Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 02/23/14 at 06:30 AM ET
Over the past couple of months, the debate as to whether the NHL should participate in Olympic hockey has included enthusiastic support from players, the NHL's most conservative (and powerful) owners insisting that Olympic participation is a, Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Thing, and of course Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, Donald Fehr and Rene Fasel playing all sorts of verbal chess.
This morning, the Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa suggests that neither the players, owners, commissioner, the NHLPA or the IIHF will end up deciding whether we'll see NHL'ers playing in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018. Instead, Shinzawa (writing his weekly notebok) suggests that the resident American Olympic broadcaster--and the NHL's current U.S. broadcasting partner--may make the decision for the parties involved:
NBC holds the broadcast rights for 2018, like it did for this year’s Olympics and the 2010 Games in Vancouver. If NBC determines that NHL participation makes a significant impact on its Olympic revenue stream, it will make that known to the league’s power brokers. Assuming that happens, the NHL will move swiftly to please its primary television partner.
TV, after all, rules everything.
NBC has been a very good partner for the league. After the 2004-05 lockout, ESPN giggled at airing NHL games. NBC gave the NHL a home. Both parties have benefited from the deal.
NHL business is booming. The league is poised to expand to 32 teams, with Seattle being a lock to secure a franchise. The salary cap will be in the $70 million neighborhood in 2014-15.
NBC is taking advantage of the NHL’s rise. The United States-Russia shootout classic was the most-watched hockey game ever aired on NBC Sports Network. The game drew 4.1 million viewers on a Saturday morning, hardly a time that draws eyeballs. Online, the US-Czech Republic quarterfinal game generated 798,337 unique users on http://www.nbcolympics.com which, made it the most-streamed Olympic event ever.
The Olympic moneymakers are figure skating and skiing. They are the primetime showcases. Hockey is a supplementary draw. But if amateurs play in 2018, hockey numbers won’t just go down. They’ll drop off Mount Everest. It will be NBC’s call to determine whether that kind of loss will be sustainable.
Shinzawa continues, talking about Torey Krug, a possible Hartford Whalers renaissance, Matt Moulson and Ryan Miller's potential trade deadline landing spots, as well as other topics.
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