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A kinder, gentler criticism of the NHL from ESPN's fine EOE programming?

Thursday, October 04, 2007
Readers who frequent Army of the Ohio know that I generally have no love for Around the Horn or Pardon the Interruption, in large part because of the one-sided, immature and otherwise idiotic antics of people such as Tony Kornheiser, Jay Marriotti, and Woody Paige whenever the topic of hockey, or the NHL, comes up.

After last night's abysmal attendance at Joe Louis Arena for Detroit's 3-2 SO win over the Ducks, as well as the Avalanche's first ever lack of an opening game sellout (they hit around the 97% capacity mark), I just knew I had to tune in and see what was going to be said. PTI and ATH are the sorts of things that we hockey fans watch because we're masochists; we know we're going to get punched in the face, kicked in the groin, and get humiliated ... but we can't turn away.

And so it went, that the topic of the lack of American games playing to capacity crowds was brought up on both programs.

But something different happened this time around ... something quite funny. This time, at least to me, the criticism levied against the National Hockey League was ... gentler, I guess? I can't think of the right word, but suffice it to say, I found myself in near-disbelief at the fact that the likes of Mariotti, in all his boombastik and loud glory, was able to coherently and rationally go over a variety of the reasons as to why the NHL was suffering, which included the majority of ownership being incapable of keeping up with the times. And then there was hockey-loving Tim Cowlishaw, who fired off the largest salvo of intelligent criticism of the league that I've ever seen come from him.

I still took issue with the fact that in general, the reasoning behind both games being unable to sell out were glossed over. Detroit fans and bloggers have already vehemently pointed out a variety of legitimate rationales for what happened last night, which included not just the economy's woes, but also the stronger competition from the other three sports leagues in MoTown, as well as an ignorant, out-of-touch, and otherwise aloof front office that waited too long to act against fan apathy. As for Colorado, it must be remembered that even if Avalanche games are not happening at the same time as Colorado Rockies games, people only have so much money to put towards luxuries and leisure activities, and this being the Rockies' second ever playoff berth, it's hard to argue against people flocking to them at this point in time.

But I'm straying from the topic, which is that it seemed as though the normally over-the-top anti-hockey rhetoric seems to have been toned down, if only temporarily. Perhaps a result of the supposed talks between the NHL and ESPN to try and shuffle the league -- head hung low -- back to ESPN2, due to the currently hurting television ratings they have from their VS and NBC contracts?

Like I said to a friend earlier this evening, it makes no sense for ESPN to commit character assassination on the NHL to the point where if they did once again air hockey games, no one would turn in all thanks to all the hate and apathy they themselves drummed up and directed towards the league. Of course, this is all just theoretical; and I'm sure I'm probably giving ESPN too much credit. Maybe a week from now I'll see something more on par with Kornheiser's tirades that I've come to know and hate him for.

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Name: Michael
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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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