Considering how much of a train wreck NBC has been for the last six or seven years, it should come as no surprise that, despite being the only major network willing to take a risk on hockey, they will not be broadcasting an Edmonton Oilers game for the third straight season.
The Oilers won’t even make the cut on the more obscure NBC Sports Network, which hardly anyone has access to and even fewer actually watch. God only knows why the Oilers are getting shut out again this season. Good grief, The NHL Network has to broadcast each team at least once per season and even they managed to schedule two Oilers broadcasts. So what’s the deal here?
Yes, Edmonton is a Canadian market rather than an American market. Yes, Edmonton isn’t even a prime Canadian market like Toronto or Vancouver. Edmonton will never be as sexy to an American audience as Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston or New York. We get it. The NHL should only have eight teams and they should all be in the Northeast. But with all due respect, how can the network not want to display the most talented young core of players in the entire league?
Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz, Jordan Eberle, and Sam Gagner. All of these guys play on one team and aren’t even in their primes yet. You would think the folks at NBC Sports Network would recognize that hockey fans who will seek out their network in the first place would be interested in seeing these guys play live at least one time this season. But alas.
Yes, NBC’s main network needs to sell games to key markets to get gonzo ratings. Yes, NBC and the NHL need to market the league’s current stars to the casual viewer as a way to get them interested in watching more hockey so they will gradually become die-hard fans rather than remaining passive ones. But they also should be thinking ahead to the future of the sport.
A new wave of talent is coming and a glut of it can be found on one team! The Oilers will be playing multiple games in Chicago and Detroit, for instance, on weekends–when NBC broadcasts the majority of their hockey coverage–in February and March. You’re telling me the league couldn’t work something out so they could show even one of these games?
Maybe the Oilers will get some NBC love if they make the playoffs this year, but until that happens, American Edmonton fans, it seems you might have to get the Center Ice package again if you wish to watch the Oilers play this season (unless you have access to CBC).