NHL: Only Two “West-Friendly” Games On National TV In 2008-09

NATIONAL TV: The Los Angeles Kings are not on the national television schedule in the United States in the 2008-09 season; only two games are on the schedule with start times that will allow most West Coast viewers to watch the entire game.

LOS ANGELES — One sign that everyone knows that a team is going to be dreadful in the coming season is when they are not scheduled to be on national television, and that is exactly the case for the lowly Los Angeles Kings.

On August 14, the National Hockey League released details of its 2008-09 regular season television schedule, and in the United States, the Kings will not appear on Versus.

To be sure, much of this is because the Kings are very, very likely to be nowhere near competitive for a playoff spot this season. But a more influential factor is that the league caters and prostitutes itself to Eastern Time Zone cities at the expense of most Western Conference cities.

Of course, the NHL knows who butters their bread. The majority of its fans are located in Eastern Time Zone cities. But if you have ever looked at the national television schedule, it is so heavily weighted towards Eastern Time Zone audiences that, if you’re an avid hockey fan in the West, you cannot enjoy the vast majority of games televised by Versus since they are at least a third of the way through the game before you get home from a long day at work—you can never see a nationally televised game from the beginning unless you record it or get home early.

It is even worse this season, as just two games on Versus will air at 7:30 PM Pacific time.

The latest any of the other weeknight games will begin is 5:00 PM Pacific time.

Without question, the NHL is certainly not the only culprit here. After all, television networks do not want to televise teams that a national audience generally will not be interested in.

But in any case, hockey fans in the West have extremely limited viewing options. They must hope that the NHL Network will televise some Western Conference games, not to mention, they must have access to the NHL Network, since not all satellite and cable outlets offer it. And if the NHL Network is not available to them, they will be forced to cough up the dough for a satellite dish and the Center Ice package, which is not inexpensive.

All that just to be able to enjoy an out-of-market game from start to finish? That is certainly not the way to grow the game and increase the fan base outside of the Eastern Time Zone.

In the coming season, Kings fans are stuck with FSN West/FSN West Prime Ticket exclusively, unless they have Center Ice—the Kings will be televised twice on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada and once on TSN:

Saturday, November 1: Calgary Flames vs. Los Angeles Kings, 7:00 PM PST (CBC)

Saturday, January 31, 2009: Kings vs. Montreal Canadiens, 11:00 PM PST (CBC)

Wednesday, November 26: Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers, 7:00 PM PST (TSN)

There is a miniscule chance that the Kings could appear on NBC in the United States, as they have only scheduled two games in January at this point. However, it is a foregone conclusion that NBC will focus on playoff-contending teams starting in February, 2009, and will continue in that mode through the end of the season, so don’t hold your breath, Kings fans.

Here are the complete US and Canadian national television schedules: League Releases TV Schedules For 2008-09.

Another voice on the national TV schedule: Thanks NHL and Versus.

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15 thoughts on “NHL: Only Two “West-Friendly” Games On National TV In 2008-09

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  1. No, it’s definitely not a surprise. And it’s not just the Kings who are getting the shaft…it’s really all the teams and their fans in the West. And when you think about it, the NHL is really hurting themselves in the long-run. It’s in the Western states where they need to grow the game and increase its fan base, but they certainly aren’t going to do that if people in the West can’t find a game on TV.

    As for the Kings and their young players, maybe it’s a good thing that they’ll remain a hidden secret? :-)

  2. Seriously, who would want to watch the Kings this season anyway? Say Versus did pick up a Kings game (maybe against the Ducks). Who would watch? The miniscule number of hardcore fans in SoCal. The NHL needs ratings. East Coast teams get the ratings. Remember, even though Detroit is in the Western Conference the city is in the Eastern Time Zone.

  3. As much as the league needs ratings, it needs to increase its fan base much more. A TV schedule that features virtually all Eastern Time Zone teams is definitely not the way to do that. It’s foolish, to say the least.

  4. With some of the decisions made in the past by the NHL (bye ESPN, hello VS) this really isn’t that surprising. It does suck though since, as previously stated, the league does need more ratings. Looks like I’ll have to start paying for Center Ice again.

  5. gann, i disagree. I became a fan by seeing the islanders in the early 80 and devils in the late 80’s on espn. The nhl needs to show quality hockey and the kings, at least are questionable in that area. I admit it doesn’t make sense in terms of the ducks, but who can figure out what the nhl is doing? most of it doesn’t make sense.

  6. Actually, the Kings not being on national television is only a minor issue. The real issue is that folks out West are virtually shut out of being able to see an entire game from start to finish with just TWO games airing at times that viewers can tune into at a reasonable hour, as opposed to the vast majority of games that start at 4:00, 4:30 or 5:00 PM Pacific time. West Coast folks will generally miss at least the first period and, usually, more than that unless they tape the game.

    Even those in the Mountain Time Zone will generally not be able to catch a game on Versus at the starting time.

    And more significant than that is the fact that this really isn’t so much about those of us who are already hooked on hockey. This is about growing the game and attracting new fans. This is much more important in the West, where the sport does not have anywhere near the following it does elsewhere. How does the NHL expect to accomplish this if people out West can’t even tune into a game because by the time they sit down in front of the TV, the game is over or they’ve missed most of it and aren’t interested because of that? That’s a big deal and the NHL is totally blowing this opportunity by ignoring this problem.

    What they need to do is find a way to increase the TV broadcast schedule to include more games for Western audiences while keeping the same number of games for Eastern audiences.

    Like I said in the story, the NHL certainly knows who butters their bread, so to speak. But the current “formula” (or whatever you want to call it) for determining the national TV schedule leaves a lot to be desired.

  7. Gann, I agree to a point, but kids and teens are home at 4 and if they happen upon the game, who knows? Most everyone has DVR now, especially sports fans and I can give you an example of how the time of airing is better out here.

    Being a european football fan (which will likely draw some nasty comments) I DVR things that are on at mid-day and watch them at my convenience when I get home. New hockey fans won’t do this, but what’s the point in airing west coast games if half the nation is asleep when it comes on? Besides, what’s the odds they’ll flip across Versus before FSN???

    The NHL makes no sense as is apparent by them going with Versus over ESPN. The contract might be more lucrative, but what’s the point if your just going to choke on it?

    Hockey is in the hands of the ignorant. Our ownership in LA is a big part of the vacuum. That might rankle feathers, but its true.

  8. I would estimate that your “Most people have DVR” comment is probably wrong…way too many people refuse to pay the subscription fees associated with services like Tivo or pay the extra monthly fee to DirecTV, etc. As for children and teens, they certainly can influence parents, but in the end, if a parent isn’t interested on their own, they’re unlikely to become the kind of consistent fan that the NHL needs.

    As for Versus over ESPN, yes, you have a point there, but that’s for another story…

  9. Gann, i think our dvr cost 5 bucks a month. that’s little more than 1 Gallon of gas. You may be correct, but so may I.

  10. Well guys, I must be one of the “nuts” then, because I dumped cable TV and moved on to Dish just to get a package with both Versus and then Center Ice/or NHL Network, or whatever it is. And the DVR handles the games quite nicely. For those who do not know about hockey, they and their families have had over a hundred years to learn. If they haven’t thus far, why bother with them? Don’t worry, eventually, they jump on the band wagon when visiting one of us :-) or better yet, during the out door game. Now I think that idea was brilliant and could really catch on and bring people to our game!
    Meanwhile, just remember, there is always the chance our young Kings could catch fire, could begin jellin’ together and playin’ as a team. Should that happen and they go on a tear, well, you know how sports are. You never know. All it takes is a bit of confidence and then, look out. I mean, we are getting some really good players. if they suddenly work together and play as a team, they have as good a chance as anyone to become competitive. Let’s not forget some of the amazing games they did win last year.
    And by the way, during their first stretch of bad years, beginnin’ in 1969-’70, there were also some incredible games. I mean, totally incredible. They were definitely worth the price oif admission back then!

  11. Mr. Lee – I somewhat agree with you about the possibility of positives and great games. I’ve pointed out on a number of sites that Washington made the playoffs with a really weak team. Maybe it says more about the weak NHL, and the Salary Cap :-( than about the Kings chances, but there do seem to be a number of poor, weak, and inexperiences clubs out there. The Kings defense is the real “prayer” in this. It seems so weak and inexperiences right now. Things always change by jan – march though.
    By the way, if you and gann want to tell how you got into hockey, post on my blog. I’d like to hear. Mine is getting really long and tangential, but I’ll keep working on it and get to the point.


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