The NHL has signed a three year extension to carry NHL games on the cable network. Critics will argue that Versus is not a popular cable sports network, and the league would be better off going back to ESPN, but people forget that ESPN was unwilling to pay for the rights. ESPN wanted to pay nothing to air the games and split the advertising revenue like the NHL does with NBC.
Versus pays the NHL over $70 (this year $72.2 million) per year to broadcast the games. The NHL had to take the money. This year, ratings are up with Versus averaging 261,000 people per broadcast, still very low numbers.
Versus does a very good job covering the NHL. They treat it well and give the games their due. The studio show is good and they have a 30 minute post game show after each game, something ESPN didn’t like to do.
I still think hockey has a long uphill climb to gain respectability in the sports world. The games are just not that exciting. Tha lack of skilled plays and skilled players is alarming. Too many times, the puck gets smacked around and too often, the games lack any real flow. Low scoring games don’t bother me like they do others as long as there is good flow and scoring chances, something that has been lacking this season.
Soccer, which I believe is not only closing in but has passed by hockey, has low scoring games, but more skilled plays, skilled players, and better flow. If you watch an NHL game and an English Premier League Soccer game on Fox Soccer Channel, you will see that soccer is actually a much more exciting game to watch than NHL hockey.
Unlike ESPN, I won’t give up on hockey and the NHL, but many have. That said, it is what it is. The NHL should promote its game the way it is. Caving in to those who demand that the league take drastic measures to open up the game is not a good idea. The shootout rule is absurd; giving teams that lose games is even more absurd. Playing overtimes with four skaters rather than five reeks of minor league. What other sport changes its rules after 60 minutes of play?
Only the NHL.