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NHL’s US TV Partners Fail To Cover News As The Hockey Community Grieves

07 Sep

Today has been a horrific day in hockey history. For that matter, the last few months have been horrific. It’s been one tragedy after another and at least in the US, hockey fans have been left searching for news and coverage of breaking news events. The fact is that US hockey fans have no place to turn for news on TV when anything big happens. ESPN may give you a small shout out but that’s it. ESPN should do better, especially if it is “The Worldwide Leader In Sports” but we know that hockey is low on their radar. They just don’t care about it and kick it to the side of the road.

Today’s reporting on the Russian plane tragedy was a perfect example of that. Instead of reporting on this news, ESPN decided to interview cheerleaders. Sadly, I’ve come to expect that from ESPN. ESPN did finally report on it but it was largely in passing with a story on Sidney Crosby’s press conference. So what’s a hockey fan to do?

Obviously, a fan should be able to turn into Versus and NHL Network and see some coverage. But nope, that’s not happening. While the events in Russia unfolded this morning, Versus aired their usual lineup of outdoor programming featuring turkey hunting shows and Bill Dance. There was nothing to tell you the network’s flagship sport just underwent a tragedy of epic proportions.

Now, perhaps I should give Versus a break, since their new studio show hasn’t even debuted yet, but how hard would it have been to have someone at 30 Rock do some coverage of this event? Between MSNBC, Comcast SportsNet and NBC Sports, surely there were some people near a studio someplace that could’ve updated the story and given fans some information. NBC failed on all levels and fans were left in the dark. Hopefully, with NBC SportsTalk on the way, we’ll finally get some sports news coverage, but it’s embarrassing to see Versus ignore breaking hockey news time after time. How can the NHL grow when it’s own TV partner fails on so many levels when it comes to reporting on the sport? If NBC wants to be taken seriously in the sports market, they need to do a better job, period.

Now I get to one of my favorite critical targets, NHL Network. Once again, they let hockey fans down this morning. Apparently, airing those endless repeats of last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs are just too important to break into. How hard would it have been to have someone from TSN to break in and give fans updates on what was going on?

Here’s an even better idea, just air audio from XM’s NHL Home Ice with a static vid cap or graphic updates. Unlike NHLN, Home Ice stayed live all morning and brought interviews and live updates to fans. It was terrific coverage and exactly what fans needed and were looking for. While NHLN is building a new studio in Stamford, they DO have one in Toronto and they need to utilize it when news breaks. It’s pathetic to see the league’s own network with it’s head buried in the sand. There’s no way that MLB Network, NBA TV and NFL Network would do the same. NHL fans have a love/hate relationship with NHLN and this is a perfect example of why they do. The management at NHLN just doesn’t seem to get it. This is not a start up network anymore and they have to get serious about being a source for hockey news.

Maybe it is getting to the point that we should just throw up our hands when it comes to TV and just turn to the web for our news. The web is where hockey news lives. Most hockey fans know that and they are resigned to that. I hope that’s not the case. I’m grateful for the web but it’s sad that fans of other sports know where to tune in for breaking news, while hockey fans are left twisting in the wind.

In the end, where did fans in the US find the best coverage? On TV, it was believe it or not, CNN and Russia Today. While CNN’s coverage wasn’t extensive, it was better than the others. RT isn’t widely carried in the States but many fans turned to their live online streaming to follow the news.

Perhaps the best place to keep up was on Twitter and the hockey message boards. While social media has its downsides, today was a day where it shined. The hockey community grieved together as we went through a roller coaster of emotions. The updates and posts were chilling but we were kept updated and we went through it as a family. It would be easy to criticize the media on some of the reports out of Russia. There were plenty of conflicting reports and in some cases, some journalists could’ve done a better job, but we needed an outlet and social media was it. Some of the reporting was absolutely riveting and kudos go to them, especially journalists Slava Malamud and Dmitry Chesnokov who had to be typing with heavy hearts all day long.

It’s going to take a long time for the hockey community to get over this loss and who knows, we may never get over it. We’ve been beaten and battered lately but we will persevere as a group. I’d just like for the folks at NBC Sports and NHLN to help us out a little and be a part of the group. Right now, they are silent on this and the people that have perished deserve a tribute, comments and coverage. It can’t bring them back but I think it would make all of us feel better to learn more about them and remember them as not just hockey players, but as people.

RIP Lokomotiv Yaroslavl and let’s say a prayer for Alex Galimov and the other survivor of this devastating crash.

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