For hockey-starved and hockey-thirsty fans, the summer months can drag along at a slugs pace. While Sabres fans anxiously await the final de-slugging of First Niagara Center, where do we turn for our hockey entertainment?
During the season, the NHL Network becomes a lifeline for our hockey news. So, why do they abandon us in the excruciatingly boring off season? There certainly could be other programming to broadcast instead of random playoff games, and the network could undoubtedly boost their off season ratings with even some slight creativity. Here are a few ideas:
1. 30 Teams In 30 Days – This could be a series airing during the month of September, which ironically has 30 days that could coincide with the 30 NHL teams. One day is devoted to each NHL team. Each full day could include a preview show, offering commentary and predictions on that teams upcoming season, as well as updates on the off season moves. There could be another show which catches up with a few of the teams players, showing what they do in the off season (such as this YouTube clip of Derek Roy’s summer home). They could also throw in a few of the teams “classic games” to chew up time, similar to the MSG “Sabres Best Of” series. Yet another show could portray “behind the scenes” action, depicting the the day to day operations of the club and/or arena. Chaperone us around the offices of Pegula, Black, and Regier and give each of them quick interviews. Talk to the zamboni guy, the announcers, the trainer, give a tour of the locker room. Rabid fans love these things, and even casual fans like to learn more about the game and the operations of their favorite team.
2. NHL Call-In Show – Bring in some panelists, maybe some former and present NHL players, pundits, analysts, and coaches, and have a call in show where viewers ask questions. It is 2011, people could even tweet or text or email comments to the show. You wouldn’t even need to bring these players in to a studio, they could be at home on a webcam answering these questions. Even just a simple picture of the player on the screen as he talks on the phone would suffice.
3. All-Time Greats Series- Here is a mind-blowing idea: Run a series that counts down the 100 best, 50 best, 20 best, 10 best – pick any number you want – of varying categories. All you have to do is chop up some film and throw in some voiceovers. Topics that could be covered could include best centers, best wingers, best goalies, best defensemen, greatest fights or fighters, best checks or hitters, worst injuries (Clint Malarchuk anyone?), best goals, greatest passers, best slap shot artists – you get the idea. For extra flavor, you could design the show somewhat in the vein of the “Worlds Dumbest” tv series, or “I Love The 80’s” with colorful commentary from present and former players. The NHL is a hotbed for interesting characters, and there should be no shortage of Jeremy Roenicks, Matthew Barnabys, and Don Cherry types willing to chime in. There could even be a greatest bloopers show, who doesn’t love a cheap laugh?
4. Broadcast Podcasts – There sure are a lot of NHL fans out there. There is also a burgeoning number of bloggers and podcasters. If anything, these are the people providing sustenance and lifeblood to the fans over these grueling summer months, tossing around all of our ideas and opinions. After all, you ARE reading this blog right now instead of watching NHL Network, right? It wouldn’t take too much of an effort to give the bloggers and podcasters a shot to stream a show, and I am sure you could find plenty of them to do it for absolutely free. A discussion forum to coincide with the show could even be set up on the NHL Network website, which would definitely bring in much traffic. Team rivalries trickle right down to the fans as well, so the bickering, debating, drama, and arguing between the bloggers, podcasters, and fanbases could be endless.
5. NHL Mic’d Up – I am positive that I am not the only sports fan in the world who enjoys the NFL Films Mic’d Up/Sound FX series. Why not have something similar for the NHL? As previously stated, the NHL has an overabundance of fascinating and interesting characters. Hockey personalities are uniquely different than those of other athletes. Who wouldn’t want to hear some of the banter going on between players at a faceoff, between players about to drop the gloves, or a coach berating one of his players (or better yet a ref)? Or, you could show a classic game, or playoff game, or any interesting game, and bring in a few players from both teams to do commentary on the game as it replays.
I do not consider any of these ideas rocket-science, and it doesn’t seem like it would take much at all to spice up the NHL Network off season programming. None of the above ideas seem to be budget busting suggestions either. Just a little bit of effort is needed. It is late August. Rabid NHL fans are starving, please feed us! Casual NHL fans are thirsty, please give them a drink…