Just when you didn’t think it was possible, the coverage on Versus gets even worse than it was for the first round of the playoffs. I know it’s not completely Versus’ fault that the national TV coverage of the NHL playoffs is so horrible. However, they’re the “NHL channel” as Romantically Challenged referred to it during Monday night’s episode. They are the home of the NHL playoffs, yet Versus is a channel that many in the country (even those who have cable, DirecTV, Dish, AT&T U-verse, or Verizon Fios) don’t have. Those who do are most likely paying extra for it as I am. The NHL Network is the same way, but at least it would offer those of us who are willing to pay more for our hockey (and other sports) the ability to see complete games. As a Penguins fan, I was worried that the Red Wings (clearly more of a national TV favorite than the Penguins, though the Penguins are definitely one of the teams in the current six-team league of national TV coverage Jim Fox and Bob Miller were discussing during a late season Kings away game) game would start being shown a bit after 4:30 and the rest of the Penguins game would be skipped. What Versus chose to do wasn’t any better, though it was for Penguins fans not living in Pittsburgh and Habs fans living in the US. Versus didn’t even switch games during the Penguins intermission, as I’d assumed they would do when I noticed the times and that Versus was supposedly showing both games. They showed very brief updates of the Red Wings/Sharks game and then went back to rehashing the Pens/Habs game.
When the Penguins game ended, thankfully in regulation or we would have missed even more of the Sharks/Red Wings game, Versus took a while, but switched over to the game that started a half hour later. The Red Wings lost their third game in a row in the first overtime, so fans of the Red Wings and Sharks who don’t have Center Ice or live in the San Jose or Detroit areas barely saw their teams.
In addition to their horrible coverage, Versus continued to call the game they were supposed to show the nation “bonus coverage” as they did with the Blackhawks/Predators and other games they would join in progress. Showing small portions of a game they’re supposed to be covering is not “bonus coverage” by my definition. Bonus coverage has always meant extra coverage. Outtakes, behind the scenes coverage, a music video… these are all bonus items one could find on a Blu-ray disc or DVD. If a Blu-ray disc said it had bonus coverage and instead took out 2/3 of the movie you had bought and added nothing extra, you’d demand your money back. Why do we have to put up with Versus? Some of us have no choice. Bettman got us into this mess and doesn’t seem at all interested in getting us out of it. He likes having a network with only one channel that many in the country don’t get as the main NHL channel for the United States. Where most sports prefer the channel that comes standard for anyone who has more than just the converter box to watch the TV that comes over the airwaves, Bettman is happy with a channel most people have to pay to get in addition to their regular cable, satellite, or fiber optic TV bill. Maybe one of these days, he’ll realize that hockey fans would like to see all the games in the playoffs – especially when it gets to the second round and give us an option other than Versus. I’m still very unclear why it’s not possible for the NHL Network to air one game and Versus to air the other. If the channel is not capable of airing both games in one night, they should allow another network to offer it to the fans.