ESPN and the Abysmal Coverage of the NHL

Brian DeMoyContributor IJuly 9, 2008

Talks are spreading about the NHL's return to ESPN.

A few years ago ESPN dropped their coverage of the NHL due to contract issues and then-executive VP Mark Shapiro's questions about the leagues' value.

Here's a thought to the powers that be at ESPN: You run a sports channel—how about a little discussion about the sport?

I am a long-time hockey fan, and an ex-player of the game. I'm tired of watching SportsCenter and seeing one goal and a fight as the only highlights and having to sit through 40 minutes of NASCAR, WNBA, golf, Arena Football, (which, by the way was on ESPN2 during the Stanley Cup Playoffs) and the World Series of Poker. In my opinion it's a joke.

Let's not forget about the negative press ESPN gives hockey. Instead of promoting the skill, speed, and sportsmanship displayed in our great game, the most coverage they give is if someone gets a stick in the head (á la Chris Simon) or if Wayne Gretzky's wife might have a gambling problem.

How about a little mention of Petr Sykora calling his goal in Game Five or Brendan Shanahan scoring his 600th goal? 

What about the nightly end-to-end rushes and the shifty goals by speed demons who drive to the net with no fear?

A few of these could make for top plays of the day, but instead we get a run-of- the-mill three-point shot with 20 minutes to go in a meaningless midseason NBA game.

Now I know that television producers want "personality" the likes of T.O in the NFL, or the trash talking of Shaq and Kobe. But you will never see that in the NHL and it's because of one thing—character.

A goalie can stand on his head for 60 minutes plus overtime stopping 50 shots and still thank his defensemen during an interview. These athletes should be commended for their sportsmanship, dedication to the game, and team first mentality. These are attributes that kids should be looking up to, not "Hey Kobe, how's my a** taste?" behavior.

I guess ESPN will have to step up and support a growing sport, a worldwide sport that has a cult of fans wherever the game is played.

Or the NHL will have to have Georges Laraque and Jerome Iginla get into a rap battle or have Mats Sundin talk about wearing a gold thong to get out of a slump. Or have Sean Avery run over a police officer and be allowed to play later that week.

Have the best players in the league test positive for illegal substances, have a couple players get involved in shootings in Vegas, cheat on their wives with Madonna, and then maybe, just maybe, the NHL will get the attention and respect that the other major league sports get on television.

But then again, what do I know?