The NHL playoffs have actually been outstanding to watch. They’ve outdone the NBA’s playoffs for drama and in some ways are better than the early rounds of last year’s NFL postseason. Plus, as far as we know, hockey doesn’t have its own version of troglodytic asshat Ben Roethlisberger dragging the image of the sport into a toilet.
Still, despite a great postseason, few are watching hockey nationally and the post-Olympic bump that was supposed to help has been a molehill, not a mountain. It’s a sad statement on how most of this country really feels about hockey and unfortunately that statement is, “Who cares?”
Those are the words of CBS Sports’ national columnist Mike Freeman. We’ve been down this road before many times hockey fans and it just continues to get dumber and dumber to read stuff like this year in and year out. As expected, Freeman’s piece continues on to poke fun at the NHLs television ratings and even though that’s always good and fun, there are signs that things are turning around in the more important demographics for advertisers.
The saddest part of this for poor Mike Freeman is that his willful ignorance shines through because, as Steve Lepore from Puck The Media also shares with us, it’s not just the NHL markets where viewership is picking up.
Below is a summary of the U.S. markets experiencing the biggest increases for the first round on VERSUS, NBC and VERSUS/NBC combined (metered market ratings, according to Nielsen Media Research):
NHL QUARTERFINALS ON VERSUS
Birmingham – up 200%
Norfolk – up 200%
Chicago – up 133%
Louisville – up 100%
San Antonio – up 100%
Knoxville – up 100%
Cleveland – up 100%
Dayton – up 100%
San Diego – up 100%
Richmond – up 100%
Raleigh – up 100%
Kansas City – up 100%
Greenville – up 100%
Perhaps Mike Freeman would like to spend less time listening to LeBron James whine about his wonky elbow and spend a little more time watching some guys Marc Savard, Simon Gagne and Mark Stuart who are actually hurt continue on through the playoffs without making a big deal about it.
“That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’
“What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”
The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.
It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.
Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.
All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.
‘John leaves a lasting mark’: NHL announces Collins’ departure as COO
One of the driving forces behind the NHL’s growth over the last decade is moving on.
John Collins, who’s served as the league’s chief operating officer for the last seven years, will be leaving his post to embark on a new business opportunity.
More, from the League:
Collins, who joined the NHL in November 2006, had been COO since August 2008.
“John leaves a lasting mark,” said Commissioner Bettman. “His energy, creativity and skill at building strategic partnerships helped drive significant revenue growth for our League. We are grateful for his many contributions and wish him the best in his new endeavors.”
Said Collins, “I’m grateful to Commissioner Bettman for his leadership and friendship over the past nine years. He had a vision for extending the reach of the NHL and supported us completely as we set out to make the game as big as it deserves to be.
“The NHL’s future is filled with promise and potential and I will admire and cheer the League’s successes to come on the global stage.”
Collins, 53, was regarded as one of main presences behind a number of the NHL’s most successful initiatives, including the Winter Classic and Stadium Series, the HBO 24/7 collaboration, the relaunched World Cup of Hockey, Canadian and American television deals and partnerships with companies like SAP, Adidas, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and GoPro.
During Collins’ tenure, the NHL was twice named “Sports League of the Year” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily — once in 2011, and again in 2014.
Columbus will have some reinforcements up front when it takes on the Devils tomorrow in New Jersey.
Brandon Dubinsky, who’s missed the last six games with an elbow injury, and Alexander Wennberg — who’s also missed the last six games, but with a foot ailment — have both been activated from injured reserve, and should be available for selection on Wednesday.
The Winter Classic Alumni Game is back this year, scheduled for New Year’s Eve at Gillette Stadium between former members of the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.
Today, the NHL announced the rosters and coaching staffs.
Famous ex-Habs that will take to the outdoor ice include Larry Robinson, Guy Carbonneau, and Mats Naslund. Behind the bench will be Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Demers and Guy Lafleur, among others.
The home side will counter with Bruins legends Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, and “Nifty” Rick Middleton, while Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, and Derek Sanderson will be among the coaches. (Quite a trio of personalities right there.)