Thursday, November 08, 2007

The NHL: Once Again Throwing the Middle Finger to the Few Fans They Have Left

The NHL just blows my mind.

I've talked about how the schedule is completely nonsensical and provides a not-insignificant advantage to the Eastern Conference teams. I've talked about how it's idiotic that they're "showcasing the game" by having an outdoor game between two of the smallest markets in the league, opposite the biggest day of the college football bowl season.

This, however, is a new one. After a quirk in the schedule had the Wings not playing for almost an entire week, I fired up Center Ice last night, ready to watch my team play again, finally. But it was nowhere to be found. Not on Center Ice, not on Versus, not on NBC, not on Fox Sports North.

I pulled up Letsgowings to see if anyone else was having the same problem, and oh yes, yes they were. It turns out that the league picked this game to be "featured" on the NHL Network, which pretty much no one gets. And since it was a "national TV" game, viewers couldn't get it on Center Ice. I guess if Versus wasn't obscure enough, they needed to invent a network to make their games even less accessible.

Additionally, those people who are fortunate enough to get the NHLN weren't treated to the Red Wings game. Due to technical difficulties, most of the first period and part of the shootout weren't aired and the audio was off the entire game. At any point did they open up the Fox Sports feed instead? No sir.

I understand the concept of the NHL Network. The NBA has one, the NFL has one, hell, the Big Ten has one. But the NHL isn't a strong enough product to hold cable companies hostage over. Quite honestly, they should be essentially giving the broadcast rights away to get it into as many homes as possible. The NFL Network has struggled to take off and pro football is king in this country. The NBA at least provides NBA TV to everyone who subscribes to League Pass. But do the die-hard hockey fans--the Center Ice subscribers--get the NHL Network? No, no they don't. All the NHLN is doing is taking games away from people who have already paid for them and providing no alternate way to see the telecast.

Oh, it gets better.

The Red Wings--as if the league hasn't taken advantage of their fans enough--are scheduled for at least five more NHL Network games this season. Including, get this, Sunday's game. Meaning two games in a five day span will not be available on Center Ice if I'm understanding this correctly. Another game that they'll be showing? The one time this year that Red Wing fans get to see Alex Ovechkin play their team.

At the very least, this network should be included in Center Ice. It's absolute bullshit that in addition to the games on Versus, which I have to up my satellite package to get, they're taking another 5-7 games out of the Center Ice package and putting them on a network that I don't even have the option of getting.

Until they find a way to get the NHLN in a lot of homes--and I'm sure the cable companies are falling over themselves to sign up--all they're doing is taking games away from the people who actually want to watch them. You aren't the NFL. There's about 16 people in this country that haven't written off this sport and all you're doing is jerking around those who still care. Let's make the games harder to see and have as few out-of-conference matchups as possible so that Sidney Crosby can be seen by as little of the country as we can manage!

Even Peter King, a freaking NFL writer, pointed out that sometimes, the NHL just doesn't think. Yup, let's open the new Devils' arena the same night the Islanders and Rangers are both playing home games so the market is as divided as possible (the arenas are all within 30 miles). Here's an idea: Why not have Devils/Rangers be the game to open the new arena, since those teams are within ten miles of each other and it's presumably a pretty decent rivalry. Or would that make too much sense?

This league is batshit crazy. Nothing they do surprises me anymore.


PB said...

Hiya -

I got the game last night because my satellite system, DirecTv carries the NHL network.

This isn't a league issue - it's a cable operator issue. I don't pay extra for NHL Network.

If you do, then it might be time to switch. All of the major cable companies carry NHL Network so if they wanted the Wings, they saw them.

The NHL is guilty of mismanagement, but this isn't on them.

Packer487 said...

I'd be curious to see if these companies have it on their basic cable or as part of the sports tier. Dish Network only offers it to Dish HD customers at the moment. And from what I gather, it's on the sports tier for Charter (and the person who started the LGW thread has Time Warner so even though the articles indicate availability there, I'm not sure what the deal is).

There's absolutely NO reason that it shouldn't be included as part of the Center Ice package. NBATV is offered by the cable companies, usually as part of a sports tier, but you also get it if you buy the NBA League Pass.

PB said...

Hi Packer -

I would certainly agree, but the cable/satellite companies have to hear the message from their customers to offer the channel in the way you suggest.

I, and I'm sure along with others that have DirectTV, made it known that NHL Network should be available to all that want it.

For the pricing, I'm not sure if it's included in my Center Ice package, or part of my sports tier, but either way, the NHL network has become my new best friend. :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree. I an out of market this year and do not have Centre Ice but I do have the NHLN - I also get FoxDetroit so I have to DVR the replays of the Wings games (but those are not HD). It was nice seeing a game real-time in HD.

I like the NHLN but I strongly agree that they should not remove games from Centre Ice. That sucks.

Stevens8204 said...

Where I live...when I asked if I was getting the NHL Network...they kept responding to me no we are not getting the NFL Network at this time. If I didn't have Center Ice, I'd be sunk. The league's schedule practices this year are so bad this year that I can't imagine them getting worse.

I second your frustrations as a Devils fan believe me.


Anonymous said...

all the NHL network does is pick up the FSN feed. i was watching the FSN feed and Ken Daniels said welcome to our friends on the NHL network across north america. i dont unerstand how they had technical difficulties when they were just piggybacking off the FSN feed. I have DISH network and it has NHL right at channel 559 which is after centre ice so i dont know if it is included in centre ice or sports tier.


Packer487 said...

On Dish I believe it's part of the Dish HD package--which I sadly don't have and can't get. 559 isn't even listed on my guide, it just bumps me up to 560.

If they're just piggybacking on FSN's feed, then it's even more idiotic that they black the games out on Center Ice. Why makes your games less accessible to the people who want to watch them? It makes no sense.

On a happier note, despite the game being listed as an NHLN game, Sunday's Wings/Hawks game is listed as available on Center Ice according to my guide. So that's good....