I know that it seems that I pick on the NHL Network a lot. This blog has only been going for a couple of months and they have been a frequent target of mine. I’ve criticized their draft coverage and lambasted their pathetic summer programming. That’s not to say that I don’t like NHLN. During the season NHLN is often my go to when I’m watching television but there is so much that they are missing or lacking. So, while I hate to keep picking on them, I have another beef to with them to write about.
Let’s start with something good. NHLN should be applauded for picking up TSN’s That’s Hockey last week. It was great to finally see some new programming on the channel and the show delivered on some interesting topics at the R&D camp. Even better, That’s Hockey featured a news segment which allowed fans to keep track on happenings around the league. Outside of the ticker, NHLN completely fails at that during the summer so it was good to actually watch NHLN and learn something.
With all this good news, there comes some bad news. For whatever reason, the folks at NHLN think constant repeats are the way to go and That’s Hockey got into the same rut. The show aired at 7:00PM EST live, and was then repeated immediately after that. Then we got to watch yet another 2011 playoff game and then we were treated to another one hour of That’s Hockey repeats. I can understand that for the West Coast but then it got crazy during the early morning hours and the next day. Viewers were treated to That’s Hockey one after another for hours a la NHL On the Fly. To say that’s repetitive is an understatement. There wasn’t enough news on the show to warrant that and considering the show was only a half hour, you would think they could schedule things better. NHLN continues to fail at all things scheduling.
Now we get to the new NHLN television schedule. When NHLN launched in the US, Hockey Night in Canada was perhaps it’s biggest draw. The net aired the entire show from start to finish and was a big boost in its early days. Since then, HNIC content has been disappearing at a rapid pace and the new schedule is no exception. Now, to be fair, there’s still a good amount of CBC games on NHLN which is better than nothing. And they are plan to air Scotiabank Hockey Tonight live while showing HNIC’s intermission segments on a slight delay during NHLN games or during On the Fly. That’s good but how odd is it to watch the pre-game show which largely promotes the HNIC games only to see NHLN switch off at 7:00 and show something completely different. It doesn’t make much sense especially since the pre-game is supposed to promote the upcoming game. I’m sure some casual fans have to wonder why they do this. Then there is a lack of the late HNIC game and After Hours. Scott Oake’s post-game show is one of the best hockey shows on all of TV and deserves a live airing, not a repeat the next day. Yes, I know that Center Ice will be carrying this but why shouldn’t the NHL showcase the best hockey TV in the world? Nobody does it better than CBC and they should take advantage of this instead of running away from it and it seems that most fans want to see HNIC judging by message boards and the angry calls on NHL Radio.
As I mentioned, late games from HNIC are still completely gone. The real issue is that NHLN is currently scheduled to show only two games that start past 9:00PM EST. That’s shameful. There’s no excuse for the league’s own network to not air some late games and help promote those teams. It’s one thing for Versus to do it as it would hurt their ratings, but that doesn’t work when it comes to NHLN. NHLN isn’t even a Nielsen rated network so apparently, the brass thinks that airing On the Fly is better than showing full games. The western teams have always struggled to get attention and NHLN isn’t doing them any favors either. MLB Network is very good about showing late games while the NHL is taking the opposite approach and is largely ignoring them. It seems that East Coast bias in in full effect here.
If the NHL Network wants to be “The Home of Hockey” it needs to showcase all teams and truly promote the league. Sadly, it continues to fail at this and it seems to be getting worse. They need to do a better job and realize that fans want live games and highlights should not be taking priority over them. They also need to realize that there is a demand to see late games out there. When teams like San Jose, Anaheim and Phoenix are being completely ignored, there’s something wrong with the league and its broadcasting arm. These are good teams with stars yet they can’t get any reliable TV coverage from their own league. It’s time for that to change and the league needs to do more to raise awareness of the Western teams. Otherwise, those perception about bias will continue to persist and it will continue to hurt the league’s credibility.