ESPN's 'Hockey Night' Had The Best Player In The Universe Vs. The Hottest Team On The Planet And Didn't Air It On TV
In a season that has frustrated NHL viewers--WHO JUST WANT TO WATCH THE FUCKING GAME--like no other before it, the ESPN/NHL deal smashed another egg on its face with last night's "Hockey Night". Already-a-Hall-of-Famer Connor McDavid was making his only (?) trip to Boston this season with an Edmonton crew that's looked like a different team since acquiring rugged and skilled defenseman Mattias Ekholm from Nashville. It's not a coincidence the Oilers have won four outta five since he joined the lineup.
Meanwhile, the Bruins have smashed more records than a 1950's Southern preacher. They're on a historic run that, based on what's already gone down this season, needs to end with Patrice Bergeron's second Stanley Cup or it will be considered a failure. So when the Connor and Leon show came to town with the buzzing Oilers, more than a few observers wondered if we might be watching a Stanley Cup preview. It was the marquee-est game of the year thus far. And it did not air on television.
Hand up, I was one of dummies who was fine with getting back in bed with ESPN because of the network's enormous reach and the fact that they historically give way more coverage to leagues they're in business with. The idea of being able to watch seemingly every game (SONK) was appealing as hell. But as each night of the NHL calendar passes, there are more and more angry fans due to stunts like last night as well as the ridiculous and archaic blackout rules.
Even allowing for the dopey blackouts to protect some shitty RSN's interests while shutting out NHL fans in Montana, Idaho, and other places that are nowhere near an NHL city, how the fuck was Edmonton @ Boston last night only available via streaming on ESPN+ ? Seriously, what is the logic here? It's ESPN's 'Hockey Night' with a dream regular season match-up and cable/satellite subscribers were unable to watch because it was not being shown on television. Make it make sense.
Like I've said to the NHL a million times before...
And I make sure to tag them so they can
likely ignore see the havoc they're wreaking on people who just want to inhale their product. Why does ESPN and the NHL limit its audience and exposure to its product in this manner? Why can't the game stream on ESPN+ AND air on one of the 74 Disney-owned channels out there? Why not get maximum eyeballs on your product, especially when it's goddamn McDavid? It makes no sense to shut out a huge portion of your audience like this.
I know the internet is and has been a way of life for many people for decades now. And I can hear the 'ok boomer' coming. But that's who the NHL is fucking over the most, their oldest and most loyal fans. People who have been watching NHL since the Production Line in Detroit 70 goddamn years ago.
You know why clichés stick around? Because they're typically true. As in 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks'. Most people 50-and-over who don't have the internet by now are highly unlikely to get it in the future. So when you restrict a must-see game like last night to an app (not to mention several others), this is the message you're sending to not just Boomer fans but to all fans who don't have the internet for any number of reasons…
But the larger issue is this blackout bullshit. I'm not gonna pretend to be Nicky Nielson over here like I know how all this shit works. However, I know fucking stupid when I see it. Like every night the NHL has games…
On it, T.
This was last night. Rags @ Habs. Absolutely no reason should this game be blacked out in Boston. And yet…
This is fucking BRUTAL. Any state that grows a shitload of padadiz (potatoes) is alright in my book. And these poor pricks are blacked out by THREE TEAMS.
New York and New Jersey fans get screwed in a variety of confusing ways. I might fuck with Rags fans but I stand with them when it comes to this bullshit.
Colorado fans have been over a barrel for years now.
And this isn't just an issue in the States.
That's not even the tip of the iceberg. There's hundreds if not thousands more Tweets echoing the same sentiments.
And you know what the end result of all these dopey blackouts is?
Not only is the NHL not accomodating their fanbase, they're driving it to pirate sites and VPNs and whatever other methods people MacGyver together to watch their product, methods that the NHL will make $0 on. I don't know what the answer is and I won't pretend to. But I sure as shit know what the problem is. And the NHL best take notice how much they're continually shooting themselves in the foot.
Perhaps they can take a cue from the bastard child of American pro sports. That's right…soccer.
Or maybe see how the Aussies figured it out.
Whatever ESPN and the NHL do or don't do, they have a real problem on their hands with this current set-up. And with the caliber of play the best it's ever been in 106 years, it's flat out negligent as well as foolish to not maximize exposure to games. But I'm not holding my breath.
(Just to be clear, this blog is not a dig at any of fine folks working the games in the booth, studio, behind the scenes, etc or those who do a terrific job covering the league. It's the peckerhead suits above them.)