Along with the release of every teams’ regular season schedule, the NHL also released the schedule of games that will be broadcast nationally on NBC, NBC Sports Network and NHL Network. This is exciting for any fan because you get the feeling of the big stage when your team plays on national TV. Scrolling down that schedule to see when your team will play in front of the entire country is like coming down the stairs christmas morning to stacks of presents under the tree waiting to be unwrapped. Unless of course your a Florida Panthers fan in which case scrolling through the national TV schedule is like coming down the stairs Christmas morning only to find out that Santa skipped your house because it wasn’t interesting enough and the only presents under your tree are uncomfortable boxer briefs and ugly socks from your mom and dad.
At least thats how I felt when I saw that the Panthers would have a measly two games broadcast on national TV this year. Yeah I get that the Panthers play in an indifferent hockey market and that no one outside of South Florida is remotely interested in watching them. I get that the Panthers lack of a historic rival is even more pronounced this year when they switch to a new division while only maintaining one rival from the now defunct Southeast Division. And I get that the Panthers probably will not be very competitive this year and the only thing that draws less viewers than a team nobody cares about is a terrible team that nobody cares about. So yes I get why the Panthers will only have two games televised throughout the US, the fewest for any non-Canadian team, but still, ONLY TWO GAMES!!!!
Anyway the Panthers lack of nationally televised games got me thinking about who does get most of these games, so here is a list of NHL teams ranked by the total number of games they will have televised on either NBC, NBC Sports Net, and NHL Network.
The Sexy Six:
Chicago (32 games)
Detroit, NY Rangers, Pittsburgh (26)
St. Louis (16)
Buffalo, Montreal (13)
Assistant TO the Regional Manager:
Los Angeles, Toronto (12)
New Jersey, Anaheim (9)
Vancouver, Dallas (8)
Where is the love?
San Jose (7)
NY Islanders, Ottawa, Tampa Bay (6)
Colorado, Columbus (5)
Carolina, Phoenix (3)
Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg (1)
The whole point of nationally televised games is to draw as large an audience as possible so the NHL is smart to front load their TV slate with the teams that appeal to the largest audience. These aren’t necessarily the most interesting teams from a hockey fan’s perspective but they’re the teams that have the best chance of convincing Uncle Lou to switch over from Dancing With The Stars to watch some friggen hockey for a change.
For instance if you asked any hard core hockey fan to rank their teams from most to least interesting from a hockey standpoint, you can bet this list would look a whole lot different. Actually thats a good idea, here is the very rough draft version of my list:
1. Florida (This is completely biased but who wouldn’t rank their favorite team at the top of this list)
5. Tampa Bay
12. San Jose
19. Los Angeles
22. St. Louis
27. New Jersey
So there is my list. There are some similarities to the National TV list but there are also a lot of differences. I think Edmonton, with all their young talented players, is a fascinating team that should most definitely get more than one game of exposure in the US. I am sure ever persons list would look much different from mine but I am also sure that very few lists would have the teams that I have dubbed “The Sexy Six” at the tops of their lists.
Its not that Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, NYR and Pittsburgh aren’t interesting teams (I did rank Pittsburgh as my most interesting team after the Panthers of course) it is just that they are very broadly interesting. They may appeal to the largest audience but real fans of the sport will get sick of watching the same teams play each other every week. The phenomenon of a small number of teams playing the lions share of nationally televised games is not unique to hockey. It is prevalent in every sport. Off the top of my head here are the current “Sexy Six” for the other major American Sports (feel free to agree or disagree):
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. New York Mets
5. St. Louis Cardinals
6. San Francisco Giants
1. Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers Boston Celtics
Los Angeles Lakers New York Knicks
Los Angeles Lakers Miami Heat
Los Angeles Lakers Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Lakers LA Clippers
1. Dallas Cowboys
2. New England Patriots
3. New York Giants
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Washington Redskins
6. San Francisco 49ers
Some of the teams on these lists are recent additions possibly because of the presence of a transcendent player (Washington Redskins with RGIII, OK Thunder with Durant, The Heat etc) or because of recent success combined with an exciting style of play (San Francisco 49ers, LA Clippers). Other teams are legacies on these lists. As middling and utterly boring as the Lakers were basketball-wise last season, they still seemed to have a nationally televised game every night. The Yankees and Cowboys also come to mind as teams that even when they’re not dominating or even all that interesting, they will still garner a lot of national attention.
The NHL’s nationally televised game schedule made it clear who the league thinks their “sexy six” is and if you only followed your hockey via NBC and NHL Network you could be excused for mistaking the NHL as a six team league.
What do you think? Do you agree with the NHL’s approximation of their most interesting teams? What teams would you like to see more on national TV? Did I leave any teams out from their league’s respective sexy six?