Kukla's Korner


My NHL Christmas Wish List - Part 1

Tis the season to be jolly, be merry, and of course to have wish lists for those shiny boxes under the tree come Christmas morn.

Like some children asking for a pony, or like me every time I asked for a car, some wish lists go unfilled, but just like the gifts themselves, the wishing and hoping is important. If not for now, then in some cases at least for later.

With that, the next few days I’ll be writing my NHL wish list, five things I’d like to see from the League that I believe will benefit not only fans, but the players and the League as well.

Today’s wish list item: Better out-of-arena viewing options for fans.

I say ‘out-of-arena’ because it’s not just television anymore. Sure, television offers plenty; a longstanding viewer base, a healthy relationship with advertisers, a superb organization of camera crews, play by play personalities, and great hockey analysts.

The problem is that watching hockey is feeling a bit too much like listening to music in the middle of the century, too filled with options for the size and rotation speed of the various records that came and went before the coming of the cassette tape and the CD.

Sure, variety is good, but this is in some ways too much variety of the wrong kind. Records held countless artists and styles, but it was frustrating to have to be able to accommodate each recording standard with a different player. In the same way, I can appreciate the HNIC hotstove segment, TSN’s diverse panel, and witnessing new and different broadcasters every now and then, but the fact that I need to order local broadcasters to get their exclusive games, NHL packages to see their games, and entirely different channels to find a few more is frustrating at every turn.

Here in Canada, when I want to catch a CTV, Discovery Channel, or Comedy Network program, I just open up their video player and watch, interspersed with maybe half a dozen 15-30 second ads. Yes, I could order NHL GameCenter Live, but it is replete with its own games unavailable, due to other networks having exclusive rights, or because of where I am, here in Waterloo.

Unlike the NFL, where a 16-game regular season lends itself to Monday Night Football, an 82-game season for 30 different teams, geographically spread across two countries, is more at home with team allegiances and marquee matchups. Aside from a few fortunate segments of fans, many teams in the League are left out in the cold when trying to follow their respective teams, especially if they are asked to purchase package after package to cobble together the season for their viewing pleasure.

Maybe it’s crazy, but the AHL seems to have found something that works. AHL live allows you to select packages to follow your favourite team, giving you the option of live games, archived games, both, and even the option of paying $6 to watch a single game live. Notice that the video player’s loading bar looks awfully familiar. Is it so hard to imagine a world where NHL fans are as fortunate?

ESPN seems to be on everyone’s minds when the topic of the NHL and television comes up, but availability should trump even that. More complex, better designed agreements could be put in place to better serve customers. Instead of forcing this complex arrangement on fans, is it not possible to give them the option of choice?

Take the GameCenter Live application: you can already choose to listen to radio broadcasts free or in place of the video feeds’ audio; why can’t that be the universal method? Money goes in, and goes out to the providers who gain the most listeners, or viewers. Maybe you put in a few games where one broadcaster gets to be the only set of cameras in the arena, or another the exclusive voice, but it’s not so hard to imagine a League with minds clever enough to always, without exception, give fans access.

How is loyalty generated when fans can’t enjoy their teams with ease? Where’s the sense in making individuals pay hundreds upon hundreds of dollars, in a recession no less, for countless channels they will rarely watch if ever, only because they want to be a loyal fan? Is that not the kind of fan the League should be working hardest to please?

There has to be a way, a way to give broadcasters and their cameras and hosts the attention of thousands, their advertisers the eyes they covet, while still making sure that fans never have to go a single game where their team is blacked out, or completely unavailable to enjoy outside of an arena’s 20,000 or so seats.

It won’t come this Christmas, but it can come soon. The recession we’re currently in should only further press the point that this is needed, and that the additional revenue would better serve the League. I can vouch for myself, at the least, that for the first time ever, I would pay for the ability to watch all Senators games online, to pay a fee to watch a single game such as an epic San Jose-Detroit matchup, or a run-and-gun gleeful outing with Crosby and Malkin staring down their on-and-off the ice real and media-made rivals in Semin and Ovechkin.

I have a funny feeling I’m not the only one with something like this scrawled in their mind on their own wish list.

Filed in: NHL General, NHL Media, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net