FanDuel - WFBC

July 07, 2007

Is ESPN Killing the National Hockey League by Influencing Public Attitudes?: By creating and reinforcing an expectation of failure regarding the NHL, ESPN is shaping public perception and contributing to the “death” of the NHL in the United States.

posted by Mookieproof to hockey at 03:15 PM - 48 comments

Yes, yes they are, based on the commentary of Tony Kornheiser alone.

posted by insomnyuk at 04:13 PM on July 07

This can generate the classic "chicken vs egg" argument. Did the negative perception of the league result from the decline in coverage on ESPN? Perhaps the decline in coverage on ESPN was the result of the increasingly negative perception of the NHL. In either case, the NHL is dying of self-inflicted wounds. The author got it right in his last paragraph when he said that the NHL had over-expanded. The league also did itself no favors by switching to VS, rather than staying with ESPN. I do not recall the financial details of the competing offers, but any competent marketing executive would realize the value of the publicity attendant to having your product far more widely exposed on ESPN. Regardless of the number of households that have VS available, does anyone ever watch it? Is there any equivalent on VS to Sports Center? There is an audience attracted to VS for its niche sports (outdoor things, cycling, etc.), but the people who watch those don't seem to fit the profile of potential hockey fans. The only salvation for the NHL in the long term is to bite really hard on the bullet, contract the league, perhaps even by 50%, get a quality product on the ice, and then get the widest media exposure possible, even if it means accepting a less than lucrative TV contract. Bill Simmons gave up on the Bruins in 2001. I'm a bit more patient; it took me until this year to give up on them. In so doing, I have also given up on the NHL, but I remain a hockey fan. There is too much good hockey at the college and high school level to ignore in my area of the US. The game as played in the AHL is also worthy of attention, and comes at a price considerably lower than an NHL team charges. It all boils down to "bang for the buck". When the NHL finally figures out how to improve the basic product (and not by adding gimmicks), I will go back. I'm afraid it won't be in my lifetime, however.

posted by Howard_T at 04:18 PM on July 07

Powerful entities like ESPN can have a negative effect on a sport like pro hockey but eventually the fans will decide if the NHL has an American future.Hockey has always been the fourth sport here.The NHL probably has over expanded. It may fail in certain locales.It seems to be a big success here in North Texas despite the inferior teams of late.

posted by sickleguy at 04:37 PM on July 07

Wow, hell of an article. It articulates very well a point I've been trying to make for a few years. It seems obvious that the American sports fan will eat whatever ESPN feeds us, blindly trusting the network to make sports viewing decisions for us. If they decide to show douchebags playing poker, then poker is all the rage. The NBA, with interest ebbing a bit, was revitalized when ESPN told people once again that it was worth watching (not a shot at the NBA at all.) Christ, during the Olympics a few years back, curling became the national rage for about ten minutes, simply because it was broadcast for hours on end. Quite simply, sports are like pop music. The public is interested in whatever is shoved down their collective throat. And hell, yeah, insomnyuk. That small minded ass Kornheiser is simply the head of the class whan it comes to ESPN broadcasters trashing the NHL. The guy worships at the altar of NCAA hoops and the NBA, and gets paid to talk up the NFL. Why don't Americans consider the source when he and his lap dog Wilbon call the NHL unwatchable? It can't help that the network's top hockey guru is such an easy target either. I love Melrose and respect the hell out of his analysis, but ya gotta admit, if you don't know the game, you might discount the enthusiasm of a guy with a mullet in 2007 who dresses like, well, lets say a younger, more urban man. The NHL blew it when they alienated this network. Maybe they were already moving away from the NHL, maybe they already had designs on marketing the NBA and their coverage of it. But by pissing off the people who decide what counts as sport in America, the NHL really showed little vision. Maybe it's time to determine how to make nice, as there's lots of time between the spelling bees and poker games to broadcast a few highlights of a beautiful game that only gets better with some understanding.

posted by tahoemoj at 04:39 PM on July 07

I must agree that overexpansion has contributed to the demise of the NHL even more than Tony Cornheiser, Mike and Mike, or Colin Cowherd. The almost never ending playoffs push the Stanley Cup into June, where most of the country is swimming in water, not skating on it. Scenario: You are living in any of 20 midwestern states in the US. It is June 1. The temperature outside is 83 degrees; sunny; 35% humidity; Saturday afternoon at 1:45. Are you most likely to (1). mow the lawn, get in the pool, fire up the BBQ grill, and playing whiffle ball with the kids or (2). go inside, turn on the big screen, and watch Buffalo play Ottowa in game 2 of the Cup? Although many of the announcers do take potshots and make demeaning references towards the NHL (it seems like only Joh Saunders cares any more), most of it is deserved.

posted by badanswerman at 05:09 PM on July 07

For me, the NHL bagged it for the fans with the 2005 lock-out. I have watched a total of 2 periods of hockey in the past 2 seasons. I live very close to Pittsburgh and still follow the Pens, but it is an afterthought thru the net and local paper. The article does present an interesting premise of ESPN driving the sports interest of the U.S. I'm probably one of the few born and raised Southerners who don't give a damn about NASCAR, and the growth of that "sport" has been nothing short of amazing. I'm sure that growth is due, in part, to ESPN.

posted by FonGu at 05:54 PM on July 07

I believe that this is in large part hockey having to play catch-up with the other major sports. When ESPN was formed, the network catered to what they saw as the major sports. This included basketball, baseball, football, golf and tennis. When they filled their newsroom it was with ex beat writers from those sports (particularly the "big three"). It should come as a suprise to noone that an ex-NFL player thinks less of the NHL, and can come to some common ground in berating it on air when paired with a MLB writer, for instance. I may think my favorite sports is better than yours, but we both can agree that someone else's favorite sport is, well, stupid. Noone early on at ESPN to defend hockey on or off the air led to a culture of hockey-bashing. Another thought I had was the lack of minority representation of the NHL players relative to the "big three." Blacks are very well represented in both the NFL and the NBA, and Hispanics are well represented in MLB (Blacks used to be in MLB to, but the numbers are dropping sharply for several reasons which were discussed on SpoFi fairly recently, as I recall). Neither of these large minority groups generally have access to an ice rink, mostly for economic reasons I needn't go into here. The ones who do are still more likely to play/follow sports with representation of their ethnicity. With these two groups combining for 25-35% (estimate) of the US population, I would postulate that the sport practically flatlines with these groups in particular. While the average white hockey viewer may not have tie to the European players that make up much of the league, these Euros are most likely looked at as adding vanilla beans to vanilla ice cream, leaving the large minority population segment looking in on a white league.

posted by ruff at 06:03 PM on July 07

The NHL (not unlike MLB) put itself in the dangerous position of taking its product away from its fans and simply assuming that everyone would make money in the long run and the fans would scurry back when the lockout was over. To me baseball is a watchable sport that promotes their stars and translates well to television. They also, often at the expense of history, will do whatever is nescessary to draw in new fans and increase the common man's entertainment value. Hockey insists on alienating their fans in their marketing, business decisions, promotion of their stars and the general mismanagement. As far as ESPN's basic abandonment of the sport (lets call it like it is) it really isn't all that different from any other channel that overly hypes their own product at the expense of the competition. I don't expect a lot of hype from ABC on the upcoming Simpson's movie but I bet if I change the channel to fox...

posted by kyrilmitch_76 at 06:29 PM on July 07

Of course this is happening. Like kyrilmitch_76 says, it is all about synergy. How many Arena Football highlights did you see on Sportscenter when the AFL was on NBC? Now that it is on ESPN, there are always a few. I'm frankly surprised that there isn't more of this going on? Why mention the NHL at all? Why mention the All-Star Game (broadcast on Fox)? Why cover golf tournaments that air on CBS? Why mention that Wimbledon coverage will be switching to NBC at noon? I think within the next 5-10 years this will only become more obvious, and more detrimental to the health of sports in general.

posted by Rock Steady at 07:57 PM on July 07

though i agree with the thoughts transmitted here, i did what to bring up one point that was wrong (by ruff). when espn first started there was one on air personality who very much was the voice of hockey at the network, im speaking of the late tom mees. unfortunately, with his passing, the network never replaced him with another on air personality who had the love and passion for hockey. my other point is, quite frankly, the nhl (and i love hockey) will continue to die a slow and painful death as long as gary bettman continues to be in charge. it doesnt matter what espn, or any other network does or does not do, as long as the worst commissioner in the history of sports continues to sit on his throne.

posted by jagsnumberone at 09:50 PM on July 07

To me baseball is a watchable sport that promotes their stars and translates well to television. Sorry can't resist, but this is personal opinion now. Baseball is IMO so completely unwatchable that I'd rather watch tennis or NASCAR--both sports I also find mindnumbing--and I know very few people who would say that baseball is better watched on TV than in person. How is it (specifically) that MLB promotes their stars better than, say, NBA or NFL? From what I can see, based on the seating capacity of new stadiums, suing innovative technology companies that are fan-friendly and revenue-neitral at worst and paying huge salaries to aging stars, baseball is adjusting to a smaller fan base and doing little to generate new fans.

posted by billsaysthis at 09:56 PM on July 07

Bill Simmons is the S***. On the link from this article for his running diary for the NHL entry draft: "Anyway, Chicago GM Dale Tallon is "proud" to introduce tiny Patrick Kane as his No. 1 pick. This kid looks like an altar boy. I'm not kidding -- he actually looks like an altar boy. I hope his tremendous upside potential involves puberty. More importantly, what the hell happened to the NHL? As if things weren't already bad enough, the league's No. 1 overall pick is an undersized American who looks like the third singer in a boy band? Can we start sending them FEMA money or something?" Wow!!! Haha

posted by STUNNER at 10:45 PM on July 07

Wouldn't the NHL be better off with half coverage on ESPN, rather than full coverage on VS which has very limited viewership? I also think that the lockout and lack of interest in hockey led to it's demise on ESPN, and not ESPN causing the NHL's demise. As before stated, this is the chicken and the egg argument, but it's hard to bet against ESPN, who covers EVERYTHING from the putt-putt world championship to dominoes. Oh yea, ESPN does have a passionate commentator, who was deeply involved with the sport, his name is Barry Melrose, hail the mullet!

posted by dlopez916 at 10:50 PM on July 07

I don't get it. How does drafting a smaller guy prove that the NHL is the suckage? I would rather have a team of gnatlike Brian Giantas and Marty St. Louises than a team of fuckhead cavemen like Todd Bertuzzi. I'm not one to piss on the league, but I'm not happy with the player salaries shooting back up to pre-lockout numbers and the fact that the days of clutch n grab hockey are on the way back (just feeling that I have). I mean, really, how the fuck does Daniel Briere get $8 million a season? I thought that the owners were hard up for money? And what the fuck is Edmonton doing offering Thomas goddamn Vanek $7 million a year? Vanek was something like 23rd in overall scoring last season. That's a goddam joke, not a player's physical stature. /fuckin' pissed

posted by NoMich at 11:19 PM on July 07

Thanks to NoMich for dragging this into the gutter with vulgarity. Just what we really needed in an intelligent discussion...

posted by badanswerman at 04:37 AM on July 08

Geez NoMich way to ruin the family friendly enviornment.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 07:14 AM on July 08

"No. 1 overall pick is an undersized American who looks like the third singer in a boy band? Can we start sending them FEMA money or something?" Nice work on that Stunner. It's ironic that the Blackhawks all time points leader, 22 year NHL Veteran and Hall of Famer Stan Mikita was all of 5'8" and 165 lbs. soaking wet. He was also consistently a league leader in penalty minutes early in his career. I assure you Patrick Kane is the real deal and Blackhawk fans are in for a real treat when he plays along side of Jonathan Toews. Maybe we can get a modern version of the Famed 60's "Scooter Line" (Ken Wharram, Ab McDonald and Stan Mikita) At the just concluded Blackhawks Prospects Camp Toews and Kane played on the same line with Toews setting up a dazzling Kane Goal with a laser pass on a partial breakaway. Don't be surprised to see Kane make the Big Club this season. Anyway, in regards to the ESPN influence on the "Death" of the NHL. The network does seem mind numbingly ignorant of all things Hockey and many of their talking heads seem to rejoice in taking cheap shots at the Sport I love most. However, the NHL has nobody to blame but themselves. We've discussed many times the idiocy of the rapid expansion of the league in the 90's. The resultant lack of player depth and an incredibly self absorb Players Union. It doesn't seem to matter when a NHL Team from Nashville is currently commanding something like $220 Million Dollars! Remember this really is an owners league and Bettman is just their puppet. I can't condemn Bettman for all these problems (well partially) but it makes no sense to blame only one man. Certainly he's an easy enough target being a lawyer from New York with a Napoleonic Complex! I certainly can see NoMich's point and I share his disappointment with the ineffectiveness of the CBA in keeping Player Salaries in line with reality. I wish the NHL would just concentrate on the promoting Hockey and quit worrying about the casual fickle fan.

posted by skydivedad at 09:04 AM on July 08

NASCAR needs not to thank ESPN for any growth at all....ESPN latched on to NASCAR,and Hockey should thank themselves for their demise.ESPN sucks,the only thing they influence me to do is change the channel.Stewart Scott??? please.

posted by nafsfeihc1#oN at 10:20 AM on July 08

Here, here nafs... NASCAR became popular and then ESPN acknowledged it, proof that this thread about the NHL has some teeth. Just look at poor Barry Melrose and his mullet, he loves hockey and his attitude is SO defensive, especially when they do those sport comparison that are ludicrus. Do they ever compare other sports to each other? I havent seen it yet, they always compare it to the NBA and Melrose is so biased, probably because his employer is biased against his sport. Someone on ESPN has to stick up for hockey... That being said, the NHL did themselves in, the lock-out was the finalstraw. How can you go on strike when you have such a small fan base? They couldnt afford to lose any fans. The AFl is a perfect example someone already mentioned. ESPN couldnt give a rats ass about that league till now, cuz they are broadcasting games they are pushing their product. I wish FOX Sportscould step up as a cable provider that could air games that are out of market every once in a while. I would love to see an MLB game the first half of the season that the Yankees arent playing in(knock on ESPN, Cornhieser and all those EAst Coast NY media elitists) PS what the heck is VS??? I must have missed that channel

posted by dezznutz at 11:29 AM on July 08

That being said, the NHL did themselves in, the lock-out was the finalstraw. How can you go on strike when you have such a small fan base? They couldnt afford to lose any fans. That's the thing, right there. The owners locked out the players because of money woes (or so they claimed), the players finally caved in and agreed to tighter fiscal policies. Yet look what's happening with salaries now. A mere two seasons away from the lockout and the owners are spending like drunk sailors again. And I'm not pissed about the escalating salaries just because I live in and cheer for a small market team. It's that we lost an entire season due to the damn lockout and not a single lesson was learned. Either that or the owners were lying about their finacial difficulties. Perish the thought! They would never do that!

posted by NoMich at 11:37 AM on July 08

NASCAR does'nt need to be acknowleged by ESPN,ESPN is like a tick.

posted by nafsfeihc1#oN at 12:10 PM on July 08

Bettman, the players salaries and the owners are killing the sport, they don't need any help from ESPN. Bettman keeps telling anyone who will listen what great shape the NHL is in. Unfortunely for Mr.Bettman, we the public are a little smarter than he had led us to believe. Why pay $90 to go see a bunch of guys who only show up mentally for half the games when I can pay $5 to go see a high school game where the kids are playing BECAUSE THEY LOVE THE GAME!!, not because they are getting paid millions of dollars. In my opinion, the NHL started going down the toilet the day the made players salaries public information.

posted by MGDADDYO at 12:22 PM on July 08

I know very few people who would say that baseball is better watched on TV than in person. In the right instance, I enjoy watching a baseball game on TV more than in person. If the announcers aren't too annoying (Dan Shulman & Buck Martinez doing Blue Jays games about 7 years ago), it's more informative and entertaining to watch. Replays for close (or exciting) plays, discussions about pitch selection (and actually seeing a replay of the 12-to-6 curve falling off the table), live updates about out-of-town games that matter... When it's in HD, and it's a hot day outside but nice and comfortable in my living room, I have no problem catching a game on TV instead of paying $30 for a ticket and sweltering in the heat.

posted by grum@work at 12:29 PM on July 08

I know very few people who would say that baseball is better watched on TV than in person. Basically what grum said (except for the 30 bucks part. More like 7 -14 for me). I would rather see a game live simply because I enjoy the energy of the crowd, but there are many reasons baseball is better on TV than live. I don't think many of them translate to hockey.

posted by justgary at 02:27 PM on July 08

Very good subject, I absolutely feel that ESPN has been very influential in positioning the NHL (and hockey in general) as if it doesn't even exist anymore. Their on-air personalities bash the sport anytime the word hockey gets mentioned, acting as if hockey is a guilty pleasure only for the socially unaccepted. I'm a huge hockey fan in the states, and for years I had been bothered that hockey doesn't get the time of day in the media or seem to have the mass appeal that I always figured that it should have. But I'm not bothered by it anymore, as long as the NHL is making money then it should be around to entertain me for the rest of my lifetime. Attendance is excellent in most NHL cities, so there is a fan base albeit a small, passionate one. I think that Frank DeFord summed it up best several years ago, and I am on board with his line of thought. His article on hockey is a little outdated, but you'll get the point. I've listed the link below. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/inside_game/deford/news/2000/06/07/deford/

posted by 742Mouth at 02:29 PM on July 08

I disagree with the premise that the NHL must be on an ESPN network to succeed. The NFL and NBA have their own networks and soccer has several channels. If the Vs. Network ends up being the first step towards a standalone NHL Network, or a hockey-only channel, I think it will end up helping the league.

posted by rcade at 02:42 PM on July 08

I disagree with the premise that the NHL must be on an ESPN network to succeed. The NFL and NBA have their own networks and soccer has several channels. If the Vs. Network ends up being the first step towards a standalone NHL Network, or a hockey-only channel, I think it will end up helping the league. I hope it's a dish network channel, cause I'm tired of paying for worthless programming. And IMO hockey is just such programming. To watch atheletes be allowed to kick the crap out of each other is despicable. And to say Hockey is the Fourth Sport? I'd say 6th or 7th at best. Ahead of women's Figure Skating, and behind Youth Soccer. I predict in 10 -15 years, there will be no more Pro Hockey in the U.S., because the fan base just don't pay the bills.

posted by scuubie at 03:29 PM on July 08

I predict in 10 -15 years, there will be no more Pro Hockey in the U.S., because the fan base just don't pay the bills. I'll take you up on that. How much would you like to wager? $1000? If you think hockey is going to disappear in Detroit, Boston, NY, Chicago, Philadelphia AND Minnesota, you're nuts.

posted by grum@work at 03:33 PM on July 08

I am, and always will be a baseball fan, so obviously I have some personal bias but I must say I have never felt that hockey translates as well to television as most other sports. In fact I can't think of a sport that is as difficult and boring to watch on television as hockey (golf, tennis, and curling are all much easier to follow on TV for example). While some of that might be my own personal disdain for hockey (which I will admit) I will also say that I can't stand basketball either and I could probably name 20 recent all-stars without much trouble, the most recent champions and I could stay awake for the duration of the game. My point isn't that hockey is inherently evil or that they entirely deserve their recent quasi-demise. My point is that the sport has the deck stacked against them a bit to start with and they aren't doing themselves any favors.

posted by kyrilmitch_76 at 03:52 PM on July 08

In any sport you have to stay loyal to your core fan base.Because of greed many sports expand too fast or into the wrong areas.The season is too long overlapping basketball and baseball. The playoffs are the start of the real season,too many teams get in.The season goes too far beyond what origanly was a winter sport.The players themselves are not that marketable except a few.Some changes have to be made in the leauge and in their promoting and coverage.They will probably never be a top 4 sport again.But I hope they can turn it around!

posted by buckner86 at 04:23 PM on July 08

To watch atheletes be allowed to kick the crap out of each other is despicable Have you ever heard of a little sport called boxing? Also, I believe that one of the fastest growing sports, in terms of awareness and television viewership is Mixed Martial Arts. Are these two sports "despicable?" Your understanding of hockey is on a par with your command over the English language. The fighting in hockey debate rages on, but most would agree that it is, and always has been, an integral part of the game. Should it be? Maybe not, but that is for the league to determine in the near future. However, if you had ever watched a game of hockey, you would know that physical confrontation is a small part of a game that involves coordination, speed, intellegence, and so much more. You must only see negative highlights on ESPN.

posted by tahoemoj at 04:24 PM on July 08

ESPN has had a master plan all along. Kill Hockey so more people will attend the new ESPN must watch sport .... Competetive Eating!! Watch for your new ESPN Sportsman of the Year, Joey Chestnut, at all Arenas, Ballparks, Stadiums and Race Tracks across this great nation. Just a friendly hint though, get the cheap seats in back in case there is, as ESPN terms it, a "Reversal Of Fortune". Of course, that is what I personally experienced in the first 3 minutes of the 4th of July coverage.

posted by wljranch at 04:46 PM on July 08

I predict in 10 -15 years, there will be no more Pro Hockey in the U.S., because the fan base just don't pay the bills. Grum, you're not putting enough money on this wager. I'll put up $500,000. and give 2 to 1 odds.

posted by tommytrump at 05:41 PM on July 08

In any sport you have to stay loyal to your core fan base.Because of greed many sports expand too fast or into the wrong areas.The season is too long overlapping basketball and baseball. The playoffs are the start of the real season,too many teams get in.The season goes too far beyond what origanly was a winter sport.The players themselves are not that marketable except a few Can the above statement also refer to the NBA?

posted by GOD at 05:55 PM on July 08

Grum, you're not putting enough money on this wager. I'll put up $500,000. and give 2 to 1 odds. I want a piece of that action too. Hockey survived for decades without any TV at all and there's no reason to think that it won't continue. The only people it seems that are really bent on destroying it is the NHL themselves with their constant rule changes, esp the worst one of all, the shootout to end a tie game. Whoever came up with that idiotic idea needs to be beaten unconscious, then revived, then beaten again.

posted by commander cody at 08:13 PM on July 08

I have a slight disagreement with grum@work on TV vs live baseball. If you watch only the action with the ball, then you are correct, grum. Split screen and replay can fill in a lot that you might otherwise miss. But, if you like to watch defensive positioning as it changes with the hitter, count, pitching strategy, etc, and if you like to see how the umpires are positioning themselves to cover the field (and watch their signals to one another as they make sure of coverage), if you like to see runners attempting to distract the pitcher or the infielders as they take a lead and perhaps bluff a steal attempt, then TV cannot do justice to the game. It just depends on how you watch the game. With the above said, I will agree completely with those who say that hockey does not translate well to TV. The cameras follow the puck, but much of hockey is what the players are doing without the puck. How are they setting up to receive a pass? What route are they taking into the attacking zone to set up a play? On defense, is the center curling in behind the defensemen so that they can stand up at the blue line and play the body? There are far too many vital things going on in the game to limit your attention to the puck. It would be possible to take a wide-angle view of the ice on TV, but then it would become impossible to follow the puck.

posted by Howard_T at 08:37 PM on July 08

If you think hockey is going to disappear in Detroit, Boston, NY, Chicago, Philadelphia AND Minnesota, you're nuts. I agree with you overall -- the NHL is here to stay -- but how does Minnesota make your list? They were NHL free for seven years. With the above said, I will agree completely with those who say that hockey does not translate well to TV. I think the Stanley Cup playoffs are great on TV. Watching the Stars make several runs at the Cup, and even win it once, were great on the tube.

posted by rcade at 08:47 PM on July 08

but how does Minnesota make your list? They were NHL free for seven years. That was an abomination because of ownership, much like L.A. not having an NFL team. Minnesota has produced more NHL players than rest of the states combined (or, when I read the stat in the 1990s, it did). As a cradle for American hockey, I have a hard time believing it would fail again. It just depends on how you watch the game. I agree. When I've had great seats to Blue Jays games, it's been better than TV. There is nothing more mesmerizing than watching a 95+ mph fastball go "zzzzip pop!" into a catcher's mitt from behind home plate. However, unless I'm in the first deck (and between the bases), I would rather watch the game on TV* and see the curve balls from behind the pitcher, and the low-angle shots of a hot grounder just skipping by the shortstop. The defensive positioning (or lack of it) can probably be extrapolated by the results of the play (especially with my HD-PVR giving me the option to create my own replays). Hockey, however, is one of those sports where the HD picture and 5.1 surround sound broadcast does NOT do the game justice. The sound of the blades on the ice, the reverb of the shots (or bodies) hitting the boards and the SMELL of the ice is totally unlike anything on TV. As well, as you stated, watching the players WITHOUT the puck (like Crosby or Lecavalier) gives you a better understanding of "great" versus "very good" versus "thug-on-blades" players. * I don't mind seats outside the infield markers, as they usually give me the best chance to catch a foul ball. I'm still unsuccessful in that regard, but maybe my father's luck will eventually rub off on me (he has 4 foul balls, from 3 different stadiums and even one from a World Series).

posted by grum@work at 10:14 PM on July 08

........ how does Minnesota make your list? They were NHL free for seven years. True enough, but, unless I'm mistaken, the Minnesota Wild haven't had an unsold seat since they resurrected NHL hockey in Minnesota.

posted by tommytrump at 10:27 PM on July 08

The league isn't going to die. It's just being run by incompotent morons. But, hockey is not just going to disappear. That's a little narrow-sighted. It might die in some of the cities it's tried to recently set up shop in - but hello, this happens to every pro sport. I don't see a 100% permanent franchise list in the NBA, NFL or MLB - do you?

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:44 AM on July 09

ESPN has an agenda which included trashing nascar until they got on the clue train and now have coverage and their own nascar show. Now they talk about nascar like they have been covering it for years when any nascar fan who has been around knows that they don't know shit about it! It is the same with the nhl, now that they don't cover it,all they can do is think about ways to trash it. When they used to cover it they spoke about all the positives of the game now they just dismiss it as a secondary sport. ESPN gives more coverage to so-called sports such as poker and hot dog eating contests than they do to a lot of real sports. I am not knocking either one of those events, but lets be honest and say that they are entertainment not sports. ESPN has gotten so big that they feel they can do and say whatever they want about sports without any repercussions, the problem is that they can because people allow them to get away with it. Until people start to boycott their programming or contact their advertisers to complain nothing will change.

posted by muggsy at 10:54 AM on July 09

Until people start to boycott their programming or contact their advertisers to complain nothing will change. Gotta agree with you there. The NHL and the chance to see my beloved Red Wings was one of the only reasons I ever turned over to ESPN. Now, except to catch the occasional Tiger's game, I can't think of anything worth watching on there.

posted by commander cody at 12:15 PM on July 09

Since when is Bill Simmons relevant? Colin Cowherd . . . are you kidding me???? Cowherd has no talent whatsoever, and Simmons is ridiculously overrated. The other "experts" mentioned in the article aren't exactly gurus, either. It's true that hockey ratings are struggling. It's true that ESPN not covering hockey is going to influence casual fans who don't have the time, energy, and / or ability to think independently about sports to not watch hockey. It's also true that failing to place hockey on TV channels that are easy to find and have large viewerships is injurious to the NHL. I mean, who but the hardcore hockey fan is going to search for Versus??? Gary Bettman is the cause of the NHL's problems, and not ESPN. Truly, the marketing of the NHL has been deplorable for years, and of course the rules changes were about 10 years too late. I remember clamoring for simliar changes back in 1996! The problem is that the NHL has a dirth of leadership. New leaders with fresh ideas and the guts to implement them are needed. There's actually not much wrong with the present-day on-ice product. With the rules changes and the influx of young talent, it's actually enjoyable to watch. All-time attendance records confirm this, and the game is one of the best sports to watch in HD. On the other hand, it couldn't be presented through the media and to potential new fans any worse . . . and this needs to change for the League to survive. Who knows, we might see more and more teams move to Canada, where the game is still hot - tax issues be damned. ESPN, McDonald's, Miller Lite, Madden Football, and American Idol - what do they have in common?

posted by BCHockey at 01:21 PM on July 09

ESPN being the powerhouse that they are obviously have the influence that this article is talking about, but many of the talking heads (Dan Patrick especially) at ESPN have spent years putting down Soccer (I believe there may be a "soccer sucks" article by Gene Wojciechowski on Page 2 right now!) , and it is still doing considerably well in this country. I think this speaks to the loyalty of the game to the fans, not the otherway around. Watching a soccer game today is the same as watching a soccer game 20 years ago, no matter what part of the world you're in. There may be a few rule changes, but the essense of the game is intact. I think that by maintaining the integrity of the game, the league here has won over many fans. (I think the UFC could also be put into this category with it's growth in spite of the recent "Is it too violent to be a sport?" barage from ESPN) I watch the game of hockey today and it has very little resemblance to the game back in it's prime when it was considered the 4th major sport. I don't know what it is, lack of fighting, the speed of the game, the lack of physical play, the players are too large for the ice....it goes on....but the die hard hockey fans have moved away from the pro game (AHL, college and highschool were mentioned above) , not because they don't love the sport, but because this league is no longer "the sport" and the true essence is found elsewhere. If the relationship of the sport and fans is maintained, than ESPN can say all the negative things they want, and the sport will live on. Nascar was made fun of for years by mainstream sports media, then it got huge, then ESPN jumped on the band wagon and blew it up even more. ESPN did not make Nascar huge. The fans and the "sport" made Nascar huge.

posted by kire at 02:43 PM on July 09

The hockey (and basketball) playoffs can't end in May. If they did you can forget about a network contract for the finals; that's sweeps month!

posted by Newbie Walker at 02:51 AM on July 10

Hockey, however, is one of those sports where the HD picture and 5.1 surround sound broadcast does NOT do the game justice. completely agree...I'm not a hockey fan by any stretch of the imagination (living in south texas), and used to make fun of it much like I do Soccer today :-) But I went to an IHL (I think) hockey game and had a blast. After 10 minutes I could see why people loved the game as there was so much going on "away" from the puck that you just never see on TV.

posted by bdaddy at 02:51 PM on July 10

I must say, I can't quite buy into the idea that hockey isn't a good TV sport. Most of the camera angles are pretty much exactly the same for basketball or soccer and I don't hear the same complaints for them. It may not be as multi-faceted as baseball, but it's hardly worthy of some kind of pariah status. And the "net cam" is fucking awesome. It's one of the best cams in sports as far as I come from. You can score a goal and hit it - makes for a great shot. Not to mention all the huge hits that send players flying into it. I love that. No - if you don't like hockey it doesn't really make sense that it's because of those things. The sports marketplace is pretty saturated these days and I can buy people just plum not having room for the passionate allegiance that hockey typically calls for - it doesn't really lend itself to the fair weather fan support that works better for baseball (I guess) - and it's certainly is a cold weather game. But outside of about 4 major East coast markets, pro-hockey has barely been around in the US for only about 40 years. Hard to compete with some of the traditional sports. And it's not particularly cheap to go to an NHL game. I remember when the debate raged about whether or not the NBA could survive some decades ago. It seems to have managed. Give it some time. Hockey will have a renaissance and will be cool again. I have a feeling the Rangers are going to be good, the Pens are going to be freaking awesome and that's going to help. I also think the brass needs to stop the constant tinkering and subsequent celebrations of said tinkering which just makes the league seem like a gilted girlfriend who keeps changing her hair and makeup to suit the flavour of the week (we need parity - no wait, we need powerhouse teams - no wait, we need superstars - no wait, we need goals - tinker, tinker, tinker). Oh - and ESPN is a fucktard.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 04:59 PM on July 10

I think part of the problem fan wise is that while we have all shot and missed a three point shot or swung on an missed a fastball, we know how hard it is to do what Lebron or Derek Jeter does and we can admire that for what it is. The same with watching Tiger. Even playing touch football at the park makes you realize how hard it is to complete a pass with people who have no talent. With hockey, if you have never played it or even know how to skate, you don't have the same reference to the game. Part of my love of hockey comes from getting up for 6 a.m. practices in -40 below weather with frozen skates. I am not saying that you have to have experienced that to appreciate the game but if you have no idea of how hard it is to do what Crosby does, you are not going to appreciate or enjoy what you are seeing. I remember my first baseball game. I was in Toronto, tickets were six dollars a piece (for some tickets at the top of the Rogers Centre and Roger Clemons was pitching. I wasn't a big fan before of the game on television but I was afterwards.) With hockey, you can't buy tickets with the spare change in your wallet and you definately do go to a game on a whim. It could take years to make some of those cities into hockey markets.

posted by jc at 08:42 PM on July 10

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