On Friday night, NHL Network's NHL Live signed off for the summer, at least until pre-season. That means the National Hockey League's flagship television network will have no regular, originally-produced programming until at least September, perhaps longer if there's a lockout. That's at least two full months of endless past playoff game reruns. This is ... not our favorite thing as hockey fans.
Every year, on schedule, it drives us crazy, and often lists of potential programs are selected. I'll provide a few of my own ideas on Tuesday, but this weekend I polled the massive stable of hockey writers and bloggers we have here at SB Nation and took some of theirs and compiled this list. Some of them are legitimate shows that could make NHL Network more entertaining. Some of them... well, you'll see. Thanks to all of my friends in the hockey department for participating.
Bruce Ciskie, SB Nation NHL Contributor
I want more top 10 shows, ala what they put on NFL Network. The rivalry show was cool, but it doesn't need to be that involved. They could make a few shows out of picking national Olympic teams (obviously this doesn't need to be done for Latvia, but you get the point), since the Summer games start later this month and we're less than a year and a half from Sochi once that happens. There needs to be a show on every day to wrap up league news and happenings, even if it's just an hour. Showing classic games is fine, but there should be a purpose to it, instead of showing every game from every playoff series like they were all good/relevant.
JJ From Kansas, Winging it in Motown
Tampa Baywatch - Starring Steven Stamkos as Mitch Buchannon.
TorontOprah - Look under your seats. You get a lower-bowl ticket! You get a lower-bowl ticket! EVERYBODY GETS A LOWER-BOWL TICKET!
Carey Price is Right - 30 minutes dedicated to Montreal's goalie stating obvious facts
Honestly, anything that covers either more of the history of the NHL or does more to cover the players as humans away from the rink, I think would be good. I'd watch an episode of NHL 36 done on just about anybody, but I don't want to watch the same 5 episodes all summer.
Cassie McClellan, Raw Charge
How about promoting other types of hockey like sledge hockey or women's hockey? Or, perhaps, doing features on hockey in countries working on their development programs that we don't get so see on the international stage, like the Norway, China, or Australia? I hear Jamaica's looking to put together an Olympic hockey team.
I'd love to see a Top Chef type of show hosted by Ken Hitchcock, Bruce Boudreau, and Gary Roberts. The opportunities for hilarity will be endless.
In all seriousness, how much would it cost them to cover all of the prospect tourneys?
Bruce Peter, Puck Worlds
They should hire former NHL players to star in buddy cop shows. I think Jeff Buekeboom and Esa Tikkanen would make a great crime fighting duo. Or Steve Larmer and Denis Savard.
Or they could just commission Marvel to make a full out NHL Guardians cartoon series.
Acquire broadcasting rights to every hockey movie ever made. Air a new movie every night during the summer.
- My Day with the Cup: follow each player as they spend their day with the Cup.
- Trailblazers: historical documentaries of people who changed the face of hockey as we know it.
- History of the NHL: two hours (Ken Burns style) on each decade of the NHL.
- A fantasy hockey show.
Matthew Wagner, SB Nation NHL Contributor
I think that a show that focused on prospects from the combine through rookie camp would be awesome. Pick your top 10-15 guys, go deep, get some b-roll with parents, billet families, junior or college coaches, and then follow them through that first month as a pro.
Travis Hair, Five For Howling
NHL Basement Live. With a blogger more interesting than Bruce Garrioch, Damien Cox, David Shoalts or most other reporters. AKA almost any blogger.
John Fischer, In Lou We Trust
I'm a big believer that the NHL Network people should just watch the NFL Network and rip them off as much as possible.
In addition to the top 10 idea, I think now's the perfect time to air classic games. They can be condensed down like the NFL does for NFL Replay or other dates. The network can focus on a certain event happening (e.g. That Devils-Maple Leafs game where the Devils held Toronto to 6 shots on net) or pick an expert or former player and have him pick a game to show off. They can even include commentary where there would normally be TV timeouts or other things they can't show to discuss the importance of the game or talk about something happening that happened then but doesn't happen now. They'll fill up large blocks of time during the day, hardcore fans and historians have reason to watch it, and it gives the network something to actually promote and sell as a feature.
Here's a second idea ripped right from the NFL Network: Playbook. It would be good filler to have a former coach explain certain strategies like the neutral zone trap, the left wing lock, cycling, and such. And they can use video examples from the recent season as examples of teams doing it right or wrong.
Geoff Detweiler, Broad Street Hockey
I really like the idea focusing on international hockey. It's relevant now, but it's relevant every year with WJC and World Championships, even if it has to be mostly build up and/or delayed.I would love to use the network to educate us Americans about the next generation of players, so more on the CHL, NCAA, and USHL would be great.And for low-cost production, in-studio shows could be as simple as showing the XM radio show, or a 30-minute editorial show (if bloggers and MSM can find stuff to write about, someone can do 30 minutes a day.
Similar to Matt's idea, I'm a HUGE sucker for the prospect shows. The Senators did a few web shorts under the 'Senate Reform' label, Edmonton did 'Oil Change' about their rebuild, and Minnesota had the best of the lot with their 'Becoming Wild' series. I think there's a very, very good chance that the NHL Network could get a team or two on board each summer and show a bit about their prospects: Kids in the AHL, college, or Europe; setting up for the draft; running through development camp... all that stuff. Even two to three teams would work, but one per summer is probably the most reasonable.These programs are great for anyone to watch, but the respective fanbases would actually eat them up.
Step one for the NHL Network is to stop treating their own league like a second tier league. If they are going to cover the draft, cover the damn draft. One thing that really irritates me, and apologies to our Canadian friends, but 23 teams are in the US. Stop with the TSN simulcast for every important event. All we get from that is 45 minutes on what the Leafs and Habs are doing. Which is great, but what is the rest of the league doing? I get that TSN is a Canadian network, and more power to them, but the NHL Network needs to cover the entire league.Original programming is simple. Look at what fan blogs are writing about and turn it into shows. A show about prospects. 30 teams, all with their own group of prospects could make for enough original programming to almost fill the day by itself. Stop treating hockey fans like football fans. We know these kids take time to develop, but that doesn't mean we don't know they exist until they show up on the NHL roster.Show some damn AHL games. I'm sorry, but it just cannot cost that much to put a camera in a building with a Vox and color guy.Show junior games. College games.Shows about the different feeder leagues. You'd be amazed how many people don't know that there is more than one junior league in Canada.Fantasy hockey show. This is an absolute no brainer. People play fantasy hockey, the NHL bought in to Yahoo's fantasy league, why not pimp it a bit?I like what Fischer said. Watch the damn NFL network, and do everything they do. This goes back to treating their own league as though it should be respectable. The NHL has more history than any major league around. Do something with it.A show about the Stanley Cup. A weekly show telling me things I didn't know about it. It is the most marketable thing the league has, and they do zero with it. The damn thing should have an official social account on every network around, I should be able to buy Stanley Cup clothes, underwear, silverware, plates... and it should be on their network everyday.I doubt they would pimp the Olympics, what with the NHL being mentally handicapped about even participating, but the idea is great.Basically, stop acting like a third tier network covering second tier league. Hire some people, and cover the league they want to see it covered. When there are games or shows on their TV partners, run something that will make people want to go watch those games / shows. Like the NFL network does. TV isn't hard. Show things the fans want to see.
I want to see the arbitration hearings. Nothing like a broadcast of hearing why people suck and don't deserve what they think they deserve. I would have paid a lot of money to listen to Bob Murray and James Wisniewski a couple years ago.
If the league wants to continue to show old games, let, at least, the U.S. audience see old World Juniors games, Calder Cup games, major-junior games, etc. that have our current stars. I doubt any aired in Cali at all.
- A show like "Feherty" from the Golf Network. A 30-minute show with an intelligent host who conducts wonderful, poignant interviews with players and ex-players.
- Food Network ripoff: "Best thing ever" where NHL players past and present talk about the best game they've ever played, best pass they've ever seen, best story they've ever heard... etc
- NHL36 Free agency - follow a high priced FA through August.
- A show that explains why Don Cherry is wrong about everything he says.
- Pros vs Joes type of show that gives rec leaguers a chance to play against ex-NHLers
- Team by team development camp reports. They can rip off every team site.
- USHL Report/CHL Report/NCAA report/Euro Report/AHL Report - 5 shows!
- NHL Total Access. complete with referee explanation
Josh Lile, Defending Big D
Junior league highlights and recaps are absolute no-brainers. For those off in hockey Siberia (thousands of miles away from the OHL/WHL/QMJHL/NCAA) it's hard to keep up to date.I really like the idea that gets the major players in a key historical hockey event to explain their role. They could easily make a 30 for 30 type hockey series. The Gretzky 30 for 30 was very enjoyable.How the sausage is made type of shows would be excellent as well. The idea of following a free agent around until they sign is excellent. NHL36 is great. Shows that, in general, show how the league works. I would love to see a show that shows how the Shanahammer is wielded. It would give the process more transparency than his explanatory videos do. They could devote a show to the process of reviewing goals in Toronto.