Audiences tune out, turn off hockey

This season’s playoffs have been among the most boring in memory - but the genius part must be in question for his NHL bosses.

The evil genius still seems to have the evil – this season’s playoffs have been among the most boring in memory – but the genius part must be in question for his NHL bosses.

Gary Bettman’s NHL is a pale imitation of the exciting league of yore and if the plan was to maximize revenues by somehow engineering a final featuring teams representing the two biggest media markets in North America, that is flopping badly.

Almost nobody is watching the Stanley Cup finals. Most are watching reruns and syndicated fluff like Swamp People and Americans-dance-with-talent-and-survival-vocal-skills or somesuch filler.

Parity and mediocrity apparently aren’t as big a sell in sports as they are in manufactured talent shows – surprise, surprise.

The best teams played last year, and the final round had good (for hockey) ratings. The eighth and sixth ranked teams from west and east are playing this year, and the NHL cannot be making much money from their ad revenue U.S. deal this season.

Even in hockey country, like here, few are making plans to commit evenings to the NHL, even with every game since Monday being a do-or-die, possibly end-of-season, event.

In my case Wednesday, there was a, “pass-the-cup-and-pay-the-kitty” lottery involved, and I still wasn’t particularly engaged in the actual hockey game, having on more than one occasion to be tapped on the shoulder to pay my quarter after a whistle.

I did watch the final period pretty intently after the pace picked up, but then, like most of the people in our  outside-of-the-actual-game action, I’m fairly hard core.

It doesn’t help things that commentators continually natter about stuff that ISN’T happening on the ice as if that were not part of the Bettman, et al, master plan all along. Hockey has been re-designed to be boring and the announcers and analysts, part of that master plan, fit right in.

The one guy who will be specially pleased about this playoff year will be the less than venerable Don Cherry, who, if the Los Angeles Kings win as they seem bound to do, will have his pet, “Canadians are the best,” theory validated big time.

LA has 14 Canadians, seven Amercans and a few Europeans on its active roster. New Jersey has more Europeans (nine) than either Canadians or Americans (seven from each nation) in its playing mix.

Cherry is going to have a field day with those stats if the Kings close the deal.

I don’t know how the Don will handle the fact both teams have American captains.

Nice for the psyches of Canadians, whose franchises cannot seem to develop contenders – a Canadian team last won the cup 19 seasons ago – but not so good for the game, I think.

Europeans play more attractive, watchable hockey, and watchable is what the NHL sorely needs. Right now, because of the parity master plan, even the league’s biggest showcase event isn’t producing watchable, or, I think, very profitable, action.


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