Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Game of the Weekes

Got to hand it to the NHL as when it comes to making things out to be awesome when they are not; these guys are the best.

It was really interesting to read how the NHL was so proud of their Game 7 television ratings in the USA. The NHL must be really proud that Game 7 on NBC drew 8.54 million viewers which was the most viewers for a Stanley Cup final since the Rangers and Boston Bruins drew 8.51 viewers back on April 30th 1972.

Forgive me but that it took the NHL 40 years to top the 4th highest USA viewership of all time? Yes the combined NBC/VS rating was the best for a Stanley Cup final involving a team from Canada but now the bad news for the NHL.

The viewership on Versus actually declined 23.3% for Game 3 and 13.3% for Game 4 from what they had last year. The combined viewership for Versus fell 19.9% from last year and the NHL has signed a new 10 year 2 billion deal with Comcast/NBC.

Starting next season the number of games on VS (or it's soon to be new name) will increase from 52 to 90 but for those fans used to watching games on their local channel will start to see more games be given over to VS on an exclusive basis. Oh that is so going to go over so well with the fans.

It is sad and frustrating to see how little the NHL cares to their core viewers as if they did then they would know that any hope of improving those ratings numbers has to start by bringing announcers who put the game in front of their own egos.

It is really funny that the NHL has a great studio announcer already working for them in Kevin Weekes. If there ever was a guy who can break down a game into terms that even the newest fan would understand it is Weekes.

Watching his work on the NHL Network as well as those rare MSG appearances makes me wonder what the NHL and Comcast/NBC are not seeing? If they think someone like Mike Milbury is going to help increase viewership then think again.

Is it wrong to like a guy who can break down a game like Weekes so you can go "so that is how they did it?" They have all the right tools with great camera angles, telestraters, and replay devices so why are we subjected to the "Ego Jerks?" 

Since I know an intermission is at least 18 minutes then rather than insult my intelligence I go do something else rather than waste my time watching the unprofessional Milbury. But make sure I change the channel so (I have done the Nielsen rating book before) as my tiny victory.

Give Milbury credit for being able to go on TV and trash people when his own record as New York Islander General Manager is well terrible. But really this need of his to generate a laugh at the expense of someone who is out playing makes him that more pathetic.

The final straw for me was his calling the Sedin twins "Thelma and Louise" which harkens back to the days of NHL bigotry towards those were not English speaking Canadians.  Milbury finds insulting 2 of the top players in the NHL as something a professional should do is a disgrace.

It is 2011 Mike buy a clue, you want to say that the Sedins are playing like trash then yes say that but using insults like that just shows how out of date you really are. You and your buddy Pierre McGuire think insults and smart a$$ remarks are how one explains why a guy is not playing well or how come a team is struggling.

Never mind that the Boston Bruins just flat out made the Sedin's ineffective by how they covered them. No see that would require that you show how Boston in Boston took full advantage of having the last change at home.

That is what you should be doing Mike, explaining why the Bruins were punishing the Canucks with the body every chance they got. I know because when I went to NHL Network's "On The Fly," they showed me that and showed me how they were doing so.

The only thing Pierre McGuire has proven himself to be good for is the drinking game that was created in his name. It is sad but if you look at that list and are not a heavy drinker then you have zero chance of winning.

Maybe it is because I grew up in the era of Jim Gordon and Bill Chadwick on the Tube, there was guys like Dan Kelly, Spencer Ross, Marv Albert and even Sal Messina who could call a game and know their role which is call the game.

Now we get buffoons like Jeremy Roenick who thinks that the better he makes himself look is more important than being right. Really good old JR still holds grudges from his playing days (Ask Patrick Marleau).

Yes give JR, Milbury, and McGuire all that airtime while announcers like Kevin Weekes, Billy Jaffe and Dave Maloney must be too bland for TV. (Has anyone ever figured out why Dave Maloney is not with Sam Rosen instead of Joe Micheletti?)

Yes I know TV is about being entertaining but the NHL can be entertaining without resorting to the name calling and insults. The game is what is supposed to be why people turned on to watch as I have yet to meet someone who says they turned on the game to watch Mike Milbury.

There has to be someone at the NHL office who realizes that part of growing the game requires that you help the non-fan understand the game. Where I live hockey is just about non-existent and the one thing that I am told the most is "I just could not figure out what was going and why" 

Yes I know the diehards will always tune in but you know you can not increase revenues just by raising prices. You have to find ways to get someone a reason to watch the games and if it looks complicated then people will turn away at the first excuse to do so.

That is why a Kevin Weekes is so much better for the NBC/VS coverage as he has it all, the look, the knowledge and the ability to break a game down so anyone can understand it.

Weekes brings the clues so the casual viewer will get it. The question is when will the NHL and NBC/Comcast get it?

I have a list of the top 10 most watched NHL Stanley Cup Finals games


1. 5/18/71, Montreal-Chicago - Game 7, 12.41 million, CBS
2. 5/11/72, Boston-NY Rangers - Game 6, 10.93 million, CBS
3. 5/10/73, Montreal-Chicago - Game 6, 9.41 million, NBC
4. 6/15/11, Boston-Vancouver - Game 7, 8.54 million, NBC
5. 4/30/72, NY Rangers-Boston - Game 1, 8.51 million, CBS
6. 5/12/74, Boston-Philadelphia - Game 3, 8.30 million, NBC
7. 6/9/10, Chicago-Philadelphia - Game 6, 8.28 million, NBC
8. 5/7/72, Boston-NY Rangers - Game 4, 8.26 million, CBS
9. 6/12/09, Pittsburgh-Detroit - Game 7, 7.99 million, NBC
10. 5/19/74, Boston-Philadelphia - Game 6, 7.85 million, NBC

(source Nielsen and NBC)

Imagine that 3 games of the 1972 New York/Boston Stanley Cup finals made the list which sadly also is a statement about the NHL. That series was a classic but the NHL failed to use it to grow the fan base.

How sad is that since the 1970's the NFL has grown it's ratings, MLB has been able to grow it's ratings and even the NBA has found that way to increase it's ratings. But the NHL has only been able to record 2 games where viewership broke the 10 million barrier.

And with the new TV deal until someone realizes that using the "Ego Jerk" family of announcers and in-studio hosts is costing them viewers then hockey will not grow. But that is OK as they can always lob cheapshots at each other.

(Kevin Weekes Courtesy of the NHL Network)


Ed said...

I'd love to see one of them turn around on the air and say "Why should I care what Milbury thinks? Isn't he the guy who traded Chara AND Spezza for Yashin? Isn't that the worst trade in NHL history?"

Jess Rubenstein said...

Thank you for the best laugh I have had in days.

I really wish I had thought of that when I wrote this as that just might be the best comeback.

Put in Patrick Marleau for a VS Postgame interview and have him going "JR? yea like he actually knows anything"