As someone who really enjoys watching sports, I’ve officially entered one sport territory until the Fall.
Hockey has always been my first love, but over the past 10 years or so, Football has inched closer and closer to the top. It’s tough for me to admit that, because I like being different. Being an NHL fan is different, let me tell ya’. I’m definitely in the minority when it comes to the being a fan of the NHL.
At this point in the year, the Superbowl has capped off another NFL season and all the Bowl games for NCAA are long gone, so now the NHL can have my undivided attention (except for the NFL Draft… the Detroit Lion’s Superbowl).
The NHL trade deadline & the playoffs are my favorite time of the year. Once the playoffs start, there is hockey every night… oh wait, there used to be hockey every night, but the Commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman, toyed with that a bit to appease his hockey flagship, Versus.
So, let’s start again… the playoffs are on quite a few nights during the week on Versus. The only problem is, I have DIRECTV (which I love) and right now they’re in a bit of a squabble with Versus. Did I mention that Versus was owned by Comcast? Yes, the same Comcast that probably would like nothing more than to crush DIRECTV and continue to monopolize TV all over the US (Google it people… they own everything).
The good news is, this little tiff can’t last much longer right? I mean, they took Versus off DIRECTV in October, so they should have this whole thing worked out before the playoffs, right? I mean, Gary Bettman would obviously get these two in a room and work this out by then, I’m sure he’s already tried, right? Oh, he hasn’t? Hm, I wonder why?
Did I mention that Comcast, which owns Versus, also owns the Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL? Yup, they sure do. Gary Bettman just so happens to work for the NHL owners, all 30 of them. Maybe he doesn’t want to make his boss upset. Well, that’s just silly. There’s no way that Gary would disenfranchise all those fans that have DIRECTV just because Comcast, who owns Versus and the Philadelphia Flyers, can’t play nice.
Did I mention that Comcast now owns NBC? NBC is the only network that would even put the NHL on real tv (no offense cable/satellite providers). I’m sure NBC paid a lot of money though… wait, did I mention that they didn’t pay anything to air the NHL on NBC? Yeah, not a dime.
So, let’s see if we can figure this out. The commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman, has two partners that show NHL games on a national level… Versus & NBC. Comcast owns Versus & NBC. Comcast doesn’t want you to watch satellite tv, because it costs them money (plus you’ll see how amazing HD is on DIRECTV). Comcast – I mean – Versus wants more money from DIRECTV to have Versus in there channel lineup. I’m sure the negotiations went something like this…
DIRECTV: “Okay, let’s see what you have to offer us, I’m sure we can work something out.”
Versus: “We have the NHL, MMA, racing, the Bull Riding and Sports Soup.”
DIRECTV: “Wow! You guys have the UFC?!? People pay big bucks to watch that stuff. Mixed Martial Arts is really gaining in popularity.”
Versus: “Well, we actually have the WEC, kind of like the minor leagues of the UFC.”
DIRECTV: “Well, you do have NASCAR and that sport really has a great following.”
Versus: “Let me stop you right there, we actually have Indy Car Racing – but we also have cycling. We cover that Tour de France thingy too.”
Versus: “We also have college football now!”
DIRECTV: “That sounds good, tell me more.”
Versus: “We broadcast Mountain West Conference games, like Brigham Young, Colorado State, University of New Mexico, Air Force and U of N.”
DIRECTV: “Well U of M has a big following, that might be good.”
Versus: “Nope, I said ‘N’ not ‘M’ as in the University of Nevada. Did I mention we have the NHL and Sports Soup?”
DIRECTV: “Yes, yes you did. I think we actually might be paying you too much.”
The long and the short of it is, the main people in charge of the NHL are total idiots. Not just because they have allowed Comcast to stop millions of potential viewers from watching the NHL nationally, but because they have no idea how to market and grow this game.
If I really wanted to be good at something, I would study and emulate someone who was really good at that something. When it comes to running sports leagues, there is no one who does it better than the NFL. I’m sure Gary could give Roger Goodell a ring or even send him an email and pick his brain a bit. Heck, even if he met with the marketing team or former NFL insiders, anything that could help him see how to market the game of hockey.
This whole Versus/DIRECTV is just another blunder in a long line of screw-ups that the NHL has managed to pull off for many years. They’re a distant 4th in professional sports and nobody cares about the game. Even in Hockey Meccas, like Detroit, sports talk radio stations like 97.1 the Ticket barely utter a word about hockey during their drive-time show, Valenti & Foster.
Somebody… anybody with any influence whatsoever in the NHL. Please listen to your fans. You are doing a horrible job and some, if not all of your die-hard fans just might have some good ideas for you.
Until then I’ll keep my fingers crossed that DIRECTV & Comcast can work something out before mid-April… if history is any indication, I may have to become a fan of baseball. I think I just fell asleep even thinking about that.