NHL Network’s Summer of Repeats

18 Jul

The NHL Network has proven to be a godsend to hockey fans in the United States.  Without it, fans would be lost as ESPN barely mentions the NHL, while Versus is still trying to build up it’s programming.  When the NHL Network debuted in the States, it was loaded with classic games and several original programs.  As time has gone on, many of those original shows have been jettisoned for more studio analysis.  The lack of original programming really shows up during the summer.  Instead of airing encores of these shows or new programming, U.S. viewers are stuck re-watching the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  And even worse, it’s the same games over and over again. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Clearly, it’s not easy for a league network to fill time during the off-season.  The NFL Network does a fair job while the NHL seems to be lost.  Last season, NHL Network tried an interesting summer promotion.  Their Raising The Cup series featured every Stanley Cup clinching game over the past 30 years.  It was great re-living these moments, especially since many of these games hadn’t been aired in years.  They were balanced out with Vintage Games and other former NHL Net programming.  This summer has been a disaster and the NHL Network has been nearly unwatchable since July 2.

The NHL Network previously showed plenty of original shows.  These included Voices, Top 10, Pioneers, A Day in the Life Of, Captains, A Day That Changed the Game and The Hodge Stove League.  Unfortunately, virtually all of these shows are dormant and are no longer in current production.  That leaves the network with a huge void when it comes to filler programming.  To fill this void, the decision was made to load up the schedule with game after game of the 2011 playoffs.  And sometimes, this schedule didn’t make any sense.  Last week, they featured the series between Buffalo and Philadelphia.  It was repeatedly shown over and over again.  In one case, they aired games 1-7 in a row, only to then count down and show games 6-1 after airing Game 7. Surely, there is something that would’ve worked better in that timeslot then repeatedly showing the same series, and even odder, out of order at one point.

While there’s nothing wrong with re-airing the best of the 2011 Playoffs, why not balance it out with Vintage Games and new episodes of Top 10?  A little variety would go a long ways for the network during the summer months.  Instead, U.S. viewers are stuck with watching the same thing.  Even stranger is that Canadian viewers are seeing a balanced schedule.  The Canadian version has shown some 2011 games but they aren’t repeatedly aired.  Instead, the lineup is filled up with Vintage Games, Classic Series, and encores of the now long cancelled original NHL Network programs.  It’s a much better schedule than in America, and while it’s not compelling programming, it’s better than the same things over and over again.  Another welcome addition to the U.S. feed would be a simulcast of TSN’s That’s Hockey.  Since that show is being shown during the summer and it’s loaded with NHL Network personalities, it would be a perfect fit on the schedule as would repeats of HBO’s 24/7.

Former ESPN producer Mark Preisler became the NHL Network’s executive producer this past winter.  He’s made some nice changes including adding a pre-game version of On The Fly.  The addition of Kathryn Tappen leads me to believe that some new original programming is on the way for the NHL Network.  Hockey fans are craving that.  While studio analysis is great, it can get monotonous and in no way, can that fill up time during the summer.  Creative original programs are re-watchable and that should be a focus of the NHL Network’s to help grow the channel.  It’s hard to be taken seriously if you just want to show the same games and highlight shows repeatedly.  It’s time for the NHL Network to add some more variety and give hockey fans something to enjoy during the long off-season.  The current schedule isn’t cutting it.


Posted by on July 18, 2011 in NHL, NHL Network, Television


4 responses to “NHL Network’s Summer of Repeats

  1. RobbieD

    July 19, 2011 at 11:47 am

    And it seems that every game replay shown has either at least one Canadian team or Sidney and the Pens in it. If this is the US feed, why not expose some of the other teams instead of leaving the Thrashers to die and then give the team to Canada. Programming is so Canadian slanted its insulting.

  2. dpcamp

    July 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    All i have seen so far is east coast hockey, and seems to be the same 3 series over and over again.. definitely not a great schedule for the die hard hockey fan that needs their daily fix. guess i’ll just pay nhl 11 for the most part of the summer

  3. lambski

    July 21, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Summer programming is abysmal, same few shows rerun more times than “Brady Bunch”. How many more times will “NHL 36 Mike Richards” be on?? Why can’t they just replay random old games from past 50 yrs, where you don’t know who wins? I’d watch that every time! Like defunct team (Nords, Seals, North Stars, etc…) games or random regular season games from 60’s, 70’s, etc… Just give me us some variety without knowing who wins, down memory lane. I remember Classic Sports Network (before ESPN bought it) used to have ‘Classic NHL Tuesdays’ w/ Original Six games from the 50’s. Seems like a no-brainer, right?? Somehow or another now though, “Classic” games now all seem to be only from last couple years. Lame.

    • paranoidpuck

      July 21, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Amazing isn’t it? I wrote that post a year ago and things haven’t gotten any better. As mentioned, it may have gotten worse. Not only is NHL 36 endlessly repeated but now old jersey retirement ceremonies are recycled. Not exactly compelling. We also have Oil Change being aired constantly along with those playoff games from the past season.

      My programming ideas would include airing edited episodes of 24/7. NFL Net airs old episodes of Hard Knocks so that would seem to be doable. I realize NFL Films is another animal but I’m sure something could be worked out with HBO.

      Another thing I would focus on are hockey movies and documentaries. There are many out there including from CBC. Net Worth, and Hockey: A People’s History might be old but they’ve never aired in the States. Net Worth is about 20 years old but it’s a great movie that shows you how the NHLPA came about. Throw in the more recent Don Cherry life story movies and you have hours of films from an NHL partner that would be new to US hockey fans.


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