Most people in hockey seem to think that ESPN is going to save the NHL. Or, at the very least, promote the sport better. When in reality, the people writing about such things want hockey on ESPN to make their own lives easier.
As we all know, hockey does not translate well on to TV. This has more to do with poor camera angles than trying to follow a little black puck on white ice, frankly. But HD TV seems to make a difference, even if that's mostly because it has a larger screen.
Seriously, do you want to see Rod Brind'Amour's face in High Definition? Really? I didn't think so.
Versus isn't the best network. We all have some kind of beef with them. Whether it's the poor camera angles, the limited number of games, the weird blackout restrictions, or whatever, it's not good. It's a wonder that the NHL hasn't taken them aside to point out a better way to do things. But I suppose that would imply a certain level of intelligence that the good people at the NHL offices may or may not have.
NBC is better, if only because it's a non-cable national network. But they prefer to show Eastern Conference teams for some reason. I suppose that's because they're based in New York City? Or, perhaps, it's because teams in the Northeastern United States tend to be popular nationwide regardless of the sport - like the New York Yankees, the New England Patriots, or the Boston Celtics. They were capitalizing on the tried and true, you might say.
Putting the NHL back on ESPN would change fix everything, right? Yeah, probably not. ESPN showed plenty of NHL games before the lockout, but the NHL still didn't make big ratings. Which is probably why the NHL couldn't reach an agreement with ESPN.
In all honesty, the NHL would benefit more from having NBC (or ABC, or CBS) broadcast their games regularly all season twice a week, instead of just the last half of the NHL season once a week. Make the broadcast more like College Football Gameday, instead of like CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. Bring the sport to the football fans instead of placing it after football season.
Has the NHL's Winter Classic on New Year's Day taught the NHL nothing? Putting the NHL up head to head against football is a great idea. People regularly flip through channels during the fall on Saturdays and Sundays. Placing a hockey game in the middle of all that channel flipping can only broaden the interest of the sport. Hockey is just as hard hitting as football, and sometimes there's nothing to watch between two great football games. Hockey is a great way for those bored or disappointed football fans to pass the time - and to become hockey fans themselves. The NHL shouldn't shy away from that competition, but embrace it.
Imagine this for a moment. You're sitting there on the sofa watching football, and your team is getting blown out of the water. So you start channel flipping to see what other games are on. There's a good game on in a couple of hours, there's an okay game on now, and another game no one could pay you to watch since you hate both teams.... But wait - hockey is on? Let's see what that's about.
Simple, right? Yeah, don't even get me started. The NHL has no concept of marketing. It's like banging your head against a brick wall.