Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Posts Tagged ‘NHL’

The NHL Drops The Ball Again

Posted by mizzou1028 on May 28, 2009

I love hockey.  I think in most years the Stanley Cup Playoffs are infinitely more exciting than the NBA version.  This year is an exception with the Nuggets making it to the Western Conference Finals (I’m looking forward to being at the Pepsi Center tomorrow night for game six against the Lakers and enjoyed being there for game three), but if the Nuggets don’t win their series against the Lakers, hockey will take over the TV in the Fischer household during finals time.  The Stanley Cup Finals rematch between Detroit and Pittsburgh should be thrilling theatre, and needless to say should be an intense, fierce, competitve series.  Thing is, the NHL keeps shooting itself in the foot, making the games difficult for the average fan to see.

Check out the schedule for the Stanley Cup Finals:

Game 1: Saturday at Detroit 8 p.m. EST on NBC

Game 2: Sunday at Detroit time TBA on NBC

Game 3: Tuesday at Pittsburgh 8p.m. EST on Versus

Game 4: Thursday, June 4 at Pittsburgh 8 p.m. EST on Versus

Games 5-7 TBA

Now, looking at this, it’s no wonder the NHL is widely considered a second tier professional league.  It should come as no shock that ESPN and other national outlets don’t give more than five seconds thought to the NHL.  I have several issues with this schedule:

– First, look at the date of game four.  This is going directly opposite, wait for it, GAME ONE OF THE NBA FINALS.   DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB!!!!!!   It won’t matter one bit that the Wings-Penguins series will likely be 2-1 one way or the other heading into a very pivotal game four.  It won’t matter if it’s the most exciting game of the NHL season.  It won’t matter if it’s a four overtime classic.  ESPN and other networks will go gaga over the start of the NBA Finals, with no fewer than 100 analysts on site, and the NHL coverage that night will pale in comparison.  (We were going to show you the hockey highlights with Barry Melrose, but wait!  Sasha Vujacic is at the podium for the next 15 minutes!) Meanwhile, the day before and after will have neither hockey nor basketball.  It makes no sense for the NHL to try to go head to head with the NBA in a battle they’re guaranteed to lose.   Gary Bettman should be fired for this scheduling snafu alone.

– Further, the aforementioned game four (and game three) isn’t even on network television, hell it is on VERSUS, a channel a lot of people still don’t know even exists!  I have Comcast and can find it in the very convenient location of channel 73, not exactly a prime slot for the championship of a major sports league.  I have stayed in numerous hotels where the channel lineup stops before 73, and I still hear lots of tales of fans unable to even locate the channel.  All seven games of the finals should be on NBC, period, end of story.  Perhaps NBC is to blame for some of this as well.  Maybe they’re not willing to show all seven games I don’t know.  If that’s the case than perhaps the NHL ought to be shopping for a new network partner.  After all, NBC embarrassed the league big time during the ’07 playoffs when they cut out of an Eastern Conference Finals game (Buffalo-Ottawa) before overtime to show Preakness coverage.  NBC also ignored the NHL altogether during the second weekend in May to show golf.  Still, it is inexcusable for a league that fancies itself as a major player to have two of its best games all season relegated to a channel that is way in the wild blue yonder on the television landscape.  Stanley Cup Finals games should not be relegated to Versus under any circumstances.  Gary Bettman no doubt made a colossal error after the 2005 lockout when he took the cash from then-OLN instead of the offer from ESPN to show games.

– I have serious issues also with games 1 and 2 being on back-to-back nights.  While I think the NHL did right to move the start of the series up from the scheduled start of late next week to avoid a week long layoff, playing games on back-to-back nights is just a horrible idea.  Players will be incredibly fatigued, and it will have a potential to denigrate the overall product that the league is trying to sell.  It is also interesting to note that no time is yet set for game two.  Knowing NBC, it wouldn’t shock me if they were trying to persuade the league to have game two in the late afternoon instead of in prime time.  That would just be the capper, subjecting the league to a day game after a night game.  No risk for injury there!  It is incredibly embarrassing for the league that NBC would rather show “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!” on Monday night than game two of the Stanley Cup Finals.  I’m not making this up, that is what is listed on Monday night on NBC.  If this is the reason the Red Wings and Penguins are being subjected to back-to-back games in the Stanley Cup Finals, shame on NBC and shame on the NHL for allowing it to happen. 

I think the NHL should receive equal treatment to the NBA in terms of the media coverage, but I’m well aware that I’m in a significant minority on that.  I think a lot of this is on the NHL for not marketing itself very well and not giving casual fans much of an opportunity to see their product.  Every time I think there is a ray of hope for the NHL, they take two steps back with something dumb like the setup of this year’s finals schedule.  I’m not sure what the solution is for the league, but coming soon I’ll have a post with some ideas of steps the NHL can take to get back in the mainstream again.

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An exciting sports time

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 9, 2008

Big game Thursday night for the Nuggets, as they play on the road at the Golden State Warriors.  The Nuggets find themselves in what amounts to a play-in game for the playoffs, tied with Golden State for the eighth and final playoff spot in the west, with four games to play for each team.  After Thursday’s head to head meeting, the Nuggets are at Utah and finish with Houston and Memphis at home, certainly not an easy schedule.  The Warriors host the Clippers and Seattle and have a road game at Phoenix.  Connecting the dots leads to the clear conclusion the Nuggets are pretty much toast if they won’t win at Oracle Arena on Thursday.  The Nuggets find themselves in this position because they blew two games they should have won over the weekend to Sacramento and Seattle.    I still maintain they can do some damage if they do manage to get in the playoffs, but they are going to have to shore up their defense, and they can’t take any more nights off.  Ownership has invested too much in this team to see them crumble this way.  Thursday’s game could even go a long way toward determining the future of coach George Karl as well as some members of the team.  There is simply too much talent for them to miss the playoffs, but it’s looking like that could end up happening. 

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For those of you who claim not to be fans of hockey, I recommend you start watching tonight.  The Stanley Cup Playoffs are one of the best experiences in sports.  In hockey, more so than any other sport, there is a tremendous difference between the regular season and the playoffs.  Not to say that the regular season isn’t important, because it is, but the playoffs take on a whole new intensity.  Guys have to practically be on their death bed not to play.  Players are willing to sacrifice everything for their teammates.  I certainly realize that it’s hard to find the channel that carries the games, and it’s hard to find coverage with ESPN shoving highlights way behind the NBA and whatever else they carry on their network.  Just do yourself a favor and watch a game involving Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin.  I for one am very excited to see my Avalanche back in the playoffs after a year absence, which could be a good thing as the Nuggets may miss the NBA playoffs.  Seriously though, take a look in at some of the NHL playoff action this year, for it is as exciting as any other time in sports.  I’d like to see any sports fan who actually gives the Stanley Cup Playoffs a chance and still tries to pretend they don’t enjoy watching hockey.  Anyone who would claim that is simply not a fan of sports, period. 

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I am definitely excited for the start of baseball season, especially after the amazing run the Rockies made to reach the World Series last season.  I do find everyone’s expectations for the team amusing however.  Just because they made the World Series last year doesn’t mean they’ll get there every year, or even be assured to be in the mix.  There are a lot of other good teams out there that improved themselves this offseason, including the other contenders in the NL West (Arizona adding Dan Haren, the Dodgers adding Andruw Jones).  That being said, the Rockies do have a lot of talent and should field another competitive team.  It was certainly encouraging to see them invest some payroll to keep guys like Tulowitzki and Corpas this past offseason.  I just hope that when Matt Holliday becomes a free agent in 2009, that the Rockies will make sure they keep him.  Unfortunately with MLB’s economic structure, the odds are Holliday will cash in big with the Yankees or some other big market team.  Here’s hoping that the Rockies will stay committed to keeping this team together and can figure out a way to keep Holliday for the long haul.  He’s already delivered a pair of clutch home runs in this opening homestand alone, and appears to be on track for another great year.  Regardless whether the Rockies make another run at the playoffs or not, this will (hopefully) be a fun team to watch for a number of years, and that makes it much more fun to follow baseball season during the summer.

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Random Thoughts for March

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 4, 2008

So the calendar has turned into March.  Never mind that it’s hard to fathom that we’re already two months into 2008.  This means one thing and one thing only: this is the best time of year for college basketball.  It is this time of year that reminds me why the college game is considerably better and more entertaining than the pro version.  I’m well aware that I recently wrote that I’m paying more attention to the NBA these days.  That still holds true, especially this season when the Nuggets may end up holding the distinction of the most talented team ever to miss the playoffs.  However, there is one thing the college game has that the NBA will never have, and that’s the passion involved in each game.  Have you ever once seen NBA fans charge the court to celebrate a big win?  No.  Do NBA fans arrive at a game three hours early to secure the best seats? No.  Do NBA games have raucous student sections that turn even the most mundane of matchups into an electric atmosphere? No.  

As much as I despise Kansas basketball, and the hatred is evident if you get to know me for five seconds, I had to give a tip of the cap while watching their game against Texas Tech last night.  It was senior night at Allen Fieldhouse, and as usual the place was packed.  That atmosphere is what makes college basketball so great.  Students at KU camp out for days to make sure they get seats for the next game, and regardless of the score (last night KU walloped Tech by 58 points) no one leaves the game early, ever.  I’ve been to NBA games where the score is tied with three minutes left and people are heading for the exits to beat traffic.  Seriously, how absurd is this?  People don’t leave movies early, so why do they leave games early, even when it’s competitive at the end?  That’s a rant for another time, but the point is you don’t see that kind of casual fan behavior at a college game.  Every college game has an electric atmosphere, virtually anywhere in the country, that is simply not duplicated at the professional level.  Even in a year where my Mizzou Tigers are just hovering over .500 at 15-14, I still pay much closer attention to the college season and in particular the Big 12 this time of year than I do any other sport.  The NCAA tournament is a unique event on the sports calendar partly due to its unpredictability, but it’s the passion of each game that makes the event special.  For me, the final few weeks of the regular season and the week of conference tournaments also provide the same intensity and excitement.  No matter who your team is, no matter how poor a season they’ve had, there’s always that minuscule chance they could win their conference tournament and make the big party.  That small chance alone makes the next few weeks of games worth watching.

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Have you seen some of these deals being shelled out in the early period of free agency in the NFL?  I know it’s always a time where teams want to show their fans that they’re doing something to try and improve the team, but some of these deals are insane.  How many of you out there have heard of Tommy Kelly?  He’s a defensive tackle who last year had 30 tackles and one sack for the Raiders, and didn’t play a down after suffering a season ending injury in week 8 against Tennessee.  The Raiders shelled out $50.5 million over five years to re-sign him.  That’s an awful lot of money to shell out for one sack.  Reports had some NFL GM’s saying, “Who is Tommy Kelly?”  How about Justin Smith, defensive end formerly of the Bengals, getting $45 million over six years to sign with San Francisco?  Smith had a whopping two sacks last year, and while talented, doesn’t seem like he’d be considered the so called missing piece to justify that kind of signing.  The Jacksonville Jaguars clearly thought that two interceptions was worth $6 million a year, as that’s what they’re paying former Charger cornerback Drayton Florence.  Seems as though the New England Patriots still have confidence in their more low key formula.  They elected not to re-sign WR Donte Stallworth (who went to Cleveland), CB Asante Samuel (who got a 6 year $57 million contract from Philadelphia, although he at least intercepted six passes last year) and CB Randall Gay (who signed with New Orleans).  These can be added to the list of big name players they have jettisoned in the past (David Givens, Deion Branch, Ty Law, Drew Bledsoe among them), and it’s a philosophy that seems to work for them.  As successful as they’ve been, maybe the answer isn’t to spend every dime you have on free agents every winter.  Then again, maybe the Patriots are just good at bargain hunting.  Their 3 year $27 million re-signing of star receiver Randy Moss seems like the biggest bargain of the winter. 

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Tonight Peter Forsberg returns to the Colorado Avalanche.  I really hope that this isn’t just a public relations move to bring him back.  If he is even 80 percent of the player he was before he left the club, then the Avalanche are about get a huge boost.  Right now they are on the cusp of playoff contention, but if he can contribute, then they might just make a run.  Last year felt weird without the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but if they make it back this year with Forsberg and Adam Foote having just returned to the team, it will be just like old times. 

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