On PTI today, they discussed the ratings for the Stanley Cup game on Saturday night.
For those of you not in the know about sports, the Stanley Cup is the championship for professional hockey in the US and Canada. Personally, I think it's the coolest award in sports. The cup is a single cup that gets handed from team to team every year. Their names get engraved on it. Each player on a team gets to have a few days with the Cup during the year, and the Cup is followed around by a handler.
That's about the best there is to say about hockey right now because Saturday's ratings were the lowest for any program EVER ON NETWORK TELEVISION. It was a 1.5 or something like that, and was below "Build a better burger" on the Food Network. I actually watched this game and it was a good game. How'd it get to be this way?
First problem is they moved and created teams in weird cities. Who the hell wants to root for a team in Anaheim that was originally created by Disney and named after a Disney film? Hockey should be played in Quebec City, Hartford, Winnipeg, places like that, by guys with no teeth, not pretty boys like Teemu Selanne.
Second problem is you can fill a stadium pretty easily, but getting people to watch on TV is whole different story. The NHL can't do the latter, obviously. Sportswriters say there are 18,000 hockey fans in any city with a hockey club and that's all. There are 30 teams in the NHL, which makes a little more than half a million hockey fans nationwide. I guess the ratings back that up.
Third problem is that too many teams with too many games makes for a mediocre sport. If you watch a regular season hockey game and compare it to playoff hockey, you feel like you're in a different universe. The guys are actually trying pretty hard in playoff hockey. In the regular season, they can't. They've got 82 games to deal with. Plus, with so many teams you just don't get to see rivalries as much, and the caliber of player on a particular team is lower.
When hockey blew up in the 90s, they grew the sport too fast. Frankly, I think hockey got super popular because of video games. The hockey games in the 90s were really fun and made my friends and I watch the sport more. But today's hockey video games are second tier to Madden, NBA and even NASCAR. The problem isn't the video game. The latest NHL games are fun too. The problem is that the product the game is made for is falling off a cliff.
I'm not really sure where the NHL will go, but I think contraction is going to be a necessity. If they get ratings like this, they're going to have to find a way to make the sport more interesting beyond just getting a couple more goals a game. What network would pay to air their games?