Ovechkin Betters Crosby, Game Access Limited
January 23, 2010 by Big Tony
The NHL’s two biggest stars took the ice against one another for the first time since their classic Eastern Conference Semifinal of a year ago. I’m talking of course of Sidney Crosby and the Penguins against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. This is not only a matchup of the league’s two biggest stars but also of two of the best teams in hockey. The game was a very entertaining contest that ultimately saw Washington shut Pittsburgh out in the third period to take the game 6-3, but the game itself is not the storyline. Unfortunately the bigger issue is the fact that the game was not televised on an outlet that people all over the nation could see. Sure it was being broadcast on the NHL network but the number of people who have the channel is limited not only in pure numbers but also limited to people who already love the game. This game needed to be on a station that would reach the highest number of people possible and while a weekday game would not be on NBC and I accept this it still could have been on Versus. Granted, the NHL does not have the best TV contract but they did not even maximize the potential of the deal they do have. Hockey is a fantastic sport but people like me need not be convinced of this, it’s the casual fan who tuned into last year’s playoff series who need to see a showcase of the game’s best players again this year to draw them closer to the game; however, chances are they did not see the game because causal fans likely do not have the NHL Network. In stark contrast to this on the same night the NBA was show casing two of its biggest stars in LeBron James and Kobe Bryant on TNT which many more people have access to. This is simply an example of the NBA doing a much better job of marketing than the NHL. In my opinion at the very least the NHL has a product that is as good as that which the NBA fields every night it’s just a matter of better marketing on the part of the NBA. If the NHL wants to keep the game growing and simply take its great product to the masses (who will undoubtedly love what they see) then they have to pay attention to the details; otherwise the league will continue to take one step forward and two steps backwards when it comes to growing its popularity in the US.
In on ice news the Edmonton Oilers are not having the best year. There are many reasons why Edmonton has been struggling but there is also no doubt that no one has lost more heartbreakers than the Oilers. Edmonton’s matchup against the Dallas Stars on Friday night is the perfect example of such a heartbreaking loss. With just over a minute to go down a goal the Oilers pulled their goaltender in favor of a sixth attacker and with 1:02 left on the clock tied the game at three. The players were elated, the fans were psyched and it looked like Edmonton was going to at least steal a point from their Western Conference foes. However, not even a minute later heartache struck Edmonton once again as James Neal banged home a rebound with just 23 seconds later to put Dallas ahead for good. Say what you want about the way Edmonton lost and how they’ve been losing games like this all season, but for one night it seemed like everyone in Edmonton would have reason to celebrate a valiant comeback rather than a last second defeat and yet…it was not meant to be. Feeling bad for professional athletes under any circumstance is hard but in this instance I feel bad for the Oiler organization and their fans, can they buy a victory?
Lastly I would be remiss if I did not mention the incredible amount of the success the upstart New York Islanders are having. Last season this was one of the worst teams in the league on the ice and dealing with a ton of turmoil off the ice in regards to its future on Long Island. Despite the continuing off ice issues the Islanders are putting together quite a season on the ice and are in prime position to make the playoffs. The credit could go to guys like John Tavares who was picked number one overall this past offseason or to hidden gems like Matt Moulson who has exceeded everyone’s expectations. There is also the stellar play of netminder Dwayne Roloson who despite his age has performed very admirably all season long. No matter what the answer is the Islanders have put together a team that works hard every game, continues to get better as the season goes on, and use their work ethic combined with their skill to perhaps steal games they should not otherwise win. Stealing a win every now and then is bound to happen with any young and overmatched team. In the case of the Islanders however beating teams like New Jersey and Detroit in very short order in quite convincing fashion (having shut both teams out) is not by accident. You do not win games against top teams but shutting them out unless you’re good, and believe it or not people the New York Islanders are a good team. I mentioned last year and early this season that I loved the way this team battles night in and night out and it’s finally starting to pay off for them. It’s possible that the Islanders will still fall short of the playoffs this year but if they keep playing the way they are the team will have nothing to be ashamed of and have something great to build on for next season. There have been a lot of feel good stories for teams who are seemingly overachieving thus far this season but none better than this New York Islander team. If you get a chance to watch them on any given night check them out, it’s a lot of fun.
Enjoy your weekend of hockey everyone!