The L.A. Kings are charging through the Stanley Cup Finals this week. The Kings are up on the New Jersey Devils by 3 games. The Kings have the chance to sweep the Devils in game 4 on Wednesday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. If the Kings win the Stanley Cup they will be known as one of the greatest playoff teams in the history of the sport. It has been an improbable run for the Kings but they have shown everyone what they can do on the ice during this post season. A sweep would make the 2011-2012 Kings story and legacy even greater. The unfortunate thing about game 4 is that many fans will not be able to watch the broadcast and will miss seeing NHL history made on live television.
Game 4 of the Cup will be aired on the NBC Sports Network (NBCS). NBCS is in far fewer homes than most cable networks. The first 2 games of the Stanley Cup aired on the main NBC Network, if needed games 5, 6 and 7 will also be on the Network channel. Due to scheduling issues games 3 and 4 were relegated to the fledgeling sports network.
Late last year the NHL signed a 10 year deal with NBC. It was a good deal for many reasons. It will bring more nationally televised games to the American audience. Weekly hockey nights air during the season. The playoffs also receive great coverage between the NBC family of networks. The down side is what we are witnessing this week. One of the most important games of the series for both teams will largely go unseen.
This television deal is however a lot better than what was previously in place for the NHL. Most of the games were televised on VS. which this year became NBCS. The problem the NHL had on the VS. Network was that many fans did not get the channel in their homes. Even though there has been a name change there has not been a big increase in homes that receive the channel. At least the NHL does get a lot of games on National TV now via the main NBC Network.
The NHL had better television deals in the past that catered to the national audience. During the 90′s the NHL had a deal with FOX and covered the NHL and the Stanley Cup Finals very well. Probably the best deal they have ever had in the US was with ESPN. Even though ESPN is a cable network, it has a very wide reach and many people have access to the channel. The NHL also received a lot more coverage on the networks flagship show Sportscenter. The NHL’s relationship ended after the 2003-2004 season. ESPN has cut a lot of hockey coverage in the past few years. Hockey has seen a drop in popularity in the US due to the way the television coverage has been in the last 7 years.
I understand that television deals are a very complicated thing. Their however is no reason why the Stanley Cup finals should not be carried in it entirety on the NBC Network. The NHL needs to get this situation changed so it no longer happens. The early parts of the NHL Playoffs can and should be on all the networks under the NBC umbrella, not the Stanley Cup Finals. It is a great tradition with a even greater history and should be treated as such.
If you get NBCS in your home, I suggest you watch and enjoy the greatness of the Stanley Cup Finals and the story of a great Kings team. If you don’t get NBCS there is only one thing you can do, Wait for the highlights.