Make It Happen, NHL; You Cowards: Women’s Hockey Edition

Huge preface as I know nothing of the inner workings of the NHL or the NWHL, but I do have an idea what would turn casual women’s hockey fan to an appointment fan.

Beyond the Olympics and World Championships, you need to have some kind of league to display these great athletes in their field. I’ve said it before on a podcast and on this blog that the women never to do a year-long tour to major cities to get people to know these athletes more (check with the Dream Gap Tour) and then they need the NHL to be involved somehow in a league in order to take off.

Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada that The Athletic’s Hailey Salvian transcribed with her emphasis being a big reason for this post. Salvian also pointed out that Katie Strang wrote something in May about a WNHL for The Athletic, but the Friedman stamp is one that shows there’s some progress to it.

“If the time ever becomes necessary” and “in case” are interesting buzz words. The fact there’s this secret contingency plan that the NHL is holding onto seems like something that shouldn’t be a contingency plan at all. They tout Hockey is for Everyone and tout this Female Hockey Advisory Committee, but still hasn’t pulled the trigger on this league under the NHL banner?? What are you waiting for, you cowards!?

There will be a blow-back because people inherently think the way the NHL runs things isn’t the most ideal– but if the independent entities for women’s pro hockey hasn’t been able to make it profitable yet, you need to have the NHL’s back behind it– if for nothing else but to build a better business structure to make the players profitable and the league a boom for professional sports. Then, once things get good and there’s some semblance of structure on the higher end of things; the NHL stops taking full reign and more and more independence of the NHL happens, though it has the marketing and media backing behind it.

All due respect, but the NWHL being on Twitch isn’t going to be something that casual people will surf to when they’re looked for “Fortnite” streams. That’s a place where people who have appointments for the games go to, but you get it on NBCSN or even the NHL Network– it’s a big bump in eyes to the programs. The inability to have an accessible television coverage of the games is the downfall of pro hockey for the female side of it. The main stream coverage is needed because what happens after the Olympics if people can’t readily find the feed on their television or streaming service?? They’ll lose interest and move along until the next four years roll around.

If the NHL wants to do it and FOR SOME UNGODLY REASON is just holding onto it until the vibe is right…there’s no better time than now to do something like this than now; hell, even two years ago was the right time to do this. As much respect as I have for the DIY attitude of the people running the women’s professional leagues– there’s a time where you need to have the establishment to help back you up and get you on your feet before you really start to run away with things.

Take the exposure, take the business structure, and run with it. Don’t let the NHL shuffle their feet more than it has on this and push them to get involved in creating a league that’ll be stable and will have more mainstream media exposure and create more people into regular fans rather than when it’s national competitions.

How to Fix the NHL Network With New BAMTech/Disney Venture

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As I sit here and watch the NHL Network’s lack of diversity in their programming, I’m wondering if there’s a way that Disney/ESPN can make the network better.

I wonder this after Disney acquired BAMTech, which holds the digital rights and direction of the NHL Network for the NHL. This, of course, was something that sparked some discussion this past week about ESPN finally being able to show hockey again…sort of. With the Disney purchase, that means that ESPN would be able to stream games through NHL.TV and, I’m sure, ESPN3 will have some kind of hand into this pot.

Let’s be honest– the ESPN streaming idea could be a thing that saves the idea of the NHL Network if they are willing to change up the format, add new life into the network with new show ideas and concepts, and if they get some different voices on there aside from the same rotation of people we see on the network already.

Yes, it’s the NHL Network, but could it hurt for them to expose some other leagues more than just games in the AHL and Major Junior leagues once a week?? Maybe a weekly recap or feature show?? That shows you are letting the hockey fan inside the top prospects that could be coming into the league soon enough.

However, right now– it’s easier to go ahead and show the same garbage Top-20 List every hour on the hour and then NHL Tonight and NHL On the Fly in the other parts of the day. When it’s not any of that, it’s the same specials about the same events over and over again.

It’s something that makes me furious about the NHL Network because the archive they have and the ability they have to show off games from the past is something some people would love to see. To have shows with former players and the stories they can tell in an intimate setting (see the format for WWE’s Table for 3). But the NHL Network and the people running it are lazy when it comes to ideas. Do a copy/paste of what you think people want to see and call it good.

It’s not hard to make the NHL Network successful. There’s plenty of ideas out there to be had to improve upon what they have now, but at the same time– the drive has to be there as well. That latter point is really the thing holding the NHL Network away from being a completely relevant source for hockey fans to go to for entertainment outside of the games themselves.

More Coverage is More Gooder

NHL on NBC

With Game Six being the end of the NHL season, NBC took center stage as the Pittsburgh Penguins took home their second straight Stanley Cup and fifth overall to the delight of many and the disgust of many more. However, while NBC did have the game itself, couldn’t the NHL and their rightsholder have done more to make this coverage an even bigger deal for fans??

Full disclosure: I’m a cord-cutter and use SlingTV as my main visual aspect of getting games on top of NHL.TV for coverage. The closest NBC tower is 40 miles away and getting a good reception in this wind field that is North Dakota is near impossible and with the NBC Sports App, you apparently need a cable provider to sign up and have them be cool with it. If you have any ways to legally get around it, then let me know in the comments because my dumbass doesn’t know how to.

Is there a reason the NHL didn’t make a possible series-clinching game one of the biggest events over their networks of coverage?? Granted, NBCSN did have their own stuff to cover, like the new-to-you showing of the Canadian Grand Prix (which had happened that afternoon) that night after their pre-game coverage to Game Six; but why not put NHL Network to work for something like this?? Maybe give hockey fans an alternative to the claptrap they have to endure with NBC’s announcers, like playing the Sportsnet/CBC coverage on the NHL Network to give another aspect of the game with different voices than that of what NBC pushes onto fans.

Sure, it was nice to see the NHL Network play Sportsnet’s “NHL Classic” series where they have pop-up video elements over classic games in a sixty-minute span, but wouldn’t some kind of alternate simulcast be just as good for hockey fans?? Maybe do to the series-clinching games like ESPN does with the NCAA National Championship Football MegaCast in putting different analysts on a simulcast of the game to give their differing opinions.

The second-screen experience is what other sports give their fans. Whether it be through radio calls, enhances stats during the game, or some other alternative to what the main broadcast is, it seems that the NHL has lacked that for a time and is behind on a lot of sports in that nature. Even if it’s just giving an alternative viewing, why not have people watching something rather than be mad at the broadcast team they have now. Hell, why not just get rid of the group of people you have and get new blood in there– but that’s another discussion for another time.

Like I said, NBCSN probably does have other properties they have to show contractually, so they might not be available to pull off this kind of thing, especially when it’s not a one-and-done thing. However, NHL Network hasn’t proved that they are showing anything but reruns of old games or some random animated show hosted by Boomer Esiason. Why not utilize this league dedicated network to the Cup Final series and give fans an alternative and a reason to watch that channel outside of the On The Fly aspect during the season. To do something like that with the Cup-clinching games (at least) could get people to actually tune into the channel and give a fresh spin for those who are overly sick of the NBC talking heads.

I just feel that if you have a big event like the Cup-clinching game, more than just NBC would be the spot to watch, especially when the auxiliary channels deal with the bulk of the post-game after the Cup is won due to local news or some other NBC program coming on after the game’s time-slot. ¬†Make it a big event because it’s the biggest event of the hockey year. Hell, even if you have to do it two or three or four times, why not do it and treat it like a big deal?? Just seems there’s so much to do when it comes to the broadcast that is left on the table by letting NBC keep it to just one channel for the game itself and not give a second-screen experience that other sports give their fans.

Putting the Minor Leagues Into the Mainstream

During the Memorial Cup Final on Sunday, NHL.com’s AHL writer Patrick Williams brought up an interesting concept when it came to the AHL’s Calder Cup Finals coming up and how to get some buzz to those casual minor league hockey fans.

Williams is not wrong. The AHL putting their games out there for free on AHLLive.com, but even with that, people need to have a purpose to go to that site and put in all the things in order to watch the game. It’s not like the CHL had in the US and Canada where you could be flipping around the channels and find themselves watching the game because it caught there attraction. Yes, you can make the argument that the NHL is not in and around many prime channels and you may need a reason to turn to that channel– but it’s still on TV is the point.

However, for the production value of the games will have to be better by ten-fold. On the AHL Live feed, all the things that are shown on the jumbotron are shown on the broadcast, including in-game graphics and promotions, are shown during the broadcast with the radio play-by-play being over top of the action. It’s not like you can see replay and have those plays broken down, so it’s a real disadvantage. Though, there are times AHL Live simulcasts TV broadcasts, but it’s few and far between.

At this point in the season, you would think that both the AHL and the ECHL would want to show off their product in the best of lights. The member teams, you would hope, would find a way to get a local TV station to help with the production of their game film and make it very presentable for a championship series and not grainy quality you’d expect to see in archival footage from the 1970s.

Of course, a budget factor would come into play. You wouldn’t think teams would have much money earmarked for the TV side of things,¬†though at this point in the season– you could splurgs for something like this. Plus, you’d have to imagine that if they got on regular TV, the NHL Network would be able to grab that satellite feed and broadcast it on their airwaves because, well, they don’t have anything else going on right now with the Cup Finals being the story of the next two weeks or so. Why not put the AHL or ECHL playoffs onto the channel to give hockey fans even more hockey that matters on the air.

I’ll always advocate for minor league hockey and to get minor league hockey out into the mainstream for people to not only check-up on their team’s prospects, but to learn about new players, areas, teams, league, and whatever else they can take away from watching the games. Making them watchable has to be the first step for minor leagues– first on a production level and next to get it out to the masses.

If there’s anything I missed with what the AHL and ECHL could do to improve upon their broadcasts, hit up the comment section.