Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 09/14/12 at 01:06 AM ET
ESPN is such a strange contradiction when it comes to NHL coverage. Pierre LeBrun, Scott Burnside, Craig Custance and ESPN's other online writers work their tails off, including those in the Chicago/Boston/LA/etc. market websites, they take hockey very, very seriously online and produce excellent work.
ESPN New York's Katie Strang has spent all summer chasing Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr and every CBA scoop she's found like a seasoned collective bargaining pro, Barry Melrose is still around, and while he rarely covers hockey on the air, John Buccigross remains incredibly passionate about the sport.
There's no doubt that online, ESPN cares about hockey, but as we all know, their television programming shows a ridiculous disregard for the game. So it is with due respect that I roll my eyes at Darren Rovell's callous take on the sappy minority of lockout-proof suckers that he deems NHL fans to represent:
Nick Mancuso knows that what makes a hockey fan is what's going to kill the hockey fan this season.
"We're a unique community," said Mancuso, whose company, Kynetyk, makes hockey equipment. "They know we'll all come back. They're going to get away with it again."
It's no secret that hockey is a niche sport in America. Always has been, always will be. Only 8.8 percent of Americans who are at least 12 years old call themselves avid hockey fans, according to an ESPN Sports Poll. That's compared to the 34.3 percent of Americans in that age bracket who call themselves NFL fans.
But those fans who are die-hard are seemingly more attached to the game than hard-core fans in other sports, and people who consider themselves casual fans seem more likely to show up to a baseball game or a basketball game than get behind the boards.
What does that mean? It means the league relies mostly on guys such as Nick Mancuso, and it knows where it stands.
In a Twitter poll I took, 76.5 percent of people who called themselves hockey fans said a season off wouldn't affect their interest. As for those who answered they'd walk away, I'm sure most of them wouldn't.
And that's why commissioner Gary Bettman had no problem recommending to the owners to lock out the players in 2004 and again this year.
He continues with NFL and NBA lockout comparisons, suckers, etc. etc. Blah blah blah. You've read it and seen itall before on ESPN.
Which is a disservice to ESPN.com's commitment to the game, but we obviously know what ESPN tends to resonate with the "average" sports TV viewer.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org