Hockey, by far, is the best sport in North America to watch in person. But it is not even one of the top four sports anymore. As Bettman has moved so many teams into the States, and the large assortment of minor league teams all over the country, it is not for lack of availability.
The main reason is that the game is virtually-impossible to follow if you are not in the actual arena. While this could degenerate into yet another ESPN Is Trying To Kill Hockey post, it is more a Goddamn, Why Do You Suck So Much post.
First off, I got out of work a bit late so I missed the start of the game. I got into my car in the middle of the first period and had to search the entire AM dial on the radio to try to find the game. ESPN Radio, which usually has the games, instead was covering basketball - that's a rant for another time. So I searched and searched, and finally found it, where? Bloomberg Radio.
The Islanders air their games on a financial radio station. What a joke. Plus the promos they air are hilarious: they had Ruslan Fedotenko doing a station ID and he can barely speak english. Awesomely bad.
There was very little that was awesome about the actual broadcast, with the colour guy piping in nonsense as play was going on and the play-by-play guy responding rather than *ACTUALLY DOING HIS JOB* and explaining what was happening.
So I massaged the interpretation of the speed limits and made it home in time to watch Versus for the second and third periods. And I gotta tell you, was it hard to watch.
The director tried to 'take you closer to the play' by using a number of angles and some tight shots, but that just made it impossible to tell what was going on. It didn't help that the camera guys clearly had trouble keeping track of the puck.
The second intermission two-way with Dennis Miller was ridiculous. The guy was laughed out of Monday Night Football for being incredibly unfunny and Versus gives him a late night sports show? And they waste some of the little broadcast time they devote to hockey talking to him? Are you kidding me?
I am pretty much as diehard as you can get and if it wasn't that it was a Rangers-Isles game, I would have changed the channel.
The NHL hired John Shannon a few years back to be the VP of Broadcasting and to improve the on-air product. Either he is utterly incompetent or has been handcuffed by the NHL's insane decision to give the game over to the clowns at Versus. The guy worked at Hockey Night In Canada and ran Leafs TV so he knows hockey. But, judging by the Versus product, he knows nothing about trying to sell the game to Americans. Those fools at Versus prove night after night that they are still trying to find their way. Yes they have improved exponentially from when they first went on the air, but they still lag behind even the mediocrity that is the FSN regional networks.
The league's marketing monkeys aren't helping much by selling NHL commercials to air on Versus. So they waste a ton of money to play these (ridiculous) commercials and preach to the choir? If I went through all of the effort to find Versus on my cable system and then to actually pay a premium for the colossal pile of cow shit, and then tuned in to watch the game, I clearly like hockey. Why the hell are you wasting money trying to sell it to me?
I know I am not saying a whole lot more than what has already been said but at some point someone has to say enough is enough. Attendance is down, newspaper coverage is down, television highlight coverage is minimal ... hell, several people I have spoken to had no idea the NHL came back after that catastrophic lockout ... the league simply has to do a better job selling itself and forcing its main national broadcast partner to improve its coverage. Yes the league has a lot of hot young players but if things keep going as they have been, the future will be very bleak.