KHL (that’s Russian) hockey is on ESPN2 right now. This is a revalation to me for many reasons.
For one, the whole broadcast is a little strange; you have ESPN’s only television hockey guys, Steve Levy and Barry Melrose, are in American watching a game taking place in Prague between Dynamo Moscow (with Alex Ovechkin) and Lev Praha (featuring Zdeno Chara) and calling the action. I’ve seen this odd disconnect before; incidents where Fox Soccer analysts have to kill time while technical difficulties keep the broadcasts teams in Europe off of American TV. It is always sort of strange when there is no continuity between the action and the people calling it.
More importantly, hockey is on ESPN2, a property of ESPN. This is in stark contrast to what the hockey universe has long believed: ESPN hates hockey, and they won’t talk about it. The facts and figures are there, and we have all accepted it.
So, now what? Now, it’s time for us to look at the NHL, and time for the NHL to look at itself.
The NHL is currently on hiatus, in it’s second lockout in 8 years. The league CBA expired, they locked out, they resolved, they played for the length of the CBA, and they locked out again. This is not a healthy business model, though I cant say the model they operate under is working (it isn’t). My beloved Devils are to blame; they had forsaken the league with Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17 year vanity contract (the guy loves the #17). Suddenly everyone is getting the same Rick DiPietro-style contract that was lampooned for years, and the owners cant pay them out because teams are losing money. So they locked out again, since it solved all their problems last time.
Except it didn’t. All it did was install a salary cap that these contracts are now circumventing, devalue the product to America (and in turn major media outlets like ESPN), and sell TV rights to NBC Sports, who finally got their act together after 5 years to present a decent product last postseason. And now it’s happening all over again.
Last postseason was highly rated in relation to previous years’ Stanley Cup playoffs, but they were still clearly 4th place numbers. The Kings opened up a bandwagon, and I’m sure if the NHL season were starting in 4 days the bandwagon would be firing up again, but nothing is certain now, including whether the games will be played at all.
A lost season is the last thing the NHL needs right now, and the one thing they are providing. Maybe one day Commissioner Bettman will stop killing his sport and make a decent decision for the good of the game, and more importantly, stick with it.
Until then, enjoy all the wonderful NFL news that fills your weekdays.