Last night marked the first of seven Wings games exclusively on Versus. It is, of course, fashionable to bash the NHL for putting their games on a three-digit channel for anyone not on Comcast (which owns a portion of the network).
I've always believed that the NHL took an calculated risk when they took the money from OLN (the former name of Versus) as opposed to the profit-sharing structure that ESPN offered after the lockout. At that time, there was serious talk that OLN was going to try to reposition themselves as a true competitor to ESPN by also trying to get MLB and NFL rights. As it turns out, they didn't get either, and the NHL was isolated on the little network that promotes themselves with attitude as opposed to actual content.
What frustrates me as a hockey fan is the fact that the NHL argues that they felt the would be ignored on ESPN, but I don't think Versus does a whole heckuva lot to push the NHL either. I noted during a live blog last year that Versus didn't do any sort of pre-game show during the playoffs (at one point showing MMA as the lead in). Versus doesn't do a nightly hockey show. Before the Wings game, instead of talking hockey, we got the opening of a Def Leppard concert. Add to that the embarassment from last year when they accidentally cut away from a multiple-overtime game to show an informercial.
Then there's Mike Emrick. Let me be clear that I'm aware that I'm in the minority on this topic, and that people liking or disliking announcers is a purely personal choice. But I can't stand Emrick. I mean fingernail-on-the-blackboard can't stand him. He's stunningly obvious at times, prone to overexcitement, and gets easily distracted. He had more than a few stunners last year during my live blogs. For my money, Ken Daniels is the gold standard (I can't believe the CBC didn't steal him away as the phase out of Bob Cole continues).
What frustrates me is that ESPN is so ready to face real competition in this world. There's a part of me that would've loved it for ESPN to face real competition, and I thought Versus might be there. But their coverage of the NHL just reminds me of how far away we really are from that point.