As a few of you may already know, the NHL season that usually begins in October still hasn’t started. The players and owners/league haven’t managed to agree to terms on revenue sharing and other issues, and as a result there’s another lockout (although hopefully not for too much longer – full coverage on the CBC, who are faithfully and excitedly reporting on every person’s facial expression as they leave every day of talks, plus full fan reaction to leaked news of what the negotiators had for lunch). Basically, the situation boils down to millionaires arguing with billionaires while normal people who make their livings working at the arenas, or in nearby sports bars, hotels, and sports clothing stores, risk losing their houses.
Anyone who’s looked at a Canadian TV schedule during a normal hockey season will appreciate just how much of a hole this lockout has left. It’s not just the actual games; whole channels are usually taken up with pre- and post-game analysis, trade rumour talk, injury updates, etc etc etc.
So what are they showing instead?
Old hockey games.
Yup, every time I browse through the sport channels, they’re showing NHL and Olympic hockey from the 70s and 80s. Now, I really don’t like watching sport that isn’t live (as I said to general agreement during a discussion at work, “it ruins the illusion that shouting at the TV actually helps”). I’ll make an exception for the rugby and football world cups, if England or Canada play at 3am or something, but only if I don’t know the outcome, and it’s just not the same*. I absolutely will not watch a game from more than a few hours ago, or any game where I already know who won. I know lots of people who agree – an overwhelming majority of my friends who like sport, in fact. But yet several channels keep playing those old hockey games (a friend at work claims to have also seen a 2010 curling tournament on the CBC, but I’m not sure I believe him).
This is such a wasted opportunity. Why not give other, usually neglected, sports some time in the spotlight?
- There are lots of people at my work watching cricket at the moment – on the internet, at 2 am. Show some highlights at 7 pm! It’s one of the most commonly played games in Canada!
- I tried and failed to find the England – All Blacks rugby game on the weekend – it wasn’t on anywhere. Show that! Everyone was talking about rugby during the last world cup, there’s a huge potential market here!
- The summer and winter Olympics prove that people will get into some really obscure events if they’re covered well and during prime time TV; there must be some Northern Hemisphere winter sports tournaments on right now, or some Southern Hemisphere summer sports, that we could all watch. I’d much rather watch, say, the Norwegian snowboard cross championship or some African track and field than Detroit Redwings vs. LA Kings from 1972.
I’m sure there are all kinds of licensing and rights issues, but it’s not like no-one saw this lockout coming. And surely the TV channels can negotiate rights with small, cash-deprived sporting bodies much, much faster than the NHL millionaires and billionaires could even agree on what kind of bottled water should be on the negotiating table…
*I used to watch every game live when I first moved here, whether that meant staying up until 2 am or getting up at 3 am or whatever, but I’m too old to do that on weeknights any more, and I no longer have a job where I can leave for two hours in the middle of the day to watch a daytime game. Instead, I watch overnight games on tape at 6 am, or make a sign that says “DO NOT TELL ME ANYTHING ABOUT THE ENGLAND GAME” and wear it around my neck all day at work for a daytime game.