In a massive bloodletting more reminiscent of the mill closure in Slapshot, gone from ESPN are hockey gurus Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside. Gone too are hockey fans from ESPN… the few who remained.
Covering hockey is not an easy task. 82 games across two countries (three, if you count Quebec separatists) in a season which lasts eight, grueling months. Complex systems, simple schemes, and wonderful personalities dominate the sport. The hockey community is a rich tapestry of common folk with God-given abilities, toughness, and heart. ESPN once brought hockey to the masses, in the United States. Now, it has officially abandoned them.
ESPN’s half-hearted attempt to cover hockey never penetrated the market, fully, because they never did it the right way. The had national columnists, but no local presence. They recycled local hockey news from other sources or second-hand fans. Their national columnists were some of the best in the business, but without support, they never had a chance.
Spare me the rating comparison with the NBA.
Hockey is not ingrained in the national consciousness, but it is getting there. There are millions more children, boys and girls, playing hockey than just 10 years ago. Much like ESPN forcing soccer upon us, hockey needed a little push. Instead, that push became a beat down.
ESPN must know there is money to be made with hockey coverage, but their indifference to hockey fans is again on display. The internet universe is exploding with hockey (*ahem)… because the broadcast universe treats it like a pile of dog poo on the sidewalk; something which must be dealt with but grudgingly.
Hockey fans are not fickle. They are loyal. Give them real, honest hockey news and analysis, they will give you their undivided attention. I know this first hand. Two years after I stopped doing shows on 93-7 the Fan, I am still recognized in the oddest places; by traffic cops, bartenders (not just because I love craft beers), and random people who hear my name or voice.
Personally, I’m (really) small potatoes in Pittsburgh, but I talked hockey. And I did so with the passion in my gut. And hockey fans remember someone who served them. Because there are so few. I’m still be kicking around, because of that.
So, bring on the Milwaukee Bucks highlights, more NFL draft coverage than any human under 500 pounds can possible consume (who will Cleveland reach for in the 6th round? I’m breathless over here!) some self-serving baseball highlights and analysis, and eye rolling through a quick graphic of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Bring it on.
No one will notice you didn’t cover hockey. Those people are now gone, too. It’s a shame with those big mouse ears, Disney and ESPN couldn’t hear people screaming–HOCKEY!
For hockey fans, it is not fare-thee-well for Scotty and Pierre. We’ll see them again, soon. No, for hockey fans, it is a final farewell to ESPN. Don’t let the screen door hit your mouse tail on the way out.
Check Dan Kingerski’s column from this morning: Can the Pens Stop Ovechkin? Hint: It’s up to Crosby, but it may not matter!
Photo Credit: Unkown