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The NHL Network’s offseason programming: What’s your solution?

Jul 28, 2011, 11:35 PM EDT

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It’s no secret that the NHL Network’s offseason programming is weak at best. Aside from about an hour of various reruns each weekday afternoon, the network is stocked with wall-to-wall rebroadcasts of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. For diehard Boston Bruins fans, there are probably about 23 games that will be interesting. But for the rest of NHL fans that saw their favorite team make the playoffs, the rebroadcasts just re-open wounds that have only started to heal. And the 14 teams that didn’t make the playoffs at all? Chances are those markets are clamoring for replays of their rivals vying for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Bottom line: the rebroadcasts are stale.

Jeremy K. Gover wrote an excellent article outlining a few suggestions for the NHL Network and their executives to help breathe life into TV schedule. For anyone who is even remotely interested, it’s definitely worthwhile to read Gover’s article in its entirety; he has more than a few ideas and strategies towards implementing the vision. One idea he has is to have something like a “Director’s Cut” you may see on a DVD or Blu-Ray for the rebroadcasts aired in the offseason. It’s a great way to help liven up any replays the network chooses to run:

“Take Game 5 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Quarterfinal between the Blackhawks and Nashville Predators for example. Instead of just showing the moment when Martin Erat centers the puck instead of tying it up to preserve the one goal lead in the dying seconds of regulation, why not put a picture-in-picture box with Head Coach Barry Trotz sharing his post-game comments? Heck, why not the post-game comments from Erat himself? Who wouldn’t want to hear what those guys thought just moments after that monumental collapse happened?”

For those who need a reminder, here’s a refresher. Predators fans: watch at your own risk.

Another idea Gover presents is incorporating local reporters, columnists, and bloggers into the mix. Bringing in the locals would help take a look at a lot of the games that we’re already familiar with from a different perspective.

“Bloggers are the wave of the future. And newspapers are struggling. And both are looking for publicity (a/k/a free advertising). Why not bring them together and ask accredited media members from each team to do an on-camera commentary of the games they covered? How amazing would it be to watch the final moments of Game 4 of the Detroit Red Wings sweep of the Phoenix Coyotes while Carl Putnam of the Coyotes blog Five for Howling talks about what it was like being in that arena thinking ‘this could be the last time I watch a hockey game in Arizona?’ Whether you think Glendale deserves a hockey team of not, that’s just great TV right there.”

While all of Gover’s ideas have potential, this is where he strikes gold. Pulling in beat writers and bloggers that follow the team for 82 games every season would bring new life to old games. Assuming there’s positive feedback –let’s face it, more voices and perspectives are good for a network filling 24 hours of programming everyday – this is something that could spill into the regular season. If there’s a story about the Wild, then get Michael Russo’s take from the Star Tribune in Minnesota. If the Ducks make news, find out where the team was coming from with an interview with Eric Stephens from the OC Register. Mix in bloggers who have their finger on the collective pulse of their team’s fanbase. It would help give fans a more complete picture of any story making news throughout the season.

What do the readers think? Do you have ideas how the NHL Network could improve their offseason programming? Fans all over North America surely have ideas—we’d love to hear what you have in the comments.

  1. trbowman - Jul 28, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    I know. Seems like everytime I turn on NHL Network, it’s a re run of either Bruins/Habs or Flyers/Sabres.

  2. derpdederpdederp - Jul 28, 2011 at 11:55 PM

    TSN does lots of Top 10 lists (top goals of the playoffs for years other than just the one past, craziest goalies, etc.), they’re pretty entertaining. bios on ex-greats of the NHL are always worth watching too

    • ml3939 - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:23 AM

      I agree they need more programming along these lines. MLB Network has numerous programs along these lines. I often check what is on the NHL network but really don’t care to watch random playoff games from the recent post season. I would love to watch shows on top plays, checks, saves, games condensed to highlights and pivotal points with player/coach interviews, bio’s, etc.

  3. icelovinbrotha215 - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:16 AM

    Wow. Great article. Was just talking about how they need to spice up the off season programming for the NHL network. I know they used to show Top 10 lists from the 90s and early 2000s but that has ceased as of late. Is there any summer hockey leagues/tourneys for top tier leagues (Juniors, Amateurs, etc.)? Maybe showing something along those lines. Maybe prospect/training camps for teams around the NHL? They need to have programs that give us insight to what the NHL is really about. Have shows that give us access to games/peoples that most of us would never see. For us hockey junkies, I know we’d eat it up right away. Airing this past Playoff series doesn’t appeal to anyone outside of Boston. Hopefully the people in the NHL HQs are listening.

    • derpdederpdederp - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:47 AM

      they need something along the lines of This Week in Baseball, a kinda behind-the-scenes look around the league during the regular season and maybe through the playoffs, except it should only be shown when the seasons done

      • icelovinbrotha215 - Jul 29, 2011 at 11:47 AM

        True true. But that would be geared towards the regular season. And we all know NHL OTF is the best sports show ever haha. Either way, they need to show something you usually wouldn’t see on Versus, NBC, local broadcast, etc. They need to come up with something better than re-airing the Playoffs.

  4. derpdederpdederp - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:56 AM

    just a sample of some of the programming on the NHL network here in Canada: Top 10 OT goals of the 1997 playoffs, Pioneers: Stan Mikita (bio), “Day that Changed the Game” (this ones on Feb 24th, 1980, the Miracle on Ice), Classic Series: 2003 Canucks vs Wild, Vintage Games, Top 10 Goaltending Performances of the 1995 Playoffs, Top 10 Playoff Performances of the 1990s, Pioneers: Glenn Hall

    the list goes on, but as you can see there’s no 2011 Playoffs to be seen. its surprising to say the least that the American network doesnt feature more content on the history of the game. to be fair, many Americans started watching hockey after the lockout and have no idea what its history entails. constant reruns of games that are still fresh in most fans’ memories is beyond pointless

    perhaps this is Mr. Bettaman’s doing. maybe Gary doesnt want anyone to see how the NHL used to be for fear people might like it. then they might start questioning the lockouts and moronic rule changes

  5. shukey11 - Jul 29, 2011 at 1:01 AM

    Watch the NFL network, see what they do and follow suit

  6. bigbear42 - Jul 29, 2011 at 1:31 AM

    How about some development camp coverage? Or a series about how players spend their summers? Or round table discussions of top ten lists? Or just any semblance of original programming?

  7. watermelon1 - Jul 29, 2011 at 6:31 AM

    Too bad NHL Network doesn’t do their own “24/7″ series like HBO did. Would love to see replay of the Capitals and Penguins 24/7 series leading up to the Winter Classic.

    Start to do a “Hard Knocks” type show like the NFL Network does.

    • bwayblues79 - Jul 29, 2011 at 10:33 AM

      Watermelon1 took the words right out of my mou… keyboard. Due to the obvious interest and success of the 24/7 series, they should spend some time filming and producing a special about how players train and prepare during the offseason that can be used later. Obviously the turn-around time will make it a late-summer addition to the station, but it’s better than nothing.

      Gover’s ideas are spot-on. I think any playoff game replay that would have a running commentary between post-game interviews, blogger and reporter commentary, and such would be a welcome addition. Further, I think the NHL Network could easily do one full month of days that show a full 24 hours of one team. “Wild Monday”, “Flames Friday”, “Sabers Sunday”, etc. Replay three or four classic games (including one from the current playoffs or regular season), features on current or past players from that franchise, and even highlight shows that portray their players predominantly.

      • bwayblues79 - Jul 29, 2011 at 11:01 AM

        Just reading Gover’s full article now. I guess he also had the one-team-a-day idea.

  8. hystoracle - Jul 29, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    It would be kind of interesting to watch the Playoff games with local radio feed. I like the Playoff game idea. But they are on the whole day.
    Breaking it up with top 10 lists, replaying the winter classic, showing developmental camps, cover the rookie tournament(s) in August/Sept.
    How about Player interview type shows? They could sit down with different star players from around the league and discuss different Hockey related topics.. Like a 30 minute program.
    Show some old classic/vintage games – like from the black and white era to instill some history of the league. I also like the little vignette pieces they show during the breaks. Expounding on those would be very interesting to watch.

  9. demons87 - Jul 29, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    NFL network has their NFL replay where they replay a game of the week with commentary from post game conferences to spice it up. The NHL could do this and also use some of the intermission analysts. They could also do something similar to American’s Game where they take a championship year and recap it with 3 players/coaches offering commentary. The Bruins Stanley Cup DVD was like this.

    Speaking of the Stanley Cup DVD, one thing that was disappointing is that they didn’t have any full games like any of the game 7′s or the double OT game vs Montreal. When the Patriots won the Super Bowl they had DVDs called three games to glory where they showed the whole game, but there were spots where a symbol would pop up and you could choose to see Belichick’s commentary on that play. That was really cool.

  10. 8man - Jul 29, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    There is a DVD coming out in October that will have full game replays.

    I’d love to see the replay of game 7 between the Bruins and Flyers from the 2010 NHL Playoffs. I told everybody that my B’s were dead after that. It was time to start over, again. Every once in awhile it’s good to be wrong, see the game again and eat it!

    • icelovinbrotha215 - Jul 29, 2011 at 11:50 AM

      Haha yea but they got the last laugh by sweeping us on the way to winning the Stanley Cup. But that was an epic series though. That’s why the NHL playoffs are the best in America.

  11. mgp1219 - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    Guess the NHL network is on vacation…

  12. hockeyfan1701 - Jul 29, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    There is hockey all around the world….show some of it.

  13. Matt Calamia - Jul 31, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    Just give me more Classic Series and I’m good. In fact, if Classic Series was on followed by the series clinching game in its entirety for 24 hours straight, I’d be glued to my television.

    Honestly, just show more Classic games. I don’t need Game 3 of Ducks-Preds from 2011 on. Give me some old All Star games, and more documentary type shows like Oil Change. I don’t need to watch 3 month old games again.

    • icelovinbrotha215 - Jul 31, 2011 at 7:59 PM

      Yea if they have just the Classic Series that was done by the same crew of the Top 10 series than I’m down. I really just want to see hockey from around the world at different levels. I know Fox Sports Channel shows ice hockey from the World University Games. That’s just an example but they (NHL) can easily expand from there. Food for thought NHL. Food for thought.

  14. nhlbruins90 - Aug 2, 2011 at 2:42 AM

    I don’t get NHL Network, so I’m not even sure what the typical programming is like anyway, but here are my suggestions. And Mr. Betteman, feel free to contact me to fully mine the creative genius that burns inside of me. (I recently interviewed with MLBAM, but I’ll speak no more of baseball.)

    First, there are at least 600 professional NHL players. At least 300 of them have enough personality to keep me interested on a late-night 30-minute talk show. Most of them have things to promote in the off-season (business ventures, causes, themselves etc.), so it wouldn’t be impossible to get them to show up in a NYC studio. The NHL store in Manhattan would make a nice setting, and would add some cache to the store itself. Sort of like the NASDAQ building in Times Square, where CNBC’s Fast Money is produced.

    Now, I would strongly suggest something very unlike the boring interview format of the sporting world. Mind-numbing stuff, and we hear it all season long. I’d suggest a generally non-hockey interview, going down any path the player wants to take. An interviewer-host that knows hockey, but won’t conduct a sports interview to bore us to death. Generally have fun. If you’ve seen Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron rapping, you know what I mean.

    For an even cheaper option, in the spirit of YouTube, try a show that features 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes player video. Thirty teams, so you could produce 30 segments. Ever wonder what it’s like to be a player, away from the ice surface. Everyday stuff, road trips, fan encounters, bar brawls (oh wait, that’s Jersey Shore). Certainly wouldn’t cost much to produce.

    • icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 3, 2011 at 11:55 AM

      Get the NHL Network first my friend. Your life will be changed for the better.

      • nhlbruins90 - Aug 3, 2011 at 8:48 PM

        I may finally break down and get it next season. Of course, there’s Monday and Tuesday games on VS, then the full slate of B’s games on NESN, and the weekend game (after the new year) on NBC, so I already watch a fair amount of hockey. And of course, the Friday night college game on NESN too. Still, when there’s no game on, I feel like I’m missing something. And of course, I’d love to be able to follow the Kings …

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