How a TV Deal Could Save the Future of the NHL

By: Abby Miller

One of the regular season games that the NHL looks forward to the most  took place on March 24, 2010. Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals hosted Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins .

The NHL heavily promoted this rivalry game between the two faces of the league and this game is no exception. NHL.com looks like a combination between the Capitals and Penguins websites with Ovechkin and Crosby’s faces and logos for both teams all over the homepage.

It’s also notable that whenever these two teams face each other, there seems ESPN spends more time covering the game than the rest of its NHL coverage in a typical week.

While the NHL did a lot to promote this game, it still did not reach a lot of Americans. The game is broadcast on the NHL Network, a channel that does not reach many households. Only one of the teams’ four games against each other will be broadcast on NBC. The final meeting between the two teams can be seen on Versus on Tuesday, April 6.

A new television deal is crucial to the future success of the NHL. It’s hard to really showcase this match-up when three out of the four games are on channels that very few people get. Versus, the NHL’s main partner, covers very few games and is limited in the number of households that can see it. Students living on-campus at Penn State are among the many that do not have Versus. NBC broadcasts a handful of NHL games but their coverage is laughable. They only cover Sunday regular season games and they do not cover any games until January. The color commentary and analysis is completely awful.

If the NHL could land a deal with ABC/ESPN, it could be huge in terms of marketing a Oveckin-Crosby match-up. ABC and ESPN are channels that are included in almost every basic cable package, so more people would have the opportunity to see the game in their home. These networks also have the experience in covering the game and quality personnel that NBC severely lacks.

The Oveckin-Crosby match-up is one that the NHL could use to expand its fan-base, but the ability to expand is very limited right now given the current situation with television networks. Hopefully, that will change soon.

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