The NHL has picked a fine time to go into hiding.
Oh, sure, there's incredible hockey going on: three Game 7s, including a matchup of the two "big names" in hockey. There's a possibility of three of the Original Six making it into the conference finals for the first time since 1979. The games have been filled with drama, tension, and wild scoring.
And no one cares.
Oh, sure, you care. You're reading this blog (and we thank you), and I'm sure you're enjoying it.
But really...no one else cares.
1) Versus: yes, it's our favorite whipping boy, but from their cockup in switching viewers from one game to another to failing to show dramatic endings to promoting games they aren't even showing to an utter lack of interest in promoting the league, Versus has managed to show that they're best at finding new ways to foul up broadcasting. And here's the best part: Gary Bettman thinks the way this should be resolved is for people to tell hotels they won't stay there unless they carry Versus! Speaking as someone who has been living in hotels for the past seven months: they don't care. It's the equivalent of saying you won't stay at a hotel that doesn't carry Coke or Pepsi. Bless your heart for making a stand, but that's not going to change a thing.
2) Lack of constant discipline: it took me a while to believe that there are people who think the NHL is as fixed as pro wrestling, but after the NHL decided that there's no reason to actually, you know, enforce their own rules on suspensions, I've given up. Never mind the fact that they've shown no interest in protecting the players from violent contact to the head (for which the NHLPA should be raising bloody hell). But after watching the end of Game 6, I know that the NHL will do absolutely nothing. A team started fights after the final horn had blown, against players that don't fight (which violates the unspoken rules of fighting), throwing elbows in the process, but I know the NHL will decide they don't want to get involved. When the best article from SI.com is on this very topic, you know that's not a good thing.
3) The NBA playoffs: I can't stand the NBA. But I was watching that Bulls/Celtics series. When I flip past TNT and see EJ, Charles, and Kenny, I stop because I know it's going to be an interesting broadcast. They thought it was going to be a Lakers/Cavs finals, but outside of the Cavaliers, it's been bedlam in the playoffs. This doesn't help the NHL from a media coverage perspective. I'm going off memory here, but this is all you need to know: I watch ESPNEWS in the morning during the week, and since the Conference semis started, I can't remember the last time an NBA playoff game has appeared after the first segment. I can remember that if there are two NHL games on in one day, one of them will appear in the second segment, buried after at least one regular season MLB game.
4) Jim Balsillie: What Balsillie is doing deserves its own post (very short opinion: desperate people do desperate things), but the fact that it popped up now screams that Bettman has no control over the situation. Compare this to David Stern, who rules then NBA like a mafia don. Can you imagine an NBA team pulling this stuff off in the middle of the playoffs? Neither can I.
I'll wrap this up with the saddest thing I've read, from no less than Red Wings Alternate Governor Jim Devellano. When asked by the Toronto Star about Bettman's future, here was his response:
"Gary Bettman was hired to do two things. One, to grow the game in the U.S. Two, to get a hard (players') salary cap. Nothing more. Nothing less. He's delivered on both counts."
They don't care. Why the hell should you?
(hat tip to George Malik)