ESPN Unaware of Any Hockey Tragedies, Stories in 2011

By Troy Pfaff

Once again, the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” has failed miserably.

ESPN’s grudge against the National Hockey League has been publicly visible since the network opted out of the two sides’ contract following the lockout of 2004-05. It’s flagship program SportsCenter airs about one play of half of the hockey games that take place on a given night, and Barry Melrose is the only man on the entire television network who can name any of the world’s hockey players outside of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, now that Matthew Barnaby’s contract with the network has been terminated.

That being said, one should not have expected extensive hockey coverage in SportsCenter‘s annual Year In Review show that aired this week.

What should have been expected, though, is at the very least a small montage in remembrance of the 36 members of the Kontinental Hockey League’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, who died tragically in a plane crash this August.

A mention of Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak – all NHL players who are believed to have taken their own lives this summer -on the show’s “In Memoriam” segment honoring athletes who passed this year was surely in line, right? After all, the three men were still humans and still athletes, and hockey is certainly still a sport.

Here’s a list of those mentioned in the show’s “In Memoriam” segment:

– Al Davis
– Bubba Smith
– Dan Wheldon
– John Mackey
– Lee Roy Selmon
– Hideki Irabu
– Dave Duerson
– Duke Snider
– Walt Hazzard
– Harmon Killebrew
– Joe Frazier

Exactly zero of those players were part of the hockey community.

Nothing on Boogard, Rypien or Belak, and nothing on the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash. Astonishing.

An entire sports team was killed in September, and the “worldwide leader in sports” didn’t even mention it during it’s Year In Review. That is beyond unacceptable. It is inhumane and it is embarrassing, and the “worldwide leader” won’t care.

What involving hockey was actually mentioned on the show? Crosby’s concussion was mentioned during the closing moments of the show, though nothing about the concussion epidemic taking the NHL by storm. Bobby Ryan‘s goal against the Nashville Predators was named the no. 10 play of the year, and own goals by Erik Johnson and Victor Hedman were compacted and together called the no. 6 “not top” play of the year. The Boston Bruins were named and associated with the Stanley Cup, and Crosby’s comeback game against the New York Islanders was shown briefly at the end of the episode. That’s about it.

Nothing on the Washington Capitals’ Winter Classic victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nothing on the Penguins’ remarkable run to the second-most wins in the entire NHL despite playing half the season without Jordan Staal, and the other half without both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Nothing on the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers or the reincarnation of the Winnipeg Jets franchise, and nothing on last year’s breakout of rookie Jeff Skinner, this season’s dominance by Claude Giroux, the continued goal scoring of Steven Stamkos, or the ongoing demise of Alex Ovechkin.

But, hey, Tim Tebow got five minutes of the show dedicated solely to himself.

If the handling of the Bernie Fine scandal in addition to the network’s ever-growing SEC college football bias weren’t enough to prove ESPN is the most biased network in sports broadcasting, this must be enough.

Unfortunately, the most I can do is suggest a subtle nickname change for the self-proclaimed leader. I feel something like “ESPN: The Worldwide Leader in a Few Sports” would be much more appropriate.

Follow Troy on Twitter @TroyPfaff

Thanks to DeadSpin for the list of those mentioned In Memoriam

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