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.
Tags: Bob Miller, bonus coverage, Canadiens, DirecTV, Dish, Fios, Gary Bettman, Hockey, Jim Fox, NHL, NHL Network, Penguins, playoffs, Red Wings, Sharks, U-verse
I almost never predict that one team will sweep another team in the playoffs. I suppose I should stick to that from now on if they’re all going to work out the way the Penguins/Senators series did for the first game. The Senators clearly aren’t getting swept by the Penguins. I still think the Pens will bounce back and win the series, but they’re obviously not going to do it in 4 games. If they look the way they did in game one, the Penguins could get swept. They had their moments, but the game wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.
I know NBC couldn’t possibly give up Minute to Win It (which I’d never heard of before I decided to see what was on tonight), Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit (a show I’ve actually seen), & “To Be Announced” (that’s still what my DVR has listed for tonight, though it looks like a second episode of Law & Order: Special Victim’s Unit or another Law & Order). However, having all the NHL playoff games on only one channel (Versus, of course) in this round is very frustrating for someone who can’t get NHL Center Ice any more. The trade-off (not having to deal with the horrible Cox Cable any more) was well worth it, but I couldn’t watch tonight’s Flyers/Devils game and that was very disappointing for someone who missed fewer than 2 full games the last two playoff years. Four playoff games in a day and only three on TV in the United States is disappointing, but it could be worse. Last year, only two of the first four games were on Versus in the US. All of the games are, of course, televised in Canada and if it were the Los Angeles games that were being skipped by National TV, I’d be fine. Sadly, I won’t get to see ANY of the Devils/Flyers series (I can’t count the in-game updates and NHL on the Fly as watching the game). I really can’t imagine how the network deemed that series completely unworthy of national television. Of course, I guess it’s almost worse to say that the entire Penguins/Senators series is worth except for game 7 if it happens. I still don’t think that series will go to 7 games, but what if it does? If that series goes to 7 games and the only game of the series not televised nationally in the United States is the most important game of the series, Gary Bettman and Versus should be completely ashamed of themselves. Just as much as when NBC and Bettman chose horse racing pre-show coverage over the overtime ending of a playoff hockey game.
I thought it was great to see Muhammad Ali in Phoenix for the Coyotes/Red Wings game. Perhaps he can take some of the credit for the Coyotes being the only home team to win game 1 in the first day of the 2010 NHL playoffs. Then again, perhaps it’s the Coyotes’ reaction to a completely full building. I’ve never seen the Glendale Arena so full. In talking to the players when they were here for one of the Kings’ last games, I found out that their building has been a lot more full recently and that they’ve enjoyed seeing so the building get more crowded as they continued to do well. I’m sure it’ll stay that way through the playoffs. Hopefully, the attendance burst will carry over to the 2010-11 season for the Coyotes, too. The Glendale Arena isn’t that far from downtown Phoenix. Hopefully, those living in Phoenix will figure that out during the playoffs and keep going back. The Glendale Arena is beautiful. It’d be nice to see it full more often.
Due to the way the games were scheduled on Versus, I saw under 8 minutes of the Sharks/Avalanche game. It seemed like that game was going to go into overtime. I was thinking how fortunate it was for the NHL and Versus that the last game of the day would be the only game to go into overtime. No sooner had I thought that than I got to the Avalanche goal with just 49.3 seconds left in regulation. Stewart banked it off of Rob Blake’s skate and won the game for the Avalanche. Oddly enough, this was the only series that started out the way I would have guessed. It’s definitely going to be an interesting playoff season!
Tags: Avalanche, Center Ice, Chris Stewart, Coyotes, Devils, Flyers, Gary Bettman, Glendale Arena, Hockey, Kings, Muhammad Ali, NBC, NHL, Penguins, playoffs, Red Wings, Rob Blake, Senators, Sharks, sweep, Versus
The Los Angeles Kings have two of the top 10 scorers in the NHL this season. Anze Kopitar is 1st with 26 points (13-13) and Ryan Smith is 7th with 20 points (8-12). Like every team, the Kings have had some moments where they haven’t looked that great, but this season they’ve managed to come back from those more times than not and win the game. When the Kings were on the east coast, they had their only losing streak longer than 2 games and their only set of consecutive games without points this season. A lot of people don’t watch late night games the next day or stay up late regularly, so they miss the rest of the Kings games.
Beating the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins might help the Kings. However, I have a feeling a lot of people will talk more about the fact that some of the Penguins’ key players (Malkin, Gonchar, Kennedy, Talbot) were missing from the Stanley Cup Champion team than they do about the fact that the Kings beat the Penguins. Of course, what those people will be missing is that the Penguins have been beating teams without some of those players. Until Colorado played last night, the Penguins were in first place in the NHL. Though the standings don’t matter much this early in the season, since they change so much between the first month and the end of the season, the Penguins had won80% of their games this season before playing the Kings. That’s an amazing percentage and the Kings beat them.
The Kings of the 08-09 season would not have won the game against the Penguins. Pittsburgh scored the only goal in the 2nd period of the game, though the Kings had outshot them 13-7. Last year’s team would have gone into the locker room dejected and come out ready to go home. The Penguins would have scored a few extra goals that no one would have been able to blame on Jon Quick. Instead, the Kings came out in the third period determined to win. They were not going to fold and let the Penguins walk away with a win (easy or otherwise). They showed their fans what they’re made of and extended their streak of games where they get at least one point to 8 (they’re 6-0-2 in their last 8 games).
They put on a good show for people like my dad who were excited to see the #1 scorer in the NHL for the only time they can this season. My dad has DirecTV, so he won’t get the Kings game on Versus Monday and he doesn’t have Center Ice. The only time he could see the Kings play this season was when his team (the Penguins) played them. This is why every team should play the rest of the teams in the league at least twice (once at home, once away). At least then everyone following any team in the NHL would be able to see Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Anze Kopitar, and all the other great NHL players at least once a year in person (if they’re not injured – we only saw Malkin in a suit this time, though the injured players were traveling with the team).
If the Kings keep on playing well on their road trip, they’ll start to get recognized as a good team that’s not just getting lucky. I guess we’ll see. The Kings begin a five game road trip in Chicago on Monday with their only nationally televised game of the season. Unfortunately, their only nationally televised game of the season is airing on Versus, so those with DirecTV who can’t find a bar willing to play a Blackhawks/Kings game when Monday Night Football is airing will not be able to see the Kings unless they’re playing their home team or have paid for NHL Center Ice. This is true of a lot of teams in the NHL. Though Bettman says he’s trying to expand interest in the NHL across the country, he doesn’t work to show different teams in national coverage. If you always show the teams with a huge fan base already (original 6 teams and other popular northeast teams), how will you improve your fan base? I understand that Sidney Crosby is the face of the NHL and I don’t argue that point. However, there are a lot of talented players out there and they’re not all on the teams in the northeast. Maybe someday the NHL will figure out a way to actually market the team, rather than just talking about it.
Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Anze Kopitar, Blackhawks, DirecTV, Evgeni Malkin, Gary Bettman, Hockey, Kings, marketing, Maxime Talbot, national TV, NHL, Penguins, Ryan Smyth, Sergei Gonchar, Sidney Crosby, Stanley Cup, Tyler Kennedy, Versus
When the NFL kicked off their season on Thursday, September 10th, there was one game that night. The Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Tennessee Titans at home. That game was the only game on opening day. It was nationally televised and well advertised. They showed the ceremony with the fireworks and the Steelers started off their season with the NFL world watching them celebrate their championship a bit before the game started.
As the MLB kicked off their season on Sunday, April 5th, the only regular season game that day was played by the World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies as they faced the Atlanta Braves at home. This opening game of the season was also available for all baseball fans to enjoy as the Phillies celebrated their win with their fans one last time before starting the new season.
The NBA started off their season last year on October 28th with a double header on TNT starting with the NBA Championship Boston Celtics hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers. The second game of the double header featured the first regular season game for the number one draft pick in the 2007 NBA draft.
All of these leagues have a few things in common. The reigning champion of the league gets to start off the next season. The start of the season is a well advertised event with countdowns on public websites. The opening game and pre-game events are nationally televised in HD for anyone in the country to see without a special sports package. The national TV coverage of the games happens on a channel that everyone with cable gets (I realize that TNT is a cable channel) for free. They don’t need to purchase a sports package (as I do in order to get Versus) and the channels are all on DirecTV (which Versus is not as I write this – I’m still hoping they’ll work that out before I move, since I really want to change back to DirecTV when I’m able to get it). These games also all take place in the United States of America.
In contrast, the NHL starts their season with four games on opening day (Thursday, October 1st). Two of these games are nationally televised (including HD) on Versus – the Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins (7pm) and the San Jose Sharks at Colorado Avalanche (10pm). The other teams playing on opening day are The Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Calgary Flames. None of the teams playing on opening day were even in the Stanley Cup Finals last season. In fact, only three teams out of the eight playing on opening day made it out of the first round of the playoffs. They (the Capitals, Bruins, & Canucks) were all eliminated in the conference semifinals.
The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins play their first game the second night of the hockey season. They play the 8th game of the season and will have all the fanfare of raising the Stanley Cup Championship banner with only local audiences (Pittsburgh & New York City) as well as those of us who have the NHL Network (a pay channel on my cable service). I am hoping the NHL Network shows the Pittsburgh feed of the game. Center Ice normally airs the home feed for home openers and I’m hoping the NHL Network will do the same. I’m also hoping that when entering the info someone just forgot to check the box to select that the show is in HD, since as of this morning the repeats on the NHL HD Network are going to be in HD, but the live feed will not. I think it’s horrible that the first game of the reigning champs isn’t nationally televised on a channel that’s easily accessible to all sports fans. Those wanting to see the raising of the banner living in New York will most likely have to settle for YouTube replays or watching it on the Penguins’ website, since the NHL Network feed will be blacked out in NYC due to the MSG telecast. I’m sure the Rangers will do the same thing the Ducks did when they played in the Penguins’ first home game a few years ago and cut out anything fans of the Penguins would want to see of the opening of the season and local fans will not get a choice.
The NHL messes up a lot of their marketing (or lack of marketing, as it were). Their not acknowledging the reigning Stanley Cup Champion is just one of many errors. The NHL continually tries to compete with the NBA (which will always be more popular in most parts of the US). This competition makes it difficult for some people (especially those in southern California and other areas where local basketball teams were doing well) to find a bar that will show the games if they’d like to go out with friends to enjoy them (or, as in the case of my one friend, didn’t have cable and needed to find someone willing to show hockey that had Versus – at least Versus and DirecTV didn’t have their battle until the playoffs ended). If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Bettman was brought in to lower the NHL’s ratings and prove that it should eliminate some teams. A lot of the choices he’s made seem more like the choices networks make when they want to kill a show’s ratings. I could talk about different errors in judgment the NHL makes for ages like most hockey fans.
Southern California residents not attending the Ducks’ season opener (also their season opener), which is the same night as (and only a half hour apart from) the Kings’ season & home opener, will be disappointed if they’d like to watch it later. It’s one of the few games airing on KDOC instead of Fox Sports Prime Ticket or West, so it will only be aired in standard definition. I’ll be at the Kings game that night and was disappointed that the Ducks’ first game of the season will not be televised in HD. I think this is another bad marketing choice, though this one was probably made by FSN & KDOC, not the Ducks. I’m sure the Ducks would prefer all of their games to be aired in HD. Who wouldn’t? It makes fans happy and that’s the goal, isn’t it?
I know fans of all sports complain about choices those running the league make, but how is it possible that all the other major league team sports in the country have figured out that celebrating the reigning champion is a good idea and the NHL still hasn’t understood this simple fact? It doesn’t take a brilliant mind to figure out that having one (or two) game(s) to open the season and making a big deal out of the opening night with the current champ as well as nationally televising that game (and the game after it, if applicable) is a good marketing strategy. For all of Bettman’s talk about expanding interest in the NHL in the United States, he doesn’t seem to make choices supporting the concept.
Tags: Braves, Cavaliers, Celtics, Center Ice, Ducks, FSN, Gary Bettman, HD, Hockey, Kings, marketing, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, NHL Network, Penguins, Phillies, Rangers, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup Finals, Steelers, Titans, TNT, Versus, YouTube
It’s very different to attend a game as a fan. The last NHL game I had attended as a fan was game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Pittsburgh last year (May 31st, almost exactly a year ago). Same teams, same venue and also the only games I attended as a fan last season. Though I was kicking myself a little for not trying to get credentials worked out in case I could afford the flight back to Pittsburgh for the finals, a large part of me is glad. There’s something about being able to get your face painted and jump up and down and lose your voice cheering for your team. It’s a lot of fun. I’m not saying I don’t have a blast as a member of the media. I do. I’m very thankful for the access I have and really appreciate all the Kings, Ducks, Eklund, and many others have done for me in that area.
I traveled all day to get to game 3 of the finals in Pittsburgh. (I left my house around 5 my time and had gotten very little sleep last night.) So, I’m not completely coherent, but we had a great time at the game tonight. My sister’s favorite player is Maxime Talbot. She predicted that he’d get a goal early and he scored within a minute or so of that comment. Naturally, she was totally thrilled that he got (and deserved) the number one star of the game. Not only did he get half of the goals the Pens scored tonight (true, one was an empty netter, but what a decisive empty net goal), but Talbot created a lot of other opportunities and hit the post once.
It was nice to see that there were fewer blatant missed calls in tonight’s game. With any luck, that will continue.
Jordan Staal had a very good game in spite of being absent from the score sheet. He did have 3 blocked shots. Evgeni Malkin increased his scoring lead from 2 to 4 points with his three assists (Sidney Crosby only had one tonight). I may not have a voice and my throat is definitely sore, but it was great to scream like crazy. I have a whole day to recover before I really need my voice again.
I really like that they had a special moment to thank Versus for allowing the Penguins to show the game outside on their big screen in front of TONS of fans. NBC is not allowing them to do that (not even for the finals) and I think it’s a very sad statement. Personally, I think Gary Bettman should have tried to iron that one out. I understand that it’s in NBC’s contract, but the NHL keeps talking about trying to expand the game and gain fans. The party atmosphere OUTSIDE the Mellon Arena for the game looks amazing (if the pre-game atmosphere was any indictaion). The fans are great and that’s what it’s all about. The Pens aren’t charging for the service, so I don’t understand NBC’s issue. If I were a Pens fan who wanted to do that, I would make sure everyone I knew did NOT watch at home, so I could lower the ratings as much as possible. I’d tell everyone to go to one location (a bar that would have it on anyway – Pittsburgh doesn’t have an NBA team, the only thing people care about around here is the NHL Finals – talk about a switch from southern California where it’s all about the Lakers) to watch the game and fight the urge to record. I know many people (like me) even record the games they attend, so they can watch certain plays again when they get home.
The Red Wings still lead the series, but the Penguins have definitely shown that they have life and I’m sure most Penguins fans are happy with the way the tide has changed a bit in Pittsburgh. Needless to say, Hossa got booed pretty much every time he touched the puck. I’m sure you could hear it on TV at times. Fans here in Pittsburgh have good reason for booing him and I’m not really against booing when it’s the other team’s player and with a good reason. (As many of you know, I always frown on booing a player on your own team.)
I hope you’re all enjoying the finals as much as I am.
Tags: booing, Evgeni Malkin, fans, fighting, Gary Bettman, Hockey, Jordan Staal, Marian Hossa, Maxime Talbot, Mellon Arena, NBC, NHL, Penguins, Red Wings, Sidney Crosby, Stanley Cup Finals, Versus
I haven’t heard anyone predicting that the Hurricanes win the series with the Bruins yet. I’m sure there are some. Finding people who thought the Ducks were going to beat the Sharks was almost impossible and I talked to members of the media and fans in Anaheim. Since I haven’t been to Carolina in years, I’m sure I could find some people there who truly thought the Hurricanes would win the series against the Bruins before this round of the playoffs started. If most people had been told that the Hurricanes would be up 2-1 in a series with the Bruins, they probably would have believed it about as much as most people would have if you told them the Ducks would have been leading the series with the Sharks 2-0 to start.
Two overtime games in one day again and the Penguins and the Hurricanes were a part of the madness this round, too. Thankfully, my DVR from hell (made by Motorola and supplied by the horrible Orange County Cox Cable company) worked and I got to see both games today (the Devils/Hurricanes game recorded, but the DVR couldn’t play it – so sad!). It’s interesting to me that both times there were two OT games in the playoffs this year on the same day they involved the only two teams who were in both rounds of the playoffs. Incidentally, the team who won the OT game in question won the series and went on to the next round of the playoffs. Wonder if that’ll happen this time, too.
As a Penguins fan, the Penguins game drove me nuts. The Capitals’ late tying goal and all the chances and the way the Pens were skating initially and… I could go on forever about the gut-wrenching experience I know most Penguins fans went through tonight. I think we can all agree that the comeback the Red Sox made against the Yankees a few years ago is too rare to hope for it and that if the Penguins had lost tonight at home it would have been the end of their 2009 playoff run. Fortunately for Pens fans everywhere, Pittsburgh won game 3 and the Penguins are now only behind 2-1 in the series to the Capitals.
Apparently, the Penguins want to play in the first back-to-back games of the 2009 playoffs. Personally, I think back-to-back games should never happen in the playoffs. I realize that arenas have schedules to work around, but think they should figure something out to avoid back-to-back games. On the bright side, of course, both teams have exactly the same recover time. On the down side, this is the playoffs. To me playoff hockey means teams at their best and the Penguins and Capitals will not be at their best when they played the day before. As another point, this is the playoffs – I know, it seems like the same point as my first, but bear with me. Since this is the playoffs, game 4 of the Pens/Caps series in Pittsburgh Friday could last until sometime Saturday morning. I know the players’ contracts have rules about game turnaround time; I’m guessing these restrictions are waived for the playoffs. However, think about how horrible and boring the Pens/Caps game could be on Saturday if the game Friday goes into triple overtime (or longer). Don’t the fans deserve more during the playoffs – especially for a weekend game? I think they do. Too bad Gary Bettman disagrees with me.
Tags: back-to-back games, Bruins, Capitals, Cox Cable, Ducks, DVR, fans, Gary Bettman, Hockey, Hurricanes, Motorola, NHL, overtime, Penguins, playoffs, Red Sox, Sharks, Yankees