Behind the Broadcast: NHL doesn’t need to be aired on ESPN, where it gets little respect
Random thoughts, news and other musings as I wonder if I am living in New York or Florida, with all of the rain we got this week.
-- Everyone thinks that the NHL should be back on ESPN. They point to the fact that ESPN is in more homes than Versus, the current cable rights holder. While I’d like to see the NHL back on ESPN as a second cable home for the NHL, I have serious doubts that it would improve its coverage of the league, even if it had a share of the cable broadcast rights Those people who think ESPN is the be-all and end-all for the NHL, I submit to you what I witnessed Wednesday on the 6 p.m. “SportsCenter,” the first day of free agency in the NHL. It wasn’t until shortly after 7 p.m. (it was a 90-minute edition instead of the usual 60-minute show) that there was a report on some of the free-agent signings. And the report lasted about a minute.
You know what stories were more important than NHL free agency? Tony Romo playing a round of golf with Tiger Woods, and a 10-minute report on today’s Hot Dog Eating Contest that was on “Mike and Mike in the Morning” earlier in the day. If Kobe Bryant sneezes, it’s a five-minute report on “SportsCenter.” Marian Hossa leaving the Detroit Red Wings to sign a 12-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks? Yawn.
And here’s something else for all of those the NHL-is-better-on-ESPN people. On Thursday’s “NHL Live” on NHL Network and Sirius XM Radio, special guest and ESPN The Magazine senior writer EJ Hradek noted that the 1 a.m. edition of “SportsCenter” Wednesday failed to mention the six-player trade between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers.
People have to remember this: ESPN gave up on the NHL when the league resumed play following the 2004-05 lockout. Once it got the NBA, ESPN slowly reduced its coverage of the NHL. It dropped the “NHL2Night” highlight show in 2003-04. So, if you keep telling yourself that the NHL is better off on ESPN than Versus, just remember what I wrote.
-- Speaking of free agency, I loved the NHL Network picking up TSN’s coverage of “Free Agency Frenzy” Wednesday. For four hours, TSN, Canada’s ESPN, kept hockey fans up to date on all the signings. It was wonderful.
-- It will be a busy week of sports coverage on Time Warner Cable channel 3, starting Tuesday. TWC-3 will televise the three-game International League series between the Rochester Red Wings and the Syracuse Sky Chiefs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, it’s Canadian Football League action between Calgary and Winnipeg at 7 p.m. Next Saturday, it’s another CFL game between Saskatchewan and Toronto at 1 p.m. Then next Sunday, it’s coverage of The Boilermaker 15K at 7:30 a.m.
-- Versus kicks off its Tour de France coverage today at 9:30 a.m. Maybe it should be called the Tour de Capture de Dopers. A once-proud cycling race has been scandalized the last few years by racers who have been caught cheating. It will be fun to see some of the stages come to a sudden halt as drug testers try to catch the cheaters. It could make for exciting TV.
-- The Major League Baseball TV schedule for the weekend, starting today, has the Yankees against the Blue Jays on YES and YES HD at 1 p.m., the Mets and Phillies on Fox Sports (WXXA Ch. 23 and WXXA HD) and Tampa Bay at Texas at 8 p.m. On Sunday, it’s the Yankees and Blue Jays at 1 p.m. on YES and YES HD, the Mets and Phillies on WCWN (Ch. 45) and WCWN HD, the Brewers and Cubs are on TBS and TBS HD at 2 p.m. and Tampa Bay and Texas are on ESPN and ESPN HD at 8 p.m.
-- TBS and TBS HD will have the MLB All-Star selection show at 1 p.m. Sunday.
-- NBC celebrates 30 years of “Breakfast at Wimbledon” this weekend. The women’s final between the Williams sisters is on today at 9 a.m. The men’s final between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick is Sunday at 9 a.m.
-- u NYRA announced the TV schedule for the Saratoga Race Course season. All of the televised races will be on Saturdays. The highlight, as usual, is the Travers Stakes Aug. 29 at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN HD. Also that day, ESPN will have the Ballerina and the King’s Bishop. MSG Plus will televise races on the four other Saturdays, starting Aug. 1 with the Diana the Jim Dandy. On Aug. 8, it’s the Whitney Handicap and the Test. The Alabama Stakes will be on Aug. 22. The Woodward and Forego stakes are Sept. 5. All MSG Plus broadcasts start at 5 p.m.
-- Ken Rosenthal, a former colleague of mine at the York (Pa.) Daily Record, has joined MLB Network.as a baseball insider. Rosenthal will continue to his baseball reporting for foxsports.com and Fox’s Saturday afternoon coverage.