey -- try going to a playoff game. Ah, what's the use... Bettman is doing his best to ruin the league anyway.

John from LV said...

Wait a second, hockey is still on television in America? I had thought it was exiled to Canada long ago.

sager said...

You clicked over here for one lousy joke?

Anonymous said...

I think they made a mistake when they didn't go with ESPN last year, I'm a casual fan, I couldn't find OLN last year, didn't know I had the channel. ESPN and ABC were committed to hockey. VERSE a network nobody watches or knows they have wasn't the way to bring the league back. Poor Judgement.

Anonymous said...

Yes, hockey should still be big in the usa, you got 85% of the teams for a multi billion dollar professional sports league. I'm pretty sure the usa can fill the seats in the playoffs in any city. But lets get back to topic, they switched the station for a horse race? that's low, real low, no class at all. No offense the the over aged horse racing junkies out there who wouldn't understand how to use a computer(so they won't be reading this) but CMON FINISH THE GAME! IT'S LIKE CUTTING OFF THE LAST 20 MINUTES OF A MOVIE WHEN THE STORY COMES TOGETHER.

Anonymous said...

How can people be more turned on by watching some nit wit demonstrate how jockeys wear multiple sets of goggles than enjoy an overtime period in playoff hockey?
If they aired more hockey, more people would learn to enjoy it. It's a fantastic game that doesn't need tinkering with.
How could Clement not make some wise crack as he told us viewers that we were going to cut away to some pre-race fluff? Shame on you Bill!

sager said...

Makes you wonder what a younger Dave Hodge might have done...

"That's NBC for you!" (flips pencil)

Anonymous said...

I think the entire league should just move to Canada where there is still a massive base of fans who care about the game and want to keep it from getting completely stupid. Or at least get rid of teams who already have 2 others in the same city or region. Move a team back to Winnipeg, or Hamilton, or Saskatoon, or even newfoundland or new brunswick for gods sake. Anywhere is better than expanding the team in the STATES, anyone else notice how New Jersey sold out for the first time of the season in Game 2 of the conference semifinals when a team like Toronto has sold out of every game for the past 5 years?!?!

Anonymous said...

Hey, not everyone in the states hates hockey, I'm from Minnesota and we love hockey here, The Minnesota Wild have sold out every game both pre-season, regular season, and playoffs. Not all states teams are useless, just the ones down south. I agree, teams in Canada would be much better where the spirit and heart of the game is. Minnesota is truely the only state that cares about hockey, we have 5 Division 1 college teams, numerous junior teams, the Wild and the XCEL center is sold out every year for the Highschool Hockey Tournament, thats 18,000 fans watching 14-18 year old kids play, now thats what the game is all about.

sager said...

No one needs any more reminder than N. Sager about all things Minnesota, be it their love of hockey, the Vikings' Super Bowl futility, or the fact it's Rachael Leigh Cook's home state.