Thursday, September 21, 2006

What's wrong with you, NHL?

Alexander Ovechkin is going into just his second year in the NHL, but he's already one of the league's best players, perhaps its most exciting, and probably one of its most well known in the U.S. (For a league where the vast majority of America would have trouble naming even one player, I would have to think Ovechkin--after maybe Jagr and...that may be about it now that Lemieux retired again--is, after his goal on the back last year, as well known as anybody.) So one would think that even though the Capitals are likely to be near the bottom of the standings again this year--Ollie Kolzig was talking playoffs in the paper this morning, but I'm not buying that yet--the NHL would want the U.S. to see the league's most exciting young star as much as possible on television. You'd be wrong.

A quick check of the TV schedule this year for the NHL reveals that on the nine weekend afternoons that NBC will be telecasting hockey this winter, the Capitals will be shown once. And that's not once out of nine games either. Each week, NBC has three regional telecasts, which means that out of a possible 27 games on NBC, the most exciting player in the league will be featured ONE TIME. I thought the NHL wanted to attract new fans. Somehow, I would think getting viewers to watch Ovechkin more than once during the year might be a better strategy to do that than hoping they get excited by a mid-February Lightning-Devils tilt. Am I crazy? The Blue Jackets actually appear on NBC two more times than the Caps. I would bet that more Americans know who Alexander Ovechkin is than could tell you where the Blue Jackets play. (By the way, it's Columbus.)

The NHL's other national broadcast network is called Versus, which you've probably never heard of (it just recently changed its name from OLN, but I can't imagine this being that big of a deal, since judging from the NHL's ratings, no one had heard of the network under its old name either). Versus will broadcast 54 games, and Ovechkin and the Capitals will be appearing twice on that network. Good job, guys.

Now every Caps game is going to be televised by local Washington area broadcast or cable stations this year, so it's not like I'm complaining that I won't be able to see Ovechkin play. But I just find this odd and counterproductive for a league desperate for attention. Strangely enough, the Penguins aren't getting this treatment, even though they're pretty much in the same boat as the Capitals. They have a young, exciting star (Sidney Crosby, who is good but did not make nearly the impact on the public consciousness that Ovechkin did last season), but they were also really bad last year--actually worse in the standings than the Capitals were. And yet they're appearing three times on NBC and seven times on Versus. That's smart--Crosby is the future of the league, just like Ovechkin. But why isn't Ovechkin getting the same treatment? I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though--any league that is dumb enough to take a whole season off certainly isn't going to be smart enough to put together a TV schedule that makes sense, is it?

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

crosby can also do that thing --what's is called-- oh yeah, speak english.

no doubt hiding ovechkin from national broadcasts is idiotic, but showcasing crosby, the other future star, isn't a sin.

9/27/06, 1:36 PM  
Anonymous Ted said...

It's obvious that you aren't much of a hockey fan either by bringing the Penguins into the debate. Not only do they have Sidney Crosby, but they are also bringing on Evgeni Malkin, a 20 year old Russian phenom who went right after Ovechkin in the '04 draft, and who some have claimed is better than Ovechkin. So before you bring Pittsburgh into the debate, do a little bit of research.

9/27/06, 1:54 PM  
Blogger Mel Ott said...

Ovechkin?

Is he the guy who scored the amazing goal last season?

I saw it over and over on YouTube and thought to myself, "that was great - I'd watch more NHL games if I knew when this guy was on."

Too bad you're not the commissioner - NHL would have gained a fan in me.

9/27/06, 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry, Phoenix was hated on by NBC too, ditto for last season...you would think they would show a couple games with the ONE name EVERYONE knows, Gretzky.

9/27/06, 2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you entirely although I question some of your examples. The Blue Jackets certainly shouldn't be on more than Washington. Calling out the Tampa-NJ game isn't a good idea. Granted NJ play very defensively (Tampa-Atlanta -- or Tampa-Washington to kill two birds -- would be a more exciting) but Tampa's offensive core is one of the most exciting in the league. In their Cup year, St. Louis, Lecavalier, and Richards formed the backbone of one of the most fun teams to watch. Last year they regressed but the core is still there. NBC has always made their game choice decisions by market. So the Rangers, Devils, Flyers and so forth are on A LOT. Meanwhile the NHL gets zero ratings. It's the definition of madness to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. So I agree Washington should be on more ... however teams like Tampa should be on a lot more too.

9/27/06, 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you entirely although I question some of your examples. The Blue Jackets certainly shouldn't be on more than Washington. Calling out the Tampa-NJ game isn't a good idea. Granted NJ play very defensively (Tampa-Atlanta -- or Tampa-Washington to kill two birds -- would be a more exciting) but Tampa's offensive core is one of the most exciting in the league. In their Cup year, St. Louis, Lecavalier, and Richards formed the backbone of one of the most fun teams to watch. Last year they regressed but the core is still there. NBC has always made their game choice decisions by market. So the Rangers, Devils, Flyers and so forth are on A LOT. Meanwhile the NHL gets zero ratings. It's the definition of madness to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. So I agree Washington should be on more ... however teams like Tampa should be on a lot more too.

9/27/06, 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, watching Gretz call out those line changes really gets the heart pumping...

9/27/06, 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree completely!! The NHL knew what they had in Ovechkin when they made the deal as to which games to broadcast on NBC/Vs. Anyone (with the exception of the first anonymous writer who commented on his english speaking skills) who has scene Ovechkin give an interview see's the personality of this kid and why he is loved by his fans in Washington in addition to the fans he continues to gain both in Canada and the US. As well, to comment on what Ted said... When Malkin proves that he can excel in the NHL arena AND shows that he has even a quarter of the personality of Ovechkin, then lets bring him into this discussion! Of course, I would expect nothing less from a Penguins fan (I don't believe the writer meant it as a personal attack against Crosby/Malkin/Penguins- but you took it as one- ignorant!)

9/27/06, 4:45 PM  
Anonymous El Mariachi said...

The NHL has never given the Capitals any respect. That became clear to me years ago when they realigned the Caps away from all their natural and geographic rivals and exiled them into the Sun Belt Conference. I suspect the head office has yet to get over Abe Pollin's longtime "reign of error." Of course, the new guy hasn't exactly proved himself yet, either.

9/27/06, 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the first poster.

OV can speak english just fine, and hes a way better interview than crosboy.

Any OV is also the Calder winner, but I guess that doesnt count much for a league that had pretty much handed it to boy wonder before the season even started.

9/27/06, 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sid Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and a MUCH more diehard fanbase than the Caps makes the Penguins a better choice than Washington to be on TV.

But I agree that showcasing Ovechkin would be nice.

OR how about putting Pittsburgh vs. Washington on TV to showcase the best young talent the league has to offer. That'd be a good idea.

9/27/06, 6:16 PM  
Anonymous john said...

Odd, Ted, that you crticize the writer for not going more in depth re: the Penguins. It was clearly not remotely the point of this article.

10/1/06, 6:11 PM  

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