Boston Bruins: NESN Should Televise AHL Games If NHL Lockout Occurs

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Boston Bruins: NESN Should Televise AHL Games If NHL Lockout Occurs
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Let the Aug. 9 ultimatum from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman serve as a fair reminder for hockey fans to spring for a 2012-13 lockout preparedness kit.

Ditto to those who help puckheads get their fix from early autumn to late spring.

In case of such a crisis, the New England Sports Network (NESN) can do its part to assuage the Boston Bruins fanbase by throwing back to the former days. The days when the American Hockey League was among the network's tenants and when rising Bruins radio announcer Dave Goucher would cross over between Providence radio and regional television.

During the Providence Bruins' first half-decade of existence, they and their AHL New England peers were regulars on NESN. After a while, the broadcast package was exclusively confined to Providence, with a handful of telecasts continuing through as recently as the 2001-02 season.

The reason for the network's complete discontinuation of minor pro hockey coverage is uncertain and not even wholly explicable.

After all, nothing has stopped NESN from carrying Pawtucket Red Sox games each summer, most of which are on the road and outside New England boundaries.

Conversely, the P-Bruins tend to play a majority of their away games against six regional cohabitants in Bridgeport, Conn.; Hartford, Conn.; Manchester, N.H.; Portland, Me.; Springfield, Mass.; and Worcester, Mass.

Perhaps the difference is the fact that, unlike in the previous century when the workload was split with WSBK, NESN is preoccupied with the majority of the Boston Bruins games and filling weekend vacancies with a Hockey East game. Also note that the Red Sox, NESN's other major sports partner, tend to make more frequent appearances on exclusive national telecasts.

But if Boston and its 29 NHL cohabitants are put on hold, a New England hockey fanbase that is undoubtedly more enthused than it was during the 2004-05 lockout will need more than collegiate action.

In all likelihood, rising Bruins such as Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner will be staples in Providence if they do not have the opportunity to compete for a spot in The Show right away. So too should such summer acquisitions as Chris Bourque, whose rooted connections to the franchise need no introduction.

The team's television partner can help the fans keep tabs on these publicized prospects by putting a smattering of games on sets throughout the six-state region. They can combine the focus on the Bruins’ future with an element of nostalgia by letting the likes of Goucher pass the time and keep his voice in shape while working in his former domain.

If need be, they could even take the pro football route and black out the broadcast in the home market if the evening's ticket sales are unsatisfactory. That means a game at the Dunkin Donuts Center would not be accessible on Rhode Island television sets, a game in Manchester would not be viewable in New Hampshire households, etc.

Unless of course the building is sold out or close enough to being sold out. Logically, it's then an all-win scenario for otherwise puck-deprived fans and media outlets, and for teams that can make their parent league's loss their own gain.

Nothing would be more ill-advised from an NHL standpoint than a work stoppage lasting more than a handful of days. But if it does happen, a lack of responsiveness on NESN's part in an effort to fill the void for Bruins buffs would hurt by not helping.

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