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Friday, June 19, 2009

NHL: Where Ruining A Good Thing Happens

The last two New Years Days the NHL has taken the holiday to seize the day and make sure to do something that allows them to get airtime on a day when they know everyone is going to be home nursing a hangover or at the very least laying about on the couch.

The NHL to their credit came up with the idea to play an outdoor regular season game on that day during the afternoon. After all, it's January 1st and most of the northern US and southern Canada is in a deep freeze or at least winter-like conditions that lend themselves perfect to playing a game outside in a huge venue.

Two years ago, the Penguins and Sabres played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY and last year the Red Wings and Blackhawks played at Wrigley Field in Chicago. January 1, 2010 will see a game featuring the Boston Bruins played at Fenway Park and the opponent to be announced later on this summer (rumors abound that either the New York Rangers or Washington Capitals will be involved).

Again, this is a great thing and a perfect setting for a game given the rejuvinated hockey fan base in Boston and getting a game with either the Rangers or Capitals is ideal because you're either getting your biggest media market involved or the team with one of the biggest stars in the world. You can't lose here...

...Unless you get the bright idea to do an outdoor game doubleheader on New Years Day with a second game set to take place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Coming soon to the back of trucks all across Canada.

From the National Post in Canada:

Sources say the NHL is looking at building on the success of the Winter Classic by hosting two outdoor games on New Year's Day. The first is rumoured for Fenway Park with the Boston Bruins hosting the Washington Capitals. The second is pencilled in for Calgary between the Flames and another Canadian team - likely the Toronto Maple Leafs.

CBC TV is a major push behind the Calgary proposal.

"I can't see anything that jumps out to me that would be a roadblock logistically," Haverstock said.

Now, I understand that he's talking about logistics of doing a game in Calgary. Obviously its going to be cold as hell there and having conditions able to sustain the ice outdoors won't be an issue.

The sort of logistics I'm thinking of here are those involved in wearing out the NHL fans and the wonderful novelty of the whole thing. Obviously Canada is bothered that they've, again, been left out of the NHL's reindeer games in regard to doing an outdoor game. After all, it's Canada that got the ball rolling with this thing back in November 2003 with the Oilers and Canadiens playing an outdoor game at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

Now with NBC and the NHL teaming up to make sure all the US marquee teams get taken care of with mid-season showcase event, Canada wants back in and for that I can't blame them. Problem here is that a second game will get no attention in America.

The Heritage Classic in Edmonton nearly six years ago was an event that ESPN and ABC should've gone bonkers over to cover considering how much went into it with the legends game featuring the all-time greats for both franchises playing an exhibition game and then the real game itself. Instead, the event was largely ignored in the United States and video and highlights of then Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore playing with a toque over his helmet in the frigid Edmonton air were about all we were left with to soak in.

When Buffalo and Pittsburgh played on January 1, 2008 the event was heralded as incredible and amazing a magical and all that with very little credit in the way given to what had happened five years previous but now this event was going to take over as a yearly staple - and hey, why not? It generates attention, looks great on the air and manages to steal airtime away from putrid college football bowl games.

Should the NHL decide to double its pleasure in 2010 to throw viewers a bone in both countries, because God knows Americans won't watch Canadian teams on TV and Canadians are ruthlessly nationalistic and wanting some attention from Herr Bettman for all the financial propping up they do - sure, why not - let's just slaughter the novelty of the whole thing and cave into everyones television demands.

Bettman has already shown that he's got very little backbone to stand up for any sort of principles for the NHL and is now on the brink of selling out to both countries national broadcast partners at NBC and the CBC. This does come with a catch, however:

No one bothered to clue in the NHL Players Association.


From TSNs Darren Dreger:

''This is all news to me. We are breaking news, this is an insider moment that Calgary is potentially going to get an outdoor game and this is the first I've heard of it,'' Glenn Healy, the NHLPA's director of player affairs told TSN.

The NHL confirms the outdoor twin-bill will be discussed on June 25th at the competition committee meeting, however based on Healy's reaction; there is reason to believe the event may be in jeopardy.

''We have never been approached by the league about a second outdoor game ever in Calgary and if they want to approach us, then our numbers are in the book.''

Then again, why would the NHL ever communicate something with the group of people they dislike more than NHL fans when its so much simpler to have someone at CBC let something slip out and get the buzz started instantly.

I can't really top that because this is all it boils down to.

A man sits in his lonely board room cooking up ideas with his media pals... You know, the ones that he's trying to win over so that they'll give him some kind of money to turn a profit after he's already given them carte blanche to boss him around and make a joke of the league by bumping off playoff games from their air in favor of horse races.

He cuts his deals, he makes his promises, and gives no regard for how things will work in the future when he's trying to figure out a way to do an outdoor game in Tampa, Florida. You know he'll have to do that because he'll running out of ideas on where to do the next game or two on New Years Day all the while the fans have gotten over the novelty of it all and the idea just gets stale.

True Bettman style:
Get a hold of a truly great thing and abuse people with it simply because it "works" and then be forced to ride the negative tide that sweeps in when things get out of control.

Take a guess what tide rolled in today with this rumor of a New Years Day doubleheader.

Don't get lost in what I'm ranting about here.

The Winter Classic as a singular game and big-time event yearly on January 1st is a great thing. Turning it into an annual circus having to look for new locations at all times to the benefit all the teams looking to cash in on a sideshow-like spectacle is a BAD idea.

The novelty is killed, the interest is nullified and pretty soon people stop noticing and giving a crap altogether. Doubling up sets a terrible precedent for this event in the future because you're not only continuing a bizarro hockey xenophobia that exists with American and Canadian audiences, the simple greatness of a great spectacle event is worn out twice as fast as it would otherwise.

Leave it to Herr Bettman to continue his version of Sherman's march to the sea to make sure anything good that happens with the NHL is soon burned to the ground.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Heritage Classic was astounding. What a great day of hockey, and the weather made it that much more awesome.

A yearly tradition isn't bad, and MAYBE a CA/US doubleheader could possibly be ok, with the right marketing/coverage, but let's be realistic: NHL and marketing/coverage do NOT go hand-in-hand nowadays.

--Brent Hoven