About this time last year, I criticized the National Hockey League and Versus for televising just two games that began at 7:30 PM Pacific time so that viewers in the West can actually watch an entire game live (see NHL: Only Two “West-Friendly” Games On National TV In 2008-09).
Fast forward a year and very, very little has changed.
Indeed, this season, there is just one “west-friendly” game on the schedule, San Jose at Colorado on October 1, 7:00 PM Pacific time.
That will be the only chance for the vast majority of West Coast viewers to watch a game from start to finish without having to record it for later viewing.
Last season, two games aired at 7:30 PM on the West Coast.
To be fair, fourteen games on the schedule begin at 5:00 PM Pacific time. Another begins at 6:00 PM. But even those games begin before most people get home from work, college, etc. The only difference is that out here in the West, we might be able to tune in before the third period gets underway.
I know what you’re all thinking: we should be jumping up and down with excitement because we can watch so many more third periods live, right?
The bottom line here is that, as it always does, the West gets screwed over when it comes to the national television schedule.
Indeed, the NHL continues to cater and prostitute itself to fans in Eastern Time Zone cities at the expense of most Western Conference cities.
And as I wrote last year, “…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.”
To be sure, the league is not solely at fault, as television networks want to maximize ratings. Nevertheless, this is a shortsighted strategy on the part of the NHL as 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.
The fact that the league prostitutes itself to its Eastern Time Zone fans leaves the vast majority of Western Conference fans high and dry. Even worse, there is huge potential to grow the game out here in the West. All this does is hinder that growth.
The NHL has made a ton of dumb moves throughout its existence. A television schedule that essentially shuts out the West year after year is another amazingly stupid blunder.
Oh…there is a bit of good news for Los Angeles Kings fans…they will be on Versus once this season (last year, they were not on Versus at all). The Kings will be at Chicago on November 9, 2009, starting at 5:00 PM Pacific time.
Connie Kim over at KingsCast has a more Kings-centric view on the subject: Versus Frustrates Me, while Matt Reitz at View From My Seats looks at the issue from a more league-wide perspective at: Networks Versus Common Sense.
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