6 Things the NHL Could Do to Make Hockey More TV-Friendly
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Among casual fans, hockey has never been known as a great television sport.
Fans who are not fully invested in the game may have a hard time following the puck on television, don't understand the rules, can't understand the nuances of a line change or many of the game's subtleties.
High-definition television has gone a long way to improve the visual product, but further improvements can be made in the broadcast concept as well as the way the game is broadcast technically.
These improvements would help casual fans as well as hardcore fans who love the game and would still watch it on a 12-inch black-and-white television with rabbit ears if that's all that was available.
Quality Play-by-Play Man
Hockey is a sport of great energy, joy and passion.
The play-by-play announcer should reflect this. Some of the best play-by-play men in the business include Mike Emrick, Bob Miller, Rick Jeanneret and Pat Foley.
All demonstrate a love for the sport that is heartfelt and seemingly realistic.
So to make hockey better on television, the producers who hire the play-by-play men should make sincerity and love of the game requirements before that individual is allowed to broadcast the game.
Producers are looking for a broadcaster with a good voice, the ability to speak quickly and an enhanced vocabulary. However, the joy of the game must be conveyed by the broadcaster, so the producer must take the time and find the right play-by-play man and not just an individual with the proper technical characteristics.
The visual quality of a hockey broadcast is essential to making hockey a more enjoyable broadcast on television.
High-definition television makes everything better, but it is especially helpful in hockey. It makes it easier to follow the action.
When fans can see the puck easily, they can learn more about the game and its rhythms. Seeing the game better makes fans more knowledgeable.
Further enhancement of high-definition television will make hockey broadcasts that much better.
Eliminate the Between-Period Interview
Don't waste the viewer's time with redundant player interviews between periods.
This is standard filler on hockey broadcasts. A player is exhausted after playing 20 minutes and wants to get back to the locker room. Instead, he stands in the hallway for 2-to-3 minutes and gives cliched answers to boring questions.
These interviews rarely serve any purpose other than filling time.
They are insulting to the viewer.
No More Celebrities
The sport of hockey suffers from "little man" complex.
At least it does in the U.S. when it is compared with baseball, football and basketball. Usually, the subject of ratings comes up and hockey is often a distant fourth in many of the major markets.
So, hockey supporters feel they have to bump up the product. That is often done by pandering to celebrities who may be at the game.
Nobody cares about Will Ferrell's memories of the Triple Crown line on the L.A. Kings. Everybody knows he goes on camera to promote Will Ferrell. The same goes for what Jim Belushi, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Hamm, John C. McGinley, Matthew Perry, Tim Robbins or Vince Vaughn have to say.
They may profess their love of hockey, but the only reason they go on camera is to promote themselves.
Hockey—and the other sports—should stop kissing the rear ends of these bloviating prima donnas.
Hockey is trying to build its fanbase and gain a new audience.
While the sport sells itself, the great players of the past can have a hypnotic impact and leave fans with their jaws on the ground.
Instead of wasting everyone's time with player interviews or incorrect analysis by so-called experts between periods, show highlights from the great players and teams of the past.
Once a casual fan sees what Bobby Orr did during the prime of his career or the sheer dominance of Wayne Gretzky, that fan will almost certainly be hooked on the game.
The NHL Network is one of the top developments in broadcasting for hockey fans.
It is a network devoted to the NHL and it offers high-quality game broadcasts, analysis, scouting information and the opportunity for fans to gain knowledge about the sport simply by watching.
In short, the NHL Network is a hockey fan's dream.
However, the NHL Network is only available if your local cable system or satellite package includes its programming.
The NHL has to get much more aggressive in its promotion of the network. It should be as readily available as ESPN or CNN.
Until that happens, the NHL is not doing a good enough job of promoting one of its best assets.