January 25, 2015

Thomas Drance



Thoughts on All-Star weekend, the new Hockey world Cup format, and my second half all-regression team.




The NHL doesn’t always host an All-Star game – there have only been three All-Star events in the past six seasons – but when they do, they schedule it conveniently on the same day as the Pro Bowl. 


I also find it fascinating to look at how the other major professional sports leagues in North America are forced to plan around the television juggernaut that is the Super Bowl. It’s like the Super Bowl is a black hole that sucks up all light, but for television ratings.


It’s not just the NHL that is busy working a marquee league event into a short NFL-less dead zone this weekend. The NBA is also aggressively counter programming the NFL today, as they’ve got some huge matchups due to tip off on Sunday (including LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant). 


Then next week – on Super Bowl day – the NBA and the NHL have apparent reached some sort of strange detente. The NHL isn’t even trying to compete with the NBA in the pre-Super Bowl afternoon time slots.


Here’s how the pre-Super Bowl scheduling lookss. The NBA has all of their biggest markets in action, with the Miami Heat playing the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers playing some unwatchable, Kobe-less ball against the New York Knicks. Having four huge markets play each other early in the afternoon must’ve seemed like a good idea when they first planned this out, but all of those teams are all awful are unlikely to draw any sort of national audience. Perhaps the plan is to attract regional viewers in-advance of the Super Bowl.


In recent years the NHL has held a marquee afternoon game prior to the Super Bowl (typically Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby). I always figured that plan was about “the NHL being second on Sportscenter” and generally it worked.


This time around the mix if a bit more eclectic and regional, and the Sunday is a bit busier. Crosby and Ovechkin will still be in action, but they’ll be playing a pair of heartland teams in the St. Loius Blues and the Nashville Predators. Meanwhile the Montreal Canadiens host the Arizona Coyotes, while the Vancouver Canucks face the Minnesota Wild in a game that some people like to call a “rivalry game”, right before they pull their hamstring as a result of the stretch. 


I wonder if, in terms of the NHL’s media plans here, they’ve sort of decided to cede the bigger markets (Boston, Miami, Los Angeles New York) to the NBA, contenting themselves to clean up elsewhere before the Super Bowl starts (D.C., Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville, St. Louis, PIttsburgh).



It feels pretty unambitious to me though. Like the NHL is doing their NBAPA impersonation and have put their tail between their legs.




Like pretty much everyone else except Anze Kopitar, I am not that pumped up about the format for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey tournament


That the World Cup is returning is great fun, but the two gimmick teams – one U23 All-Star team and one World All-Star team – make the format irksome. I tend to think that the internal logic of a best-on-best international tournament, will make this experiment look even worse once the tournament begins.


After all, think about the pace