As American Thanksgiving approaches, Canadian hockey fans can be thankful that they’re not at the mercy of the American TV broadcasters when it comes to hockey. Sure, we’ve all had our beefs with TSN, Sportsnet or the CBC, but it could be worse, a lot worse.
NBC’s presentation is okay, especially considering they’ve paid exactly $0 up front for the rights (to paraphrase a joke from the old "Roseanne" show, Gary Bettman should demand at least 2 or 3 times zero on the next contract). But their bread and butter American Broadcaster is versus (they haven’t earned a capital "V" quite yet). Their brand awareness for their hockey broadcast is infinitely higher north of the 49th in a country that doesn’t even have direct access to it. It would be as if the NFL or the NBA broadcast within Canada on The Weather Network or Omni. I’ve yet to be in a hotel room in the States that even carried the network.
Why have I decided to be the millionth person to point this out? Well, the contract is up after this season, and the Count is considering his options. Should Bettman stick with versus, or go back to ESPN? I’m proposing a more radical option, HBO!
Imagine the possibilities. Ever wonder why those mic’d up player segments are so boring on hockey broadcast. It’s because every other word out of a hockey players mouth begins and ends like firetruck, leaving only the most banal "Good hustle" type comments safe for air. Not a problem on HBO. Completely open the mics for all the players, coaches and refs and let the expletives fly. No more reading lips for hockey fans. Hell, why not let the commentators get in on the action too. From what I’ve heard from Don Cherry away from Coach’s Corner, I’m sure he’d be on board. There would be no more need to describe a guy as "winded" when we all no exactly where he got hit.
The NHL might even give HBO a chance to do something new. Against all odds, the people behind "Boardwalk Empire" have managed to create the most boring show based around guns, gangsters, murder, bootlegging and nudity ever. And don’t get me started on the Red Bull of shows, Entourage. Sure there are a few ups, but ultimately is any human better off for having consumed it.
Wouldn’t an epic show based around the endlessly entertaining Sutter family soap opera be better? Or an intense psychological drama tailored around Chris Pronger and his kleptomania.
HBO is already dipping it’s toe into the NHL’s waters even as we speak. They’re about to kick off a "24-7" show dedicated to the Caps and Pens and their lead-up to this season’s Winter Classic. And what’s the worst that could happen, create a little buzz, a little controversy? Isn’t that what the NHL desperately needs? Firetruck Yeah!