NHL Playoff Television Scheduling Continues to Puzzle

Greg CaggianoSenior Writer IJune 1, 2009

DETROIT - MAY 31:  Tyler Kennedy #48 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against Chris Osgood #30 of the Detroit Red Wings during Game Two of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on May 31, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Clutch goal scoring. Amazing Saves. Bone crunching checks. Grit. Hustle. Heart.

You name it, you've seen it in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.

The die-hard hockey fan is of course watching with baited breathe while the casual hockey fan (which in all likelihood outnumbers the dedicated) is just observing the games to see if they are worth watching.

Well, after two games the casual fan is now hooked. These first two games could have arguably been the most exciting games of the season—no matter what team you are a fan of. The intensity has been through the roof and the crowd from "Hockeytown" is getting even the smallest of fans pumped up.

Want to know the best part of all of this? Both of those games were featured on national television, which every home in the country has—the most maximum of exposure the NHL could have hoped for.

Wow, this has been such a positive article so far. But wait, it's about NHL management, so there must be bad news, right?

Keep reading.

Now that the casual fan is hooked on the Stanley Cup Finals, he cannot see games three and four as they are on Versus, a network that hardly anyone in the United States gets—a figure in terms of households numbering in the hundred-thousands and not the millions.

People that even have the channel aren't even aware of it. The channel is not technically a sports channel, even though it features national past-times such as cage fighting and deer hunting.

What exactly does the channel count as? Outdoor life, perhaps? Oh wait, they changed that name two years ago. Now it sounds more sports oriented.

The fact is, the NHL still cannot do something right without having to make a world class blunder shortly after. I would personally love to know who scheduled these next two games to be on Versus and why.

Hockey may be on the rise in the United States, but it is still a far cry from making any serious noise. The two Winter Classics have drawn interest.

But tell me, if they were on Versus instead of NBC, would people have been raving about them? Probably not, since they wouldn't even have been able to watch it.

Thankfully, I have Versus and will be watching the next two games in the stunning digital and audio clarity that their HD channel offers. But what about that casual fan that just got hooked?

That little boy or girl who just witnessed their first hockey game this weekend? How will they get to witness the most exciting moments in sports? That's right. They will have to wait until Game five, when games will be back on NBC.

But what if Detroit sweeps? There lies the real problem. The NHL didn't factor in the chance that there would be a sweep in this series, and the chance that there wouldn't be a game five at all.

I think Pittsburgh will be able to win one game in the next two but what happens if they don't? It sure would be ironic that one of the most exciting Stanley Cup Finals series in the history of the league will also be one of the least watched.

Greg Caggiano is a writer here on Bleacher Report covering the New York Rangers. He has a New York area sports teams blog called Metro-Sports, where you can read great articles about all professional sports teams that play in the area by a dedicated team of young writers.