Thomas
DeChastelain
Memorial Archives

A Missed Opportunity from the Walk-Out.
posted Jul 21, 2006 at 12:48AM

I am sure you have noticed that in certain media quarters, it is fashionable to turn one's nose up at professional hockey in comparison with the other major North American sports leagues. The source comes from a certain breed of American sports broadcaster that immediately puts down anything that is not instantly identifiable as being thoroughly "American". Worse at times you can see it rubbing it off on Canadian broadcasters with inferiority complexes. Thus their willingness to consider "gimmicks" to save the game of hockey or change it to sell it to the Americans.

The fact is that the NHL is a major sports league in North America, especially when you go by paid attendance. As you can see the NHL is comparable to the attendance of basketball, which is similar in terms of arenas and games played. This is actually quite remarkable given that hockey gets no where near the coverage and promotion that basketball gets in American national broadcasts like sports reports and sports shows. In other words Americans like the game of hockey. And why not? It is the perfect spectator sport with speed, grace and violence. And tell the truth...is there anything more boring than the last five minutes of a NBA game?

And of course there is the rub. The NHL does not have that big TV contract. In that regards the NHL missed a great opportunity that came with the walk-out. Namely they should have had their regular season start with the Labor Day weekend. I cannot speak for everyone of course but I know that come the start of the school year, I am ready for hockey. More important is what happens at the other end. As has been documented unless your team is still in the hunt, people's interest in watching hockey begins to wane in the midst of warm, if not tropical weather. With a labor day start, the Finals would be over by early May instead of the middle of June. More importantly the NHL playoffs would no longer have to compete head to head with the NBA playoffs. They would have the first three rounds to themselves and by the time the NBA first round started, we would be responding with a championship series.

Given the huge potential of TV revenues, I think even the players would swallow the one shortened off-season and go for the schedule shift.

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