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
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
Today, I watched the Rangers/Flyers game on NBC in HD and the Penguins/Bruins game (not on the NHL Network in HD, in spite of what the guide said – good thing I checked and recorded it on Center Ice where it was on in standard definition, but at least it was playing – the NHL Network chose to show replays of the Maple Leafs/Flames game from yesterday and then the Canadiens/Devils instead of airing the Penguins/Bruins game live. I can’t even begin to understand that programming choice, but I’m sure there was a good reason.
Those of you who watched the Penguins game know that Chris Kunitz (acquired from the Ducks in an early trade around the trade deadline along with Eric Tangradi for Ryan Whitney) scored his first hat trick with the Penguins… or did he? What you might not know if you didn’t look at the stats a while after the game is that Kunitz’s one goal (and, therefore, his hat trick) away. When I was watching the game, I didn’t think he had touched the puck (clearly they later found out that Kunitz hadn’t tipped the puck in), but I think there should be some time limit on when they can change the scoring of a goal in the NHL.
In talking to one of the NHL employees who works on that in Anaheim after the game, I found out that there really is no time limit. Guys sometimes remember after the game that they might have touched the puck or the team’s people look at the goals a little bit more closely and realize that a certain guy did or didn’t touch the puck. They said at that point it’s up to the main NHL office in Toronto to make the call and take closer looks at the goal and make the scoring change. It was my understanding that the Toronto office looked at every goal and closely analyzed it at the time of the goal, so I don’t really see how this can happen. I would assume the offices in Toronto have HD feed even though all games aren’t televised in HD and are looking at the goals very closely. I know the NHL officials at the rink don’t always have HD capabilities, but I assume that the office where they make all the final decisions has the latest technology and closely examines each goal right after it happens. It would seem in that case the goal scoring records would not need to be changed after the fact.
I don’t know exactly when Kunitz’s goal was taken away from him, but I know it wasn’t announced until after the game, since my dad (who was at today’s game in Pittsburgh) learned about the change while listening to the post game show on his way home from the game. Considering the fact that it was not a late goal, I think they should be able to make that call earlier and not change that late.
The goals are reviewed at the time for a reason. The goal announcements are often delayed as the NHL powers that be try to determine who scored a goal, the assists, etc. I think once the final whistle blows all goals (other than the goal or goals in the last couple minutes of the game) should be finalized and no more changes should be made to the scoring. Would mistakes be made occasionally? Sure. Mistakes are made sometimes in baseball and football on whether a home run is a home run or should be called a foul ball. They review the plays at the time and sometimes they make the wrong call. In hockey, they’re not taking back a goal – that is reviewed at the time and I’ve never heard of a goal being disallowed after the fact. Changing who scored a goal is clearly not as drastic a change, but I still think it’s something they should determine in a specified amount of time.
Tags: Bruins, Canadiens, Chris Kunitz, Devils, Flames, Flyers, hat trick, HD, Hockey, Maple Leafs, NBC, NHL, NHL Network, Penguins, Rangers, Ryan Whitney