Thursday, May 31, 2007

NHL TV Ratings Stink... So What?

The NHL doesn't seem to really care all that much about how greatly their TV ratings stink, the league is too busy looking to bypass traditional television coverage anyways and are currently headed in a different direction altogether as far as reaching their fans media wise.
In the past year the NHL has signed agreements to post its content on YouTube, Google Video, the Joost Internet TV platform, Akimbo and many other websites.

In addition to the league's electronic efforts, broadcasters have been frantically working to offer more hockey games online as well as in high-definition as the home theatre HD boom continues.

It's a digital revolution for sports broadcasting in Canada, with companies offering more hockey in ways and times to suit the viewer, and with the best possible picture quality.

"What we are trying to do here is look over the horizon and to place strategic bets on technology and companies we think are promising down the road," Ritter says. "You want people to discover this however they can. You are hoping it will drive people to higher quality broadcasts ... ultimately you want to drive them into a building to watch the game live."

While the Senators battle for the Stanley Cup in Anaheim, California, or here in Ottawa, broadcasts of the games, highlights and analysis are available to viewers at the click of a mouse anywhere in the world.

In the past five months, more than 14 million viewers have accessed the NHL's content on YouTube.

Thousands of users of the MySpace social networking site have included the NHL ( as one of their "friends," and regularly visit the league's page to watch video highlights and clips.

Replays of games are available on Apple Inc.'s iTunes store and through's Unbox portable video service, allowing fans to download highlights or entire games for as little as $4.99 U.S. and take their hockey with them.

Further, thanks to the digital offerings, traffic to the NHL's own webpage,, was up by more than 62 per cent last month, according to ratings guru Nielsen/Netratings.

"A lot of this stuff is designed to drive traffic back to," Ritter explains. " has been one of the top sites in year-to-year growth.

"We want to make sure that we are in all of these new platforms ... (where) there aren't gatekeepers saying we don't want to hear about Ray Emery."

By allowing fans to pick and choose, Ritter said the NHL can offer all sorts of tailored, in-depth extras that wouldn't be available on many broadcast TV channels, such as a feature on Ottawa Senator's goaltender Ray Emery or a comparable segment on Anaheim Duck's defenceman Chris Pronger.

Howard Bloom, president of, a website that researches and reports on the sports industry, says the NHL has done an admirable job of boosting its coverage to 21st century standards. [...]

Given how this has changed how society communicates, learns and plays, it makes sense that the NHL and other businesses are trying to find new ways to use the Internet and drive more support for their cause.

The NHL is also expanding its offerings to provide people mobile access to games, highlights and related content, no matter where they are.

Deals with companies such as Bell Mobility allow cellphone users to download clips of their favourite teams or players to watch on their phones.

An agreement with Apple's iTunes allows people to download games to their iPod digital media players.

The NHL signed a deal with online game maker Exponentia to let hockey fans predict the scores of live games, giving them a chance to win prizes.

For the NHL's Ritter, all of the work is necessary if the NHL hopes to expand interest in the game and stay relevant in a world that is quickly changing.

"We have a very technically literate audience," he says. "The way they find information about our game is different then what it used to be. You have to be in all of these places because you don't know how your content will be delivered over time."
Television? The league seems to feel that they don't need no stinkin television. Or at least as much TV coverage as used to be needed to be successful, like back in the old analog days.

Welcome to the brave new world of 21st century NHL web-based digital hockey coverage.

The future of Hockey is online. Just like everything else.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Win It For Elgin

I've been looking long and hard for a reason to root for one of the two Cup finalists. Not being a fan of either team has made it hard for me to take much of a interest in this series that's FINALLY about to begin. However, I have now found something that's got me pulling for one of the clubs...

Elgin Alexander Fraser


Minority Report

So far the NHL has done little to market minority players to fans who would have a natural interest in them, BUT that could be changing soon.
There's a simple theory in sports fandom: That having the chance to watch African-American athletes compete is an exceptional entry point to a particular sport for African-American fans.

It worked so well for professional golf during the last decade that NASCAR began searching for "the Tiger Woods of racing." It's been cited as a primary reason why black fans have stopped following Major League Baseball , as the number of African-American big leaguers has declined.

But the NHL has yet to use its growing number of minority players to aggressively market hockey to previously uncharted fan bases like the hip-hop generation. (And no, having Lil Jon pose with the Stanley Cup doesn't count.)

That course might be changing, according to Ken Martin, senior director of community relations and diversity programs for the NHL. I spoke with Ken last week about Emery, minorities in hockey and the NHL's future marketing plans when it comes to minority sports fans.
Read the complete interview with Ken Martin >>> here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hockey Gone Wild

Russian style...

Don't you just love cheesy Russian heavy metal music with your hockey fights?

More... Hockey Gone Wild.

Cambridge Predators?

Well, I guess it's possible, although improbable. However, I do think it would be really great for hockey to have two teams in the Toronto area. IF indeed that's the plan the new owner of the Preds has if things don't improve in Nashville. Not sure the Maple Leaf organization would feel to happy about it, but there's not a damn thing they could do to stop it.
Balsillie was a no-show at yesterday's presser announcing the sale of the Preds for $220 million. His absence was not a good sign for the true fans of NHL slash-and-dash in Nash, where attendance dipped below 14,000 per game this past season. According to outgoing owner Craig Leipold, the club lost $15 million in Tennessee last year. Surely, Balsillie will move the team north, perhaps as early as the season after next, Right?

How about Cambridge?

Think it can't happen?

Think about this.

In February, RIM purchased a large plot of land -- 26 acres, Kiefer said -- in Cambridge off Can-Amera Parkway, between Lingard and Townline roads.

Picked it up from a home builder.

Paid about $3.8 million.

Might be a simple plot on which to build grand new digs for bursting-at-the-seams RIM, now occupying 21 buildings in Waterloo.

Or the site could land in Balsillie's hands and become a perfect place to erect a big rink for a big-time team.

Close to the 401.

Close to the Breslau airport, where international flights are welcome.

Most importantly, it appears to sit about 82 km from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. You see, the Toronto Maple Leafs hold a veto power over any plans to drop another NHL club within 80 km of their ice palace.

The Leafs seem out of the picture.

Cambridge looks to be in frame. Balsillie was not responding to Record requests for an interview. [...]

If attendance continues to sag below 14,000, the Preds could become a free-agent team as early as next spring.

(my emphasis)
This should be interesting. Obviously a Canadian buying a hockey team leads to much speculation about that team moving north. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

No Repsect

The NHL seems incapable of doing anything right these daze. Especially when it comes to the treatment of it's most loyal and traditional constituency.
...the Stanley Cup final should begin Saturday night at 7 p.m., because that's when Canadians most like to watch NHL hockey on television. It's a little show called Hockey Night In Canada, and it's been around for more than a few years.

Starting the final then would also show Canadian hockey fans some respect, respect that's been sorely lacking during these playoffs. The most recent example was playing the last Ottawa-Buffalo game on a Saturday afternoon during the long, Victoria Day weekend.

It was a warm, sunny spring day, and the NHL forced Canadian fans indoors for their playoff hockey fix just to appease NBC, an American TV station that attracts a handful of fans whenever it shows hockey.

Yes, NBC and the NHL have a deal to split any profits from hockey telecasts, assuming there is any money actually made. But the CBC, which produces Hockey Night In Canada, pays the NHL more than $60 million a season to televise games. Why CBC isn't simply telling the NHL when the games will be played remains a mystery.

The point is, the NHL shouldn't have to be told this. Its big thinkers should already know, should understand what big-league hockey means to Canadians.
Yeah, I agree, they shouldn't have to be told this, BUT unfortunately this is as clueless a crew as one will ever see running (ruining) a major sport.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

An Epic Embarrassment

Hockey now has its own Heidi game. NBC, ironically the same network that brought us the original Heidi game did it again Saturday when they cut off OT coverage of the Buffalo - Ottawa semifinal game for a horse race. THAT'S how insignificant hockey has become to the sports viewing public here in the states.
Saturday afternoon's channel-hopping debacle caused by NBC choosing the Preakness pre-race show over playoff OT wasn't easy for the league or its fans to stomach. And it's not just that NBC made the decision to cut away at the end of regulation. If the race was coming up, you'd have to begrudgingly understand the move. But there were 20 minutes left in the broadcast window when they made the call. So while Buffalo's season was coming to a jarring end over on Versus, NBC was in the midst of more than an hour's worth of pre-race blather. [...]

Just don't make out NBC as the villain here. While they could have held out for the extra 20 minutes, their position is defensible. After all, the Peacock Network pays a hefty sum for the rights to the highly rated Preakness. They simply share ad revenue for the rights to NHL games, and since there are no TV timeouts in OT, that's not a tough decision to make.

No, this one falls squarely on the sagging shoulders of the NHL. Instead of saving Saturday nights for Hockey Night In Canada, they've bent over backwards to provide NBC with the games it wants at the times it wants. And in giving NBC this game at this time with the hard deadline of the Preakness staring them in the face, they made the wrong decision.

Of course, this whole thing reminds me of something the commissioner told me just a couple weeks ago. I asked Gary Bettman about overtime games on NBC, and if there was any concern voiced by the network about the potential length of games.

"That's a discussion I've had with them," Bettman said, "so that's not an issue for the Finals."

Well, Gary, safe to say it's an issue now.
Needless to say, this insulting debacle, which was brought to you by those who continue to do an excellent job mismanaging this sport into oblivion, represents a sad, sad day for hockey.

Friday, May 18, 2007

NASCAR is Hockey!

...and Hockey is NASCAR.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, it's a bizarre analogy but in a way it's a very true one. Especially the checking of fellow competitors into the boards part of both sports.

Tomas Holmstrom is a stud! A NASCAR Truck if you will!

And the other night a few dumb ass ducks did what THEY thought was necessary after Tomas had scored his 2 goals…..they Kevin Harvicked or Juan Pablo’d him! But even worse…they took him out from behind! Gutless! But predictable for a franchise that couldn’t SPELL Stanley Cup….let alone capture one! But that’s WHY I love Hockey…and why Hockey and NASCAR live side by side! No offense to Indy or Champ Car, or supercross…ALL damn tremendous in their own right. But NASCAR, stock car, and Truck racing is the closest thing to God’s sport…(Hockey) on wheels!

NASCAR trucks going 3 or even 4 wide into a corner at Daytona is like Holmstrom, Pronger, and Bertuzzi all converging on a puck! And it’s bad ass!! And so is Jeff Gordon punching out Denny Hamlin in the final pit stop of the day to get his 3rd Victory in 4 weeks! And then laughing in your face! Most importantly…it breeds confidence, in their sport….and in the hearts! We’ve already seen lids of NASCAR toboggans sporting bands/musicians and even lame TV shows on Fox! But whether it’s IN th3 paint scheme…or in a Press Release…..the NHL lives. In NASCAR! And THAT"S why I love Sunday’s whether they’re carrying sticks…or Stick shifts!

Oh yeah....after Holmstrom took 13 stitches in his HEAD ....he was BACK on the ice 14 minutes later. JUST long enough to set up the final goal in a 5 to ZERO ass beating of the ducks! Sounds like Todd Bodine to me?
Now if only the powers that be that run hockey could figure out a way to remove their heads from their butts long enough to market and televise the thrills and excitment of their sport the way that NASCAR has been able to with theirs we'd be all set.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Two Radical Measures

One of these I like, the other has about as much chance as a snowball in hell of being adopted. However, the bottom line is that something has to be done, and soon, to reverse the decline into irrelevance that hockey is experiencing on the tube here in the states. Here's a couple of ideas that are outside the box of traditional thinking, which is exactly where the powers that be need to be going in order to save televised hockey here in the 21st century.
1. The game needs to be televised north-south, not east-west.

2. The game needs to eliminate one intermission.

(I understand that I’ve just lost contact with all hyper-serious NHL fans, so I’ll just speak directly to the other 99 percent of the population for the remainder of this column.)

This north-south business was first suggested to Couch Slouch by Bob Reichblum, executive producer of the nascent ReelzChannel cable network. Granted, ReelzChannel covers movies, not sports, but Reichblum is one of those fellas who tapes ECHL games and watches them while working the cell phone on his StairMaster.

Hockey simply translates better if the action is coming at you. Ever wonder why, when someone scores, they show multiple replays from behind or in front of the net? BECAUSE IT’S EASIER TO SEE THE GOAL, you knuckleheads.

You would never, in tennis, sit a camera at the net. The match is shown from behind the baseline; it’s a much better angle than mid-court.
Heck, if they televised tennis east-west, John McEnroe would be out of our lives and Wimbledon would have Tucker Carlson-style ratings.

Okay, let’s talk about intermissions — thank goodness I ran off the NHL crazies earlier because they would forecheck me into my own door at this point — and why there are too many of them.

It’s a fast-moving, short-attention-span society out there. In the clicker culture, people switch from Leno to Letterman if they don’t like a monologue joke, they jump from “Cold Case” to “The Closer” if the crime isn’t unsolvable enough.

You cannot give people the chance to wander away, even for a moment. Heck, my first ex-wife left me between the seventh and eight rounds of the Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns fight in 1989.

The NHL should not continue to give viewers two 15-minute opportunities to find a more violent TV option. Let’s say you’re grazing around during the second intermission of a Penguins-Rangers game and come upon “The Godfather.” Are you going to reject Vito Corleone and return to Jaromir Jagr? I think not.

There you have it — I’ve done my part to save the NHL. If all else fails, replace the puck with a beach ball.

(my emphasis)
Ok, Ok, I was wrong, those were three ideas. The beach ball one even I would reject, which is kind of amazing because at this point I'm open to almost anything.

Hmmmm, on second thought...

Anyways, I'm sick and tired of the traditionalist crowd that says NOTHING should be changed in the game. Everything changes and evolves in response to the ever changing conditions life creates. HOCKEY'S NO DIFFERENT. If that wasn't the case we'd still be seeing hockey played with no forward passes allowed and goals that featured two posts in the ice with no cross bar. Which is the way hockey was played before it evolved to it's present state. It needs to keep evolving.

Evolve or die.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

And The Winner....

of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada's Bring Home the Stanley Cup Contest is Peter Clader of Ottawa Valley, Ontario.
Peter has won the ultimate hockey fan prize - the Stanley Cup delivered to his cottage in the Ottawa Valley, Ontario by former Stanley Cup Champion, Mark Messier.

From among hundreds of Canadians who entered the Bring Home the Stanley Cup contest, Peter was selected as one of three finalists for his creativity, and passion for the game, their playoff rituals and hockey shrines. The two other finalists were Dean McCord of Calgary, Alberta and Martin Wanless of Halifax, Nova Scotia. From May 5 to 8, Canadians could go to to view each finalist's video and vote for a winner.

As the winner of Bring Home the Stanley Cup contest, Peter and his family will have a one-of-a-kind hockey shrine designed by CBC's Hockey Night in Canada complete with a Samsung HDTV Home Theatre System and a flowing supply of Pepsi, Lay's and Gatorade products in their cottage. They will also host the Ultimate Playoff Party where together with friends and family, the official Stanley Cup will be delivered to their cottage by six-time Stanley Cup champion, Mark Messier! The party will then be broadcast on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada during the Stanley Cup finals.

Peter is a member of the Villamere family, whose cottage is in the Ottawa Valley, Ontario. The Villamere's, who live throughout Ontario, have been going to their cottage since 1949. Despite having no running water or electricity, four generations of Villamere's watch the playoffs on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada through a satellite that projects the game on to a bed sheet tacked to the side of the cottage.
Congratulations to Peter and his family. If you'd like to see Peter's winning entry and the other two finalists go >>> HERE.

Hey Pete, since you were the official Odd Man Rush candidate for the Bring Home the Cup contest, I'm expecting a invite to the big party.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Spirit of 'New' NHL being perfectly exemplified by the Senators and the Sabres in this thrilling semi-final series of theirs. It's been a beautiful thing to watch.

BUFFALO -- It could stand as an 84-minute 58-second argument in favour of what has become known as the "new" National Hockey League.

It was a game dramatically sent into overtime by the local heroes with six seconds left in regulation time. It was decided, in favour of the visiting Ottawa Senators, on a rifle-like skip shot from the point that could not have been stopped by a Zamboni.

It featured two of the most talented teams in the league and undoubtedly the two quickest in a sport that finally woke up to the fact it was putting its fans to sleep. In rewarding speed over impediment and skill over obstruction, this NHL playoff game produced a work of sports art that offered the shock and soaring hope of lightning-quick transition, the breathtaking beauty of puck control and, from time to time, the utter chaos and randomness that separates the Canadian game from those far more familiar to American sports fans.

Pucks hit posts; goaltenders (and Ottawa forward Oleg Saprykin) made impossible saves; defencemen blocked shots; and skaters named Daniel (the Buffalo Sabres' Brière and Ottawa's Alfredsson) showed the magic that is usually found only in the imaginations of the very young.

The Sabres, having played last Thursday as if several players had skipped the morning skate to go over the falls in a barrel, came out as was required on Saturday, swirling all over the ice and pressing so hard that two of the first five shots went in - with a third goal cancelled by video replay that showed the puck going in off a player's glove.

The Senators fully expected this early charge by the Sabres - Buffalo has won but once in 14 tries now after losing the first game of a series - and they simply waited, and prayed. Sure enough, Ottawa's captain, Alfredsson, came through with a pretty goal off the rush to make the score 2-1 after a remarkable period of hockey.

In the second period, the Sabres sputtered and the Senators slowly took control, moving ahead 3-2 on a 5-on-3 power play in the final minute of the period - only to have little Brière tie everything up with less time on the clock than it takes a nervous Ottawa fan to wince.

It was a game in which a dozen penalties were called, only two of which would have been merited mention in the hook-and-hold days before the owners' lockout.

But if this is the price of a lost year of NHL hockey, it is well worth it.
Hopefully this showcase for the "New NHL" will translate into more interest from the sports fans of America. However, since it's being shown on Versus and the ratings so far have been minuscule, I have my doubts. Imagine what a impact this series might've had if it was on ESPN?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Round One...

goes to Ottawa and to their sharp dressed man in net.

"Half man, half Zoolander." That does just about sum it up.

However, he might want to try and keep that high priced shoe on that foot of his out of his mouth though. It tends to ruin the shine.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Hitting

has already begun...

...and the series hasn't even started yet.

It will tonight...

How Senators and Sabres Match Up

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hockey fo' shizzle...

my nizzle.

Wow, Snoop Dogg gettin down with Hockey. Now I've seen it all.

Remember everyone...

Please don't change the dizzle my nizzle fo shizzle. We'll be right fizzle in a mizzle... fo shizzle.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Quest Continues...

Next up are the hated rivals from just across the nearby border.
What's clear is that a Sabres-Senators matchup has been one most anticipated by hockey fans on both sides of the New York-Ontario border since the Sabres dispatched Ottawa in five games of a second-round series last year.

"There's a lot of history,'' Ruff said. "Whether that has any effect on it, I can't tell you right now. They've got all the motivation they need, and we've got lots of motivation.''

The Senators are certainly up for the challenge.

"There's been a lot of contact between the two organizations, and I think that's terrific,'' Senators coach Bryan Murray said. "I think we thought that we were one of the good teams in the second half of the year and we knew they were the best team in the East for the most part of the year. So I think it's a great matchup for us.''

Ottawa outscored Buffalo 33-25 in winning five of eight regular-season meetings, but the Sabres won two of the last three. That includes a 6-5 shootout win at Buffalo on Feb. 22, when the Sabres rallied from a two-goal deficit and overcame the loss of Drury, who was knocked out and bloodied by Neil's hit early in the second period.

The play sparked a brawl involving all 12 players on the ice, led to 100 minutes in penalties and the NHL fining Ruff $10,000.

This series should be a good one. I can't wait.

Diehard Hockey Fans say the least.
No plumbing. No electricity. No problem. A hockey-crazed Hamilton couple has proven their passion for hockey by following the NHL playoffs despite the challenges of rustic living.

Jennifer Villamere and Pete Calder live in Hamilton but regularly gather around a bonfire at a rural cottage to take in the playoff games.

A small generator powers a satellite and a projector beams the games onto a white bed sheet spread across the front of their wooden cabin.
Pete and Jennifer beat out more than 500 other hopefuls to become one of three fianlists in the Bring Home the Stanley Cup contest being run up in Canada.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ratings Boosters

Bill Price writing for has some of what I think are nifty, but I would guess to many are some wacky ideas about getting more viewers to tune in to the NHL. Here's a couple of my favorites.
GET THE VIEWERS INVOLVED: There are two reasons why "American Idol" is so huge. Not only do viewers tune in to see how incoherent Paula Abdul will be on a nightly basis, they also get to play a role in the outcome of the show. So instead of letting the mystery men in Toronto decide disputed goals, the NHL should let the viewers make the call via phone-in vote. The league could show the play once or twice and then have a 4-minute window where fans could vote - goal or not a goal. Imagine the excitement that would generate. Plus, you have to figure the Rangers would get every call. [...]

MORE FIGHTING: Nothing makes me laugh harder - besides Carrot Top - then folks who say fighting should be outlawed in hockey. Outlawed? Try encouraged, possibly rewarded. If a guy wins a fight, his team gets a power play. If he loses, his squad plays shorthanded. Violence equals ratings. What do you think would happen to NASCAR's ratings if crashes were banned? Exactly. More blood, more viewers. It's that simple.
Yeah, I know these are tongue in cheek kind of things but I really do think the NHL needs to start thinking a little out side the box if they ever hope to attract any viewership to their anemic TV broadcasts.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Happy Cinco de Mayo

What better way to celebrate this day than to honor...

The Top 5 Greatest Numero Cincos in NHL History.