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Article from the Akron(Ohio) Beagon Journal

ESPN began airing a seven-part series this week on the sport of dominoes, which begs the obvious question:

How long before even that gets better television ratings than the Stanley Cup Finals?

The series between the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes -- which resumes Saturday night at 8 with Game 6 on NBC -- has produced some terrific hockey. Too bad nobody outside of Raleigh, N.C., and Canada is watching.

Two kids playing Jenga in Central Park might lure more Nielsen viewers than the quest for Lord Stanley's mug. A fringe ``major'' sport even in its halcyon days of the mid-1990s, hockey on TV has gone deeper undercover than Donnie Brasco.

• Game 1 of the Cup finals, broadcast on OLN (the Outdoor Life Network), was outdrawn by women's college softball.

• Game 2, also on OLN, was a ratings loser to a rained-out ESPN baseball game that never started.

• Game 3, shown on NBC, lost its time slot in the Los Angeles market -- a region that includes two NHL franchises -- to reruns of I Love Lucy.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, you got some 'splainin' to do.

Yes, the post-lockout NHL, with its rule changes and crack-

down on restraining fouls, has created more offense and excite-

ment for hard-core viewers. It has been all but forgotten, however, by the average sports fan.

No matter how Bettman and team owners spin the abysmal TV ratings, the league must face facts. It's paying for the sins of the past. And it's going to be quite some time before the NHL regains the momentum it built on the strength of a 10-year run culminating with a 5.2 rating for Game 7 of the 1994 Cup finals.

That might not sound like much, but it represented respectability for a sport with Canadian roots.

Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mark Messier, the transcendent stars of that era, are gone. In their place, the NHL has substituted the grittiness of Cory Stillman, the expansion of the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators and the open-ice sorcery of Eastern Europeans whose names Git-R-Done Nation can't pronounce.

Hey, I appreciate the talents of Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin, but it's easy to see why NASCAR and (gulp) Texas Hold 'Em have blown past the NHL in terms of popularity. Pittsburgh Penguins young phenom Sidney Crosby can't mature soon enough.

The seven-game '04 Cup finals, featuring the Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames, was one of the most action-packed and engrossing series in recent memory. One of its games drew the second-lowest prime-time rating in U.S. television history.

That was before the lockout cost the NHL the entire 04-05 season. How has a league gone from network contracts with ESPN and FOX in 1995 to the cable netherworlds of OLN? Here are some simplified theories:

(1) The 1994-95 labor stoppage dealt a devastating blow to general fan interest.

(2) The NHL expanded too rapidly, ballooning from 21 teams in 1991 to its diluted current 30.

(3) Power brokers allowed middling talent, ushered in by expansion, to hijack the game's speed and creativity with defensive traps and unpenalized restraining fouls. It leveled the playing field, but made the product nearly unwatchable.

The NHL finally corrected the problem during the lockout, but it will take time to recover fans lost by a decade of bad hockey, which coincided with the bottoming out of big-market franchises such as the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins.

There's nothing the NHL can do about a small-market finals except tout the ample skills of the Oilers and Hurricanes. It can, though, do everything possible to get back on hockey-friendly ESPN. (Has anyone watched OLN since Lance Armstrong dismounted for the final time last summer in Paris?)

The NHL always will have its regional fan base, but there's no reason it should be smoked nationally by college softball. The game is just too good.

Bettman had better get his houses in order or prepare to watch them tumble like dominoes.



Kinda sad to read this. My thought is that people are missing some good hockey. Even though I hate both teams, I still gotta watch. Any thoughts of why hockey gets such low ratings?
 

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Americans do not care for the sport of HOCKEY, unless it's their home team. But Bettman will keep trying to sell it there, regardless of the ratings/fans, heaven forbid, if he would put a team back in CANADA where it belongs. :dunno:
 

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Check out this column that was in May 11-2006 Toronto Sun:

Hockey no longer can be considered one of the top four sports in the United States, thanks to Gary Bettman's TV policy
By AL STRACHAN

If you were covering hockey back when Gary Bettman was in university, you got to see the mistakes made by Bettman's predecessor as the head honcho of the National Hockey League, John Ziegler.

Had Bettman taken courses in the humanities back then, instead of law, he might have learned that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

These days, every time you turn on a playoff telecast, you get to see Bettman as he travels from coast to coast telling everyone who will listen what a wonderful job he has done.

In Canada, we know this because we get to see the playoffs on accessible television. In the United States, no matter how Bettman tries to paint it, the status of hockey is abysmal.

Thanks to Bettman, only a small percentage of Americans can watch the playoffs. And thanks to Bettman, fewer still have any desire to do so.

RINKS FULL IN CANADA

In Canada, we fill the rinks, thereby allowing Bettman to say that the league is setting attendance records.

What he doesn't tell you is that knowledgeable people laugh when attendances are announced in American buildings; that many tickets are either given away outright or sold for a nominal fee; and that it is Canadian attendance which is propping up the league.

In Calgary, a section of the seating area that had been closed for years was reopened this year -- and sold out like the rest of the building. The mercurial fans of the Montreal Canadiens bought every available ticket to see their team. In Ottawa, thanks to the fine regular-season performance, attendance never has been higher.

For the most part, Bettman has destroyed the game in the U.S. and he did it by repeating one of the most disastrous mistakes (there were many to choose from) of Ziegler.

Hockey was starting to attract a following in the U.S. in the 1980s, in no small part because it got involved with ESPN on the ground floor. The network was relatively new and as it grew, hockey grew with it.

But Ziegler then decided to part ways with ESPN to go to SportsChannel America which simply was not available in most American homes. Many a hockey historian will contend that no decision in history did more to harm the NHL's evolution than that one.

Eventually, the NHL got back onto ESPN and was coming along nicely -- until Bettman staged his unnecessary season-long lockout, took the game out of the public's view for a year, and in the process, lost the ESPN contract.

Now, the NHL is on OLN. The average ratings for the season were 0.2, which, for those of you not arithmetically inclined, means OLN gets one viewer out of every 500. That's a 60% drop from the last season on ESPN.

The game is back and, thanks to new rules which Bettman finally allowed to be imposed after a decade of screaming from fans and media, is better than ever.

But in the U.S., it's virtually dead. And to make matters worse, the OLN contract is killing it in the few places where it was thriving.

In Denver, for instance, the Avalanche has had high ratings on Altitude, the local outlet. But for the playoffs, OLN takes over and most households do not have access to it.

Thanks to Bettman's TV policy, hockey no longer can be considered one of the top four sports in the United States. It may not be in the top dozen.

And without the ESPN contract, the sport doesn't get exposure to youngsters who are forming their sports loyalties. They're busy watching poker, college basketball and extreme sports.

As respected Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser wrote recently, "Hockey is so dead in America, the players may as well still be locked out."

His conclusion was, "Hockey didn't just lose last season. It appears to have lost its place."

Here's the link - http://www.torontosun.com/Sports/Col...74636-sun.html
 

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Hkyfn said:
So, if it's written in the Toronto "Red" Sun, then it must be true! :laugh:
:dunno: You said that, I didn't!!! I just posted it. You tell me!! You seem to be the expert on everything!!
 

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Hockey, unforunately was really left without a dance partner after the lockout, forcing Bettman and Co. to did deeper down the cable dial for a fit. Is OLN (soon to be called "Versus") ideal? No, I do think so, but ESPN is so crowded now televising baseball, the NBA, football, and almost everything in between. With hockey still on ESPN, it would be a small fish, in an already crowded pond. However, with OLN, hockey is the main game. It is true that OLN is not seen in nearly as many homes as ESPN, but the NHL is hoping that changes. Will it? I guess we will just have to wait and see. There was a furor here in SoCal when the Ducks played the Oilers, as OLN had exclusive rights to the games. Here in OC, Cox Cable (the main cable provider) does not offer OLN! Obviously, the Ducks were upset by this, but a contract is a contract, and there was no wiggle room. Fortunately for me, I have Direct TV, which offers the channel, but for the casual fan, who watches on his basic cable package, this was sadly not an option.

The NHL is hoping that OLN continues to grow, and if it does, the league does stand to benefit. Only time will tell.

Many times, you must look 2-3 years down the road, before making a statement that Bettman did wrong by leaving ESPN. It is just too early to tell. If in 3 years, OLN is still being shut out by the many cable providers around the country, then Bettman will have been proved wrong, and should suffer the consequences, but we will just have to wait and see if this indeed does happen. I do know that OLN is commited to the NHL, and that alone can only be a good thing.

I personally pay little attention to the sports writers in local newspapers, as they are so incredibly ill-informed and so many times, are nothing more than hack scribes, with an agenda. If you want to beleive the garbage they spew, that's your choice, but I prefer to did a little deeper, to get a more balanced approach to my news.

Glad you recognize my brilliance on all matters hockey. I may even take you under my wing and groom you as the next expert in waiting! :cool:
 

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Hkyfn said:
Hockey, unforunately was really left without a dance partner after the lockout, forcing Bettman and Co. to did deeper down the cable dial for a fit. Is OLN (soon to be called "Versus") ideal? No, I do think so, but ESPN is so crowded now televising baseball, the NBA, football, and almost everything in between. With hockey still on ESPN, it would be a small fish, in an already crowded pond. However, with OLN, hockey is the main game. It is true that OLN is not seen in nearly as many homes as ESPN, but the NHL is hoping that changes. Will it? I guess we will just have to wait and see. There was a furor here in SoCal when the Ducks played the Oilers, as OLN had exclusive rights to the games. Here in OC, Cox Cable (the main cable provider) does not offer OLN! Obviously, the Ducks were upset by this, but a contract is a contract, and there was no wiggle room. Fortunately for me, I have Direct TV, which offers the channel, but for the casual fan, who watches on his basic cable package, this was sadly not an option.

The NHL is hoping that OLN continues to grow, and if it does, the league does stand to benefit. Only time will tell.

Many times, you must look 2-3 years down the road, before making a statement that Bettman did wrong by leaving ESPN. It is just too early to tell. If in 3 years, OLN is still being shut out by the many cable providers around the country, then Bettman will have been proved wrong, and should suffer the consequences, but we will just have to wait and see if this indeed does happen. I do know that OLN is commited to the NHL, and that alone can only be a good thing.

I personally pay little attention to the sports writers in local newspapers, as they are so incredibly ill-informed and so many times, are nothing more than hack scribes, with an agenda. If you want to beleive the garbage they spew, that's your choice, but I prefer to did a little deeper, to get a more balanced approach to my news.

Glad you recognize my brilliance on all matters hockey. I may even take you under my wing and groom you as the next expert in waiting! :cool:
You are starting to sound alot like a former member to this forum who claimed he knew everything about hockey.
 

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I offered my insight to a good question, lets hear your position! If I wrote something that you disagree with, that is fine, and I would enjoy reading your version of the story. One thing though, don't start crying about the teams in the south!!
 

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panoo2004 said:
:dunno: You said that, I didn't!!! I just posted it. You tell me!! You seem to be the expert on everything!!
I AGREE with you about HKYFN he thinks that he is a expert on everything but he does have the right to his opinion.
 

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OLYMPIA STADIUM said:
I AGREE with you about HKYFN he thinks that he is a expert on everything but he does have the right to his opinion.
I agree, he does have a right to his own opinion.

I just wonder why he didn't comment on the original piece that started this thread? It's from a paper in OHIO!!:dunno:
 

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Well, Hkyfn, it seems to me that you are on a perpetual power trip. You have an immense desire to appear omniscient, yet you conveniently fail to address any issues that would expose the person behind the mask. You so willingly berate the Toronto Star? Fine. Maybe you have heard about some negative reputation it has, or maybe you just don't want to take a newspaper from Toronto (or Canada) seriously. Whatever the reason, you are fully open to your opinions. I would, however, like to know the reason behind your apparent hostility toward the Toronto Sun. What makes it worse (or any different at all, really) from the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio?

It also seems that if the success and popularity of the NHL in America depends solely on the growth of one single television network, perhaps it is just not worth the hassle anymore. Somewhere along the line, it went from being a staple of competitive sport in this continent to being but a mere capitalist scheme sold to the highest bidder. Forget that. Hockey in America appears to have lost its heart. Luckily, it is still treasured here in Canada, where it was born and raised.
 

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Well panoo2004, I'm not really sure what your asking me, but I do detect a degree of sarcasm on your part. Tsk....tsk...

However, your question about the Canadian media I will comment on. By profession, I am a commodities trader, and as such, I deal with people the world over, but heavily with Canadians. I have traveled to your country many times on business, and have always enjoyed my trips. I like genuinely like Canadians! However, what I have noticed in Canada, especially over the past 10-12 years, is a certain degree of hostility towards us Yanks. Not so much from the average guy on the street, but from the media as a whole. I recall reading the editorials one time I was in Toronto, especially the Star and Toronto Sun. I guess I was rather surprised by not only the blatant anti-Americanism that these 2 papers showed, but the smallness and pettiness of the whole thing. Did you log onto the TSN website during the finals? The way they described the finals, it was an armageddon showdown between Canada and the US! I kid you not! This is just crap, and the educated person realizes this. I won't even touch on the CBC, and their so-called "news" that they report. Oh, they call it "The Canadian perspective"! Not among my business peers, the CBC caters to the hard left politicos in your country. Perhaps you are one of these??

I do sense, from my Canadian contacts that since Harper was elected PM, that the attitude of the CDN gov't will change vis a vis with the US gov't. Lets all hope so, because after you guys had to endure the Liberal gov't for the past 12 years or so, you need a breath of fresh air,...... and a reality check!

I cannot comment on the Akron paper, as I have never read it. However, the article is just nothing more than an NHL bashing piece. Yes, we all know of the lockout, and the fallout of it. Yes, we all know the NHL changed networks, and the challenge of going with a new (or at least not as established) network in OLN. As I posted earlier on this thread, you cannot always judge things straight out of the box, some things take time to develop, and I believe that OLN's coverage will fall into this column. The ratings are certainly an issue, but I would also say that I'm sure that Canada would mostly tune out if the Oilers were not in the finals. The serious fan always will watch, but the casual fan, will most likely not.

Hockey, like ALL professional sports, is a business. PERIOD. There is big money on the table, and if you think that somehow, things will revert back to when the sport was much smaller, and more regionalized, just forget it. For this to happen, would mean that the league would simply die. Hockey is certainly very popular in Canada (it's your sport) as well as the northern States but the league as a whole is on a strong growth curve. Did you check out the average attendance this year in the league? The NHL, in what could have been a tough year at the gate, had record attendance from a league wide standpoint, so things can't be as bad as the Akron paper alludes to.

Your comment about "a mere capitalist scheme" confirms to me your view on life, you HAVE to be one of those lib's that loves the CBC, and dislikes America (that dastardly capitalist country that is the reason for your countries exixtence!!). Oh well, I guess we can't be loved by all (sob....sob...sob....)

Have a nice day! :)
 

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It hasn't been 10-12 years that the majority of Canadians dislike the US gov'.
It since 2000!!! Just like the rest of the world.

Hkyfn said:
Your comment about "a mere capitalist scheme" confirms to me your view on life, you HAVE to be one of those lib's that loves the CBC, and dislikes America (that dastardly capitalist country that is the reason for your countries existence!!). Oh well, I guess we can't be loved by all (sob....sob...sob....)

Have a nice day! :)
Try to keep the self-proclaimed defenders of freedom and democracy comments for somewhere else please. We are all hockey fans and let’s keep it at that.
 

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StevieY19 said:
(2) The NHL expanded too rapidly, ballooning from 21 teams in 1991 to its diluted current 30.
That was one of the biggest problems IMO, and though it doesn't look as bad now tha tthe talent is catching up again (due to the lockout and an extra year's worth of rookies youth just waiting for a chance to get in), at the time it was a problem. It's going to take some time for the game to get back on it's feet, and hopefully sooner than later, Gary Bettman won't be around to drill the game into the ground again
 

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BE-LEAF-ABLE said:
That was one of the biggest problems IMO, and though it doesn't look as bad now tha tthe talent is catching up again (due to the lockout and an extra year's worth of rookies youth just waiting for a chance to get in), at the time it was a problem. It's going to take some time for the game to get back on it's feet, and hopefully sooner than later, Gary Bettman won't be around to drill the game into the ground again
The league doubled in size in '67. Then they added more in the '70s. And 4 more in '79 from the WHA. for a total of 21 teams in the '80s. Thats 15 teams in 12 years. That about the same average as Bettman.Then we all knew what happened. The best hockey ever, up until '94.

The hockey isn't dilute the talent. It's defensive systems, the players are in better shape now adays. When I was playing minor hockey in the '80s it was all about offence. Being a goalie that was fun. Know and since the early '90s it's all defence.

They draft from all around the world now. The talent pool has never been so big. Better players are coming out of US colleges now. and so on.
 

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I am not going to get into a political debate with you, Hkyfn. This is not the place for it. We are here to talk about hockey. I will, however, say that I have watched the CBC maybe TWICE in my entire life (aside from hockey games) and that I do NOT hate Americans. I hate your government and your president. I hate their delusions of self-righteousness and their need to be to strongest force on Earth. Anyone who is not from America can tell you that it is the American way, or no way. You side with America, you are ok. If you go against them, bring on the war!

But none of this has to do with hockey. Perhaps the Canadian media does let these political views interfere with their so-called reporting, but why does it matter? Media has always been an arguably non-trustworthy presence in our lives. How much can one really trust the media? News is just as much of a business as hockey.

On that note, my previous post was not meant to imply that I think hockey is going to revert back to the small-town sport it once was. I was merely having a nostalgic moment. I was simply saying that I think somewhere along the line from being the regional pastime it once was to the corporate money-making machine, it lost a lot of the heart that once made it great. Don't get me wrong, though, as I still love the sport. But where did the magic go?
 

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Panoo2004, You're right, this isn'the place to debate politics, and since we are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, let's just agree to disagree.

I think hockey still most certainly has the magic. The finals this year was absolutely great hockey. With the exception of 2 games (games 2 and 6), all were close games that remained a tossup well into the last moments of the game. Edmonton made what could have been a quick series, a great series by winning games 5 and 6. The final series of 2 years ago was also great hockey, with Tampa and Calgary playing a simular style as the Canes and Oilers. I guess hockey is what it is, and the rule changes that were implemented this year certainly have not hurt the game, in my opinion. So what is to dislike? Two teams that played a fast skating, tight checking but also have offense combined for great TV. To me, that's magic!

With this said, what specific issues have I not addressed? List the issues you have, and I will certainly answer each one, on a point by point basis.
 
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