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ESPN and the NHL: Like oil and water.

Friday, May 26, 2006
While milling about the apartment between the end of Pardon the Interruption on ESPN and the start of the 7:30 PM EST Carolina vs. Buffalo game on OLN, I spotted Barry Melrose, and who I think was with John Buccigross between him and some NBA-analyst that ESPN regularly has on doing a little "round table" talk about the NHL vs. the NBA in the middle of the early evening Sportscenter.

Curious to see what they were saying, I unmuted the television and took a seat to catch the tail-end of the little discussion, with Barry talking about how great the NHL is. Of course, before he could finish it seems, the other guy went right into this tirade about how he doesn't like hockey at all, how bad it is, and how he can't wait for the Tour de France to be on OLN instead.

Rolling my eyes, I then decided to see if Bucci happened to have a new blog entry up on the NHL section of ESPN. Despite my general distaste for the channel, I still watch the EOE shows like Around the Horn and PTI for entertainment purposes. No new blog entry yet, but as I was about to close up my browser, I spied with my little eye something small and something in the bottom left, about the "elusive" Carolina Hurricanes fan.

I probably got my hopes up a little too much, hoping that the article might actually have a more positive twist to it, despite the mocking link that led the editorial by writer Bomani Jones. Well, my hopes were soon dashed, as I came to find out that the article was, as expected from the likes of ESPN, a cornucopia of comments about the utter lack of fans in the fringe markets; Carolina in particular in this article.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, really. I've previously talked about my disdain for ESPN's treatment of hockey and its overglorification of football and the NFL. Simply put, all season it has felt as though ESPN has gone out of its way -- both in its "professional" coverage and during their EOE shows -- to jab and spear the NHL. It's like the NHL is the kid who gets made fun of at all, with everyone guffawing and picking on them because it's the cool thing to do.

As a proud hockey fan, I find myself disgusted with the way the league is treated in the mainstream sports media in the post-lock out time that it has been playing. At the same time however, it's all a matter of simple economics and what gets ESPN more viewers and higher ratings. Does giving the NHL playoffs rave reviews and a positive spin help ESPN? Not at all. In fact, it hurts them if they do so. Why? It's due to the fact that at the same time these playoffs are on OLN and NBC ... ESPN, TNT, and ABC are all playing the NBA playoffs.

This isn't the first time I've written about this, either. Or rather, not the first time ever ... but it is certainly the first time here. I've previously aired my opinion on ESPN's treatment of the league in this article on my now defunct FoxSport's Blog, and went further by comparing what the NHL gained and lost by choosing OLN and NBC over ESPN and ABC for the next couple of seasons.

I guess I shouldn't complain while I have OLN on a basic cable plan, and Center Ice in the living room which has the Digital Cable. But even so, it's demoralizing to see how the sport is treated in the United States. You almost feel like you're out of touch with other people around you if hockey is your favorite sport. In the end, though, I hope that sooner or later the brain childs at the NHL and in their Marketing division will be able to figure out some way to sell the sport better. Unfortunately, while ESPN has the choke hold on what Americans care and don't care about in sports, that's easier said than done.
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Name: Michael
Home: San Tan Valley, Arizona, United States
About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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