The NHL is in the final year of it's TV contract. Reports are coming out that talks between NHL and TV execs will be heating up soon (and have already begun informally). Versus, NBC, and FOX are all reportedly interested, which is great news for league and it's bargaining power in terms of money and other stipulations.
With that said, GTOG would like to see Commissioner Bettman and Co. demand these five stipulations for any network that is serious about the privilege to broadcast NHL hockey:
1) Three prime time games/week. The NHL is stronger than ever, a thrilling game, and has a generation of stars that will be around for the next 15 years. America needs to know and love them now so that they want to watch them for the rest of their careers. No more "Thursday Hockey Nights" on ESPN2. Two weekdays (an east coast game followed by a west coast one) and one game featured on the weekends. The NHL is more exciting exponentially than the NBA...people just need the chance to see that for themselves.
2) A real production set. We don't need a virtual playbook like the one ESPN has for the NFL, but we'd like something more than an old couch in Scott Burnside's childhood living room. The Versus set has improved over the years, but it doesn't exactly say "the NHL is a big deal." Get a great set, but leave the gimmicks to the NFL coverage.
Poise follow up: Also, the handgun and ash tray set dressing in Burnside's living room studio is alienating to viewers, especially young children.
3) Bring bloggers into the analysis on TV and online. This is obviously self-serving, but even without the GTOG team included, it could be a lot of fun for fans and get a lot of buzz around the web. Puck Daddy, The Pens Blog, etc. -- give them some air time and opportunity to talk about what fans think of a match-up, trades, arenas, health code violations, etc. With the decline of traditional media and often lacking coverage of the NHL anyway in favor of other sports, the NHL and the network who wins the bid would do themselves a favor to build the hockey blog community. Getting them on TV and radio shows will give bloggers legitimacy and build the fan base for hockey with more options for coverage. I just thought of this as I was writing and think it's a tremendous idea.
Poise follow up: Eloquence brings up a great point about the growing emergence of blogs and social media as new age replacements for what we can all agree is lacking coverage by traditional sports media outlets. What builds personalized connections to teams, players and the NHL is not ony the added insight and coverage, but the inside jokes, nicknames, contests, photoshops, and quirky storylines that are usually absent from traditional media outlets. (Penguins blogs, most notably The PensBlog has done an outstanding job at doing exactly this over the past few seasons.) Not only will this help engage a younger and more financially desirable demographic, it will also translate into added revenue for the teams and NHL through boosted advertising, ticket, and merchandise sales. As for giving bloggers TV time, Eloquence is just looking for an excuse to get his Crosby-esque hair on TV. I don't blame him. Great hair.
Finesse follow up: I'm really glad Eloquence thinks Eloquence's idea is tremendous.
4) More time on Sportscenter. ESPN will obviously do this if they win, but the NHL should make them do this if they even want a seat at the table during negotiations. And then award the contract to someone else. This is only one of many things that ESPN would have to do if they want me to watch SportsCenter again.
Poise follow up: Jay's Telestrator may cause riots to break out at ESPN Headquarters in Bristol, CT. Hide your kids, hide your wife.
5) HIRE MIKE LANGE! Of course we're biased, but those who know Lange know that he brings one of the best minds around to the game. He's fair, he's clairvoyant, players respect him, and he has the best voice in the game when someone scores. Finesse has noted that Lange has an uncanny ability to watch pre-game warm-ups and make incredibly accurate predictions about how a certain player will have a big game. This sort of gift should be shared with America and beyond just the radio in Pittsburgh.