Saturday, February 13, 2010

NBC explains its ice-dancing-over-U.S./Canada-hockey decision

By Greg Wyshynski

VANCOUVER – From horse-racing conflicts to shuttering the big screen at Mellon Arena, NBC has given hockey fans as much anxiety and anger as watching Jay Leno sit in Conan's chair.

The latest affront to puckheads: The U.S. vs. Canada men's preliminary-round showdown Feb. 21 won't be shown on NBC, but on cable's MSNBC at 7 p.m. EST. Instead, the Peacock will bring fans an exhilarating night of ice dancing, women's speedskating, men's freestyle skiing and men's giant slalom – rather than what amounts to an NHL all-star game on an international stage.

To the surprise of no one, NBC's getting torched for this: Outspoken player agent Allan Walsh tweeted that it was "disgraceful, and Chicago Now called it inexcusable:

How can the NHL cancel their all star game and postpone their season for two weeks to accommodate the Olympics without getting any major network attention during the Winter Olympiad?

This is just another case of why the NHL will never be as popular as its fan base either believes it is or wants it to be. When the pinnacle of the sport calls on the best of the best of your league, you have to get these games on national television. The worst part of the whole deal is the league (NHL) has the contract with the television network already and still cannot get the best hockey competition in the world on the tube.

The notion that the NHL would shutter its season for the Games and that its broadcast rights holder wouldn't then put the NHL-centric U.S. vs. Canada on its primary network is baffling.

So we reached out to NBC for comment and context, and found out who gets the blame for this malarkey: American women.

According to the network, there are three major sporting events that have more female viewers than male viewers: the Kentucky Derby, the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics. Turning three hours of prime-time coverage on the East Coast over to a hockey game isn't exactly catnip to those casual female viewers, despite Sidney Crosby's(notes) pouty lips...


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