I talked a few days ago that the NHL was potentially thinking of doing a Winter Classic Doubleheader involving teams that serve both NBC and CBC’s best interests to get them the biggest audience they can on New Years Day 2010.
After all, the name of the game is getting the league more well known with a high-profile event regardless of whether or not it waters down the novelty of the whole thing.
Forget about the potential Canadian game here for a second since the American game at the least had a host team selected already in the Boston Bruins but there was much speculation going on about just who they would face. The prevailing rumor was that the Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin were going to be the foe allowing the NHL a major media event in which to promote one of the biggest stars in the game, the back-to-back NHL MVP.
Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir was able to track down Caps general manager George McPhee to find out if the prevailing rumors had any truth to them. McPhee’s answer was surprisingly snarky:
“I have not,” McPhee said when asked if he had heard anything from the NHL regarding Washington’s candidacy for the event. “You think we would know by this point.”
McPhee added: “It doesn’t sound like we will be part of it. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. When you go, you have to play in front of 40,000 or 50,000 of the other team’s fans. …I would just assume if we were in it that we would know by now.”
Sounds like there’s some sour grapes there, and I don’t mean Don Cherry. Perhaps something unseemly was going on and McPhee was all too aware of it and not at liberty to speak about it.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
A funny thing happened on the way through the rumor mill though as stories started to circulate that the Philadelphia Flyers were getting some buzz to be the Bruins opponent on New Years Day, a choice that seems a bit odd as, well, let’s face it the Flyers aren’t exactly a cuddly and marketable team. They’re abrasive, 29 other teams in the NHL generally hate their guts and so do the fans of those teams but they’re high profile thanks to that disdain and Flyers fans are generally some of the most
psychotic staunchly loyal fans in the league.
The Flyers aren’t a team without talent as there’s Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Pierre McGuire object of affection Mike Richards as well but let’s face it, when NBC picks their same six teams out of a hat for their schedule each year the Flyers are getting more than their fair share of NBC attention and it’s pretty obnoxious.
This was all rumor on scattered Internet pondering though and harmless for the most part until earlier this evening news came out from, of all places, The Delaware County Daily Times that it was confirmed that the Flyers would be the Bruins opponent in the Winter Classic in Fenway Park and writer Anthony Sanfilippo brought the thunder with how he was able to obtain this knowledge.
Hang on to your asses because this is going to blow it right the hell up:
The NHL was pushing the Washington Capitals. They wanted to market Alex Ovechkin.
NBC, the network broadcasting the game, said no dice.
They were concerned with the poor ratings the Caps’ produced in the playoffs in an opening round series against the New York Rangers – the No. 1 U.S. market for the NHL.
So, they told the NHL to skip Washington and give them the Flyers… a more certain brand to market.
The NHL was stubborn for a while… mostly because the Flyers were more interested in a Jan. 1 date with Pittsburgh than Boston.
However, the NHL assured the Flyers that a future Flyers-Penguins outdoor game could still happen in a couple years.
The Flyers were satisfied and agreed to play.
Pardon me for one moment…
Don’t lose your cool, Joe. It’s not even fucking worth it anymore. Just let it go…
Now, I’m not going to completely blow a gasket here because, hey, who’s to say that Anthony Difilippo has his story accurate here. That’s not a knock against him, he’s dealing with sources that may or may not have everything squared away on their side.
But I believe every friggin’ word of it. Why? This is easy. Look how nicely they handled things with the Pittsburgh Penguins and their outdoor screen. The guys at The Pensblog thought very highly of how they handled things:
NBC, the channel that has used the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby in just about every commercial since the network started airing hockey games, is refusing to let the team show game three of the Penguins/Flyers series on the giant screen outside the arena.
Ironically, MSNBC published this article on Wednesday in which they wrote “during the Penguins’ run to the Stanley Cup finals last season, the outdoor TV routinely drew a couple thousand fans.”
And during the Stanley Cup Finals? More of the same as NBC refused to allow fans in Pittsburgh or Detroit to watch their teams road games on big screens at their arenas out of fear it would harm ratings.
And just where’s Herr Bettman through all this?
Zdeno Chara looks away while Mike Richards nauseates over Bettman’s posturing with NBC. Pierre McGuire salivates wildly.
Yeah, bending over for NBC again and again out of fear upsetting their drunken abusive father of a national broadcast “partner.” How many times now has Bettman “fallen down the stairs” for NBC so they can call the shots as to how the NHL operates its own league?
This lack of a spine shown by the NHL sickens me as they had the right idea for what to do with this game but instantly rolled over for NBC because they didn’t like the matchup.
Out of all this the Flyers still get what they want by getting an outdoor game with cross-state rivals the Penguins in a few years when, who knows if the game will even be worth doing if they run this trick pony into the ground.
And what’s more is… Who the hell do you market to the fans in a game between the Bruins and Flyers? Chara? I guess. Richards? Well, we’ll hear enough about him from McGuire. Do they spend the whole game talking about hockey’s supposed resurgence in Boston? What if the Bruins get off to a bad start next year and the crowd is swarmed over with people there to boo them or, worse yet, are only there for the spectacle and could give a shit else about the game?
That’ll play great on television – silence with mixed jeers from drunken boors.
My stand, and I’m sure the stand the NHL had until NBC President Dick Ebersol took his belt off, was that with the Capitals in the game you are guaranteed a major superstar worth marketing for the league in the game.
The last two versions of this game was teeming over with stars. In Buffalo you had Crosby, Malkin and Staal for the Penguins while Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek played for the Sabres. In Chicago you had Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to push for the Blackhawks while the Red Wings came out with their crew of all-stars.
This time around? Marc Savard and maybe Phil Kessel for the Bruins with Richards and Carter and the potential Ray Emery sideshow carnival.
Wow, consider me glued to the set for this one.
With the NHL allowing themselves to be in a position to be abused by NBC like this the fans lose out because you don’t get to see the best of the best out there. Instead you get what might turn into a street fight. Hell, don’t even bother with Fenway, just play it behind the Green Monster on Lansdowne Street and turn it into a brawl since these two teams can always be counted on for that. I’m sure the NHL will love having these two teams beating each other’s face in in a game that’s meant to show off the best the league can offer in one of its most magical settings, the outdoor pond where everyone’s careers began long ago.
What a joke this “leadership” is. The NHL, instead of getting what it wanted, ended up making concessions not only with NBC but with one if its own teams.