Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Making Must-See TV
The NHL Network is rightly revered among us hockey fans but we've all seen its plethora of flaws. Last week Matt at View From My Seats wrote that "there's so much potential" and he is absolutely right. But, as was also mentioned in the piece, the league has cheaped out on the follow through and "the bottom line is that the league (and apparently Comcast) needs to spend some time and money to make the product better."
VFMS suggest an improved set and better personalities for On The Fly. While the set definitely needs expansion, the bland broadcasters are just fine with me. I don't want Sportscenter attitude and catch phrases. We love our humble, low-key hockey stars so why do we need to get all Stu Scott and put the puck up where momma keeps the cookie jar?
As for the rest of the programming, we agree in that it needs work. First off, there is no reason to play the same in-house promos 18 times an hour. It wouldn't take too much to make some vignettes promoting individual teams. Hell, make the teams themselves produce them. It was a nice change when they aired the 'Great Day For Hockey' spots for the Pens. Then they went away and we are right back to Chris Simpson imitating a bobble head doll as she interviews Jarome Iginla, Zdeno Chara climbing a mountain and Patrik Elias making the world a better place talking about the troubles in Belize (I still say he got that hepatitis from hanging out with Mmmmaaarrrtttyyy and his in-laws). The Cup raising spot remains my favourite commercial of all time but by the end of the playoffs last season I had to admit that I was sick of it. I'd hear that piano piece start and change the commercial. If the local scrap metal buyers can produce their own advertising on the cheap, the National Hockey League can too.
Now that I addressed the commercial breaks, how about some show ideas? I was actually considering putting together true show pitches but don't have the time and sadly feel they would fall upon deaf ears with the powers that be. I don't think they will with you guys so here are a few, with basic breakdowns. All can be done quite cost effectively by the way ... all names are negotiable:
*Home Ice Advantage: Virtually a travel show, this gives an inside look at each of the NHL's buildings (and beyond perhaps). Not only will you get a history lesson and guided tour by a player or personality, you would also get inside tips from season ticket holders - where the best food is, the best views, the minutia that makes each barn special. MLB Network has the Cathedrals Of The Game, and let's face it, hockey arenas provide a much bigger advantage for the home team than baseball does. So let's take a look how and why.
*The Locker Room: A look at everything that goes into getting on the ice. It would include a look the newest, coolest equipment out there. Sure there would be some product placement by league sponsors, but it could be done in an informative way - how to pick the stick curve that suits your shot? how should your skates fit? what should you look for in a helmet? And once you have that, what ways should you train? What kind of exercises should you do? Drills? If working at Sports Authority for years taught me anything, it's that most people don't have a clue.
*Puck Stuff: Like Sal's Puck Junk blog, it would cover memorabilia. While his site centers on cards, it could go even further with everything from board games to jerseys. The game-worn sweater market is huge, take a trip to the MeiGrey summer sale. Thousands of people go on YouTube to watch box-breaks for the newest Upper Deck line, so why not include something like that? Patrick Roy is said to be a huuuge card collector, have him give a tour of his set up. Get a tour of the manufacturing plants for some of this stuff. Press Pass TV did it with Mitchell & Ness and it was nerd-tastic.
*Ye Olde Hockey Pub: Writers, bloggers, former players ... this is where the personality should come out. A Best Damned Sports Show Period with the hockey (J.R.!) without much of the duchebaggery. Think the ramblings of your house league buddies meet the Hot Stove meet The Sports Reporters. Hell, even get John Saunders to host it. If he can handle Lupica, he surely can take care of Wyshynski. NHL Live was at its best when it was EJ with Donny Pucks for a reason - they know the game, they love the game and they deftly handled the topics of the day. Now add a few beers, a set that doesn't include the NHL Store's checkout girl picking at her thong and some strong personalities butting heads while playing rod hockey.
*International Match Of The Week: Well, this isn't really a program but why couldn't the NHL air a Swedish/Finnish/Swiss/Czech league game? (No Russians, not with the Ice Cold War going on.) Every once so rarely (too rarely) we are treated to junior or minor league matches, so why not see them play on the other side of the pond? As I saw in Switzerland and England (and read in Tropic of Hockey), there is a planet of pucks out there so let's see it. The NHL needs to realize that promoting the sport of hockey - even if it isn't their own games - can only be good for them in the long run.
What do you think? Would you tune in?