NHL Playoffs: 10 Ways the NHL Can Increase American Ratings
There are many hockey fans in the United States that wonder what exactly the game needs to do to garner the same attention that other professional sports, certainly the NBA, get from major networks (cough, ESPN, cough).
What follows are a few simple suggestions for the powers-that-be in the game and at the networks if they're serious about getting ratings up around the NHL during the postseason.
Fire Pierre McGuirre
This is a pretty simple concept: Get rid of the creepy little bald guy. Maybe the Habs will hire him to be their general manager and do televisions all over the continent a favor.
Behind the Scenes Footage with Players
From the great partnership with HBO's 24/7 series to the recent NHL 36 series on NBC Sports Network, there are a lot of quality people in the NHL...and a lot of entertaining guys in the game as well.
Giving a microphone to guys like Max Talbot would not only open up the human side of the game, but also show how funny many of the players are away from the ice.
Play Audio from Referee Microphones
In-game chatter is always interesting for fans to see/hear, and getting it from the perspective of an on-ice official is fascinating. From begging for a call to the way the refs control the action, hearing what they have to say is always interesting.
Play Audio from Player Microphones
Everything I just said about putting a mic on the refs is true here, except the edit button probably needs to be used a little more. The chatter on the bench between teammates is especially interesting, but the chirping between rivals on the ice is always great.
Let Mike Milbury Drink Before Segments
Milbury is a world-class know-it-all who considers himself to be the pope of all things hockey, which rubs many fans (including me) the wrong way. But he's also good for a once-per-week epic fail on the air, which is entertaining.
If for nothing more than YouTube loving him for a couple days after a screw up, keep the Johnny Walker on the set.
More Kevin Weekes
Weekes is a great guy who handles himself around players and in a studio as well as any analyst in the game.
There are so many reasons to keep him on the air, not only because he's an eloquent former goalie but because he can speak to every situation in the game.
He interjects his opinion, but (unlike Milbury) he does so in a professional way that adds to the viewers perspective.
The game is better for viewers when a guy like Weekes is on the air.
A Lot More Jeremy Roenick
The happy middle between Weekes breaking the game down from a former player's perspective and Milbury's selfish wandering is the always-entertaining, rarely predictable Jeremy Roenick.
He has no problem showing emotion, destroying a fellow analyst when he's an idiot or telling you why a player is special. He's American-born and brings energy to every broadcast.
More Big, Legal Hitting
Cheap shots open the door for casual viewers and fringe fans to make the stereotypical comments about hockey being an uncontrolled, over-the-top game of animals hammering each other. But there are, in every game, big, physical, legal hits.
The more highlight shows that are filled with the legal hits, the less attention the idiots in the game will get.
Embrace the Emotion of the Game, and the Fans
Whether it's from a winning player like Ray Bourque, or a losing player like Ryan Kesler, crying happens on the ice when the Cup is lifted.
Similarly, fans of every champion show their emotions. And fans of every loser show their emotions as well. Some fans cry, some jump for joy, and others burn things.
The networks should give the players, and fans, that show their emotions some love on the air.
Embrace the History of the Game
When the baseball playoffs begin, every broadcast is filled with stories about the Yankees dynasties, the great comebacks, the Bill Buckners of the world and the great champions.
When the NFL playoffs begin, the conversations about whether the champion Ravens defense was better than the 1985 Bears happen, arguments about whether Tom Brady is better than Joe Montana come up, and players from Johnny Unitas to Eli Manning are made to be gods.
The NBA gets to show footage of Michael Jordan (six times), Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and other great champions.
But the networks don't afford hockey the same perspective. You don't get the montage with Gretzky's Oilers, Trottier's Islanders, or any of the great Canadiens or Red Wings teams. The "History Will Be Made" commercials touched a little bit on the history of the game, but there is so much more that could, and should, be done.