Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Half-hour with the NHL Network

By Finesse

I have to admit, I haven't been watching a lot of hockey this season outside of the Pens' games.  As Will Ferrell famously said in Old School, "I don't know if we'll have enough time."  Well, last night some time opened up and I committed to watching 30 minutes of NHL On The Fly on the NHL Network. This is what I saw...
  •  The initial plan was to start watching at precisely 9pm, but as I was preparing my dinner, I had it on in the background during a lengthy Steven Stamkos interview.  He seems pretty likeable and gave some non-cliche answers to questions.  From a physical ability standpoint, he needs to be in the discussion with Ovechkin and Crosby.  And if this discussion took place on CNN, they would have a studio of 46 analysts holding 114 Blackberry's, a hieroglyphic map, a bar and a line graph on the bottom of the screen, and a BREAKING NEWS banner that calls the North Dakota senate election for a guy running unopposed.  Oh wait, that discussion was happening on CNN last night, just not about Stamkos.
Jay has telestrator envy
  • NHL Network is not shy about promoting its "brand," as in, not shy about its inability to sell advertising, which leads it to just promote its own shows constantly.  And I looked up "brand" in the dictionary and it had the following definition:
    • Brand, n.  Def. NHL Center Ice. Up to 40 out of market games every week!! (*with 39 of said games in unwatchable non-HD quality for the Comcasters out there)
  •  The half-hour began with some news and notes from around the NHL.  Good start.  We learn that Caps' rookie goaltender Michael Neuvirth was NHL rookie of the month with a 7-3 record and 2.15 GAA. Ted Leonsis immediately erected a statue for Neuvirth and defaced Grant Fuhr's NHL Hall of Fame plaque. We also learn that Ryan Miller has a "lower body injury" that his coach confirms is not a groin injury. Only in the NHL can the league-media relations include things like press conferences to announce which parts of a player's body are not injured.
  • In other news, either Malkin and Michalek are back on Wednesday against Dallas, or that's the title of the Russian Starsky and Hutch.  Zach Parise is out three months with a torn meniscus, which is great news for the worst and most underachieving team in the league.  Don't worry, GTOG was all over the Devils being a disappointment this year; you know, so long as you don't read Artistry's "best case scenario" for the Devils in our preview
  • Tonight's analysts in the studio are two former New Jersey Devils - Kevin Weeks and Bobby Holik. If it were possible to root for Bobby Holik to get injured while he was in the broadcasting booth just like I used to do when he was a player, I would do it. I'd advocate Weeks punching him in the face, but Holik's face is so greasy that I don't think the punch could land.
  • Meanwhile on CNN, 34 of it's most trusted middle-aged white men opine about what the Republican take-over of the House of Representatives means.  It looks like a casting call for a Flomax commercial. 
  • Tonight's trivia question: The first non-NHL Network related commercial to air on NHL Network during prime time was for:
    • A. Verizon
    • B. Bud Light
    • C. HeelTastic
    • D. iPhone
  •  Here's a clue: If your heels are so dry that you need a professional sander, you're in luck.

  • Kudos to the NHL network for not narrating their own highlights. It is distinctive and gives the viewer a nice glimpse into different broadcasters. That is until a live cut-in to the Minnesota/San Jose game (airing on Versus) where Joe Beninati announces during a puck battle in the corner: "It's a rugby scrum! Six players fencing in there! Mike Koivu trying to pitchfork it free." What sport is he announcing?
  • The next non-NHL Network commercial is for Fathead and begins with a voice-over,  "What does pro bowler Josh Cribbs and a fathead have in common?"  Cut to Cribbs: "Ain't nothing in common with me."  Just like Merriam-Webster drew it up.
  • We also get a live look-in for the Vancouver/Edmonton game in Edmonton.  Fantastic ice.  A pleasure to watch.  It's also my first look at prized rookie Taylor Hall, whose name sounds more like he should be on one of those teen vampire shows than in the NHL.  Our first impression is that he has a misshapen head. Our second is that he looks legit. Thank god he will get maximum exposure to mainstream sports fans playing in Edmonton. All kidding aside, I like that he is in Edmonton. If the NHL started funneling its best players to its biggest cities, it would be the NBA. Hockey needs to embrace the fact that it is extremely strong in its local markets and not worry about national exposure. The national exposure will come when people hear about 15 packed arenas every night in 15 different cities, regardless of whether anyone in Alabama or Florida or Oklahoma is watching. Or Bristol, CT.
  • If you have unused vacation time, you may want to go to Toronto next week for the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony, because one thing on every man's bucket list is seeing Cammi Granato get inducted and a live performance from Honeymoon Suite.
  • Sadly, we don't get a follow up HellTastic commercial or for the related product, Ashy Elbow-Nificent!  But we do get asked whether you will cheer in Denver if Crosby scores in Pittsburgh.
  • A final check-in on CNN confirms that there are in fact 34 people in the studio packed like sardines...with one notable exception.  Elliot Spitzer is in the studio at a table with 4 women...but the seat next to him is empty.  I wonder why?
All in all, I was impressed with the NHL Network.  Holik had some interesting things to say, and the live look-ins allow you to see teams and games that you would never actually watch.  Plus, the look-ins are in HD, the lack of which is the fatal flaw of the NHL Center Ice package, at least for Comcast.

I'll be back, NHL.


  1. Very glad you brought up the issue of telestrator envy. I don't know if Jay Caufield watches CNN, however if he does, he's gotta be emasculated not only by the on-screen wizardry of their telestrator, but by the sheer size of John Kings hands. Dude looks like he could palm a kickball.

  2. I would rather watch a Vancouver-Edmonton game on NHL centre ice than any conceivable NBA matchup.

  3. the devs could use bobby holik now. best checking line center of all time.