Lets face it: when the lockout ended for the 2005-2006 season, media outlets looked for a new way to present hockey to American fans. They needed a few teams, a few players, to create the storylines to carry a season in their coverage; luckily for them, they found this in the latter-mentioned form. With two draft classes entering the league two years after the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Calgary Flames in a seven-game Stanley Cup Final, the NHL was presented two quickly-rising superstars that others would feature in their coverage of the league. Thus, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin have become the faces of hockey in a country that was, and potentially still is, seemingly losing interest; the coverage of these two individuals has oft been overwhelming, and its end is doubtfully near.
It wasn’t long after October of 2005 that this potential storyline blossomed into the NHL’s “theme”. The Penguins and Capitals quickly became two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference; all that was left was to virtually deceive millions of fairweather hockey fans into believing that the two clubs were bitter rivals, and thus, that a Crosby-Ovechkin matchup could not possibly be neglected. Luckily, things fell into place for this to occur; the teams’ four matchups a year became more competitive, unfriendly words were eventually shared (come on, this is hockey), and after the Pens and Caps’ fanbases bought into it, the two were, suddenly, the largest rivals in the NHL. It was as if the Canadiens and Maple Leafs had never fought decade after decade in the past, as if the Red Wings and Avalanche had always had much respect for each other; really, it was as if the NHL’s inception came after the lockout, as the coverage surrounding this “invention” of a rivalry was truly a slap in the face to millions of much more passionate hockey fans who have savored the opportunity to play their team’s rivals for generation after generation.
A few days ago, the NHL published a list of nationally televised games for the 2011-2012 season. It was not surprising to find that, once again, the Devils were not featured once on an NBC broadcast (I would have especially liked to hear Doc call another one of our games, and am not sure if this will occur on Versus). It seems as though the NHL has found its feature teams to sell to the national audience; these are the Capitals, Penguins, Flyers and Rangers (as each of the four will have participated in one of the last two Winter Classics), as well as the previous two Stanley Cup Champions (everybody loves a winner, right?). Thus, we will once again be hearing the same old storylines, and the fake rivalry our media has created will take centerstage for another NHL season.
I know I have grown tired of the NHL coverage that has been presented by the national media; between ESPN, NBC, and other networks, producers make sure not to dive too deep into specifics, and only to entice millions of fairweather hockey fans with the repeating storylines that have worked for them throughout the post-lockout era. Luckily for these outlets, the ratings are there, and there is no way that they can be forced to expand their coverage. Sure, the feature teams can be compelling, but they are not the only ones this league has to offer; this being said, I will be sure to tune in when teams like Minnesota and St. Louis are broadcast on Sunday afternoons, as I would love to watch some other clubs in action.
All this being said, us passionate hockey fans do not have to worry about being presented what we want to hear. There are many more news outlets these days, and all the storylines from around the NHL are easily accessible. However, it would be nice to be able to watch various different teams on national television, as the NBC broadcast is fairly solid each Sunday. Hopefully in the future, we can see a wider range of hockey markets covered by the national media; until then, however, it would be best to stick to the sources that give you the most. Like Fansided, for example. We cover all the points!