Hockey is not the only sport

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.

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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.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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20 Responses to Hockey is not the only sport

  1. Steve Caplan says:

    Just out of curiosity, what’s the average annual NHL player salary (not including bonuses, endorsements, signings, etc.)?

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Minimum $525,000, Average $2.45 million, maximum $14 million

      Think of all the reagents you could buy for that money…

      • Grant says:

        Better still, as a computational biologist I have no reagents to pay for. (I’d like to think access to the large computers is cheaper.) I could go for years on any of those figures. In fact, I’d think the average figure should see me out to retirement.

        (Admittedly, if I simply took the money and ran I could forget about work and just retire…)

        • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

          well, someone has to buy the reagents to generate the data in the first place… unless you’re into modelling or something that doesn’t require actual sequencing / other data?

          • Grant says:

            I was just thinking of individual grants, not the on-going story of an area. In particular, I think there’s a place for careful examination of some of the large datasets now available but people with a strong understanding of the biology and the computational analysis. (Biased, of course, as I’m singing my own tune.)

            I wasn’t trying to suggest that the data isn’t needed, just that for my part of the work, my research money, I don’t need reagents.

            For whatever it’s worth, modelling usually draws from data too. (Unless you’re doing ‘pure’ biophysics, say, but even there you’d be drawing on measurements used as the parameters.)

            Excuse the boring serious comment.

  2. chall says:

    “DO NOT TELL ME ANYTHING ABOUT THE ENGLAND GAME” <- oh you mean like when we beat you in the last friendly football game 😉 (you know I had to. it made me SO mad that Sweden played so well in a game that didn't really matter. At least not as much as the game in june. Ah well)

    I TOTALLY agree with you on the "show real games in real time" from ANY sport. Here in the US I've seen more college hockey games though. Not as much – obviously – since there are those licensing and right etc but I really think they COULD do something about it, IF the powers behind the TV channel actually cared. But, tbh, I think they are doing the cheaop way and keeping reruns of old non costly games, still taking the money for the channels and probalby the commercials too…. I might be bitter (I am) but I would've liked to see something else than Basketball and [American] Football. Especially since there is lots of winter sports around the world – a lot of World championhips in skiing just to name one.

    right now I'm having the feeling that there will be no season of NHL and my team in the NFL will fail to join in on the superbowl playoffs so….. I might need to take up watching basketball? (I'm not too much of a fan though…) Of course, there is always the possibility of stopping to care about sports at all.

    yeah. right. 😉

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      ooooOOOOooooh, you won a friendly. Awesome.


      I’m not a fan of basketball – I can appreciate the athleticism involved, but I just can’t get excited about a sport where they score so often that it stops feeling special when they do. My former roommate was really into it and said “well, you cheer for the defensive moves that stop someone from scoring”. WHAT? No.

      As Jerry Seinfeld once said (paraphrasing from memory), “they should start the score at 100 points each and play for two minutes”.

      I’d watch skiing quite happily, though.

  3. My tweet from 25 November:

    “Richard Wintle ‏@ricardipus Explained NHL lockout to kids: buffoons unhappy with $ made by other buffoons. All these buffoons in league run by other buffoons.”

    That about sums it up I think.

    • Also – re-runs of car races. It’s the off-season, and I’m having withdrawal. The Hockey Night in Canada time slot would do nicely.

      • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

        NO! No re-runs. Of ANYTHING. Not even the 2003 Rugby World Cup final – I’d far rather just remember how amazing it was to watch it live with all my friends than watch it again knowing the outcome.

        • Grant says:

          Yeah, it’s the whole thing about live sport eh? It’s a drama where you don’t know the outcome.

          In New Zealand pay-TV dominates and screens the games earlier (live) while free-to-air, if it covers them, screens the games a bit later. I can’t stand people on twitter watching pay-TV giving the score, the goals/tries/whatever. Grrrr.

          One minority sport I’d like to see more of is handball. The little of it I’ve seen seems crazy.

          • chall says:

            Handball is great fun to watch. It’s pretty aggressive and fast, yet you’re not allowed to tackle or touch (like basketball I guess).

            I haven’t seen handball in the US since I moved here It’s pretty big in Europe though.

          • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

            I watched a little bit of handball during the Olympics – it does look like fun!

            Funnily enough, I can watch the same film / sitcom episodes, or read the same novel, many times if I liked it enough the first time. It drives Mr E Man crazy. But that doesn’t translate to sport.

  4. Mike says:

    I’m not on-board. Show me all the games in Dundee United’s UEFA cup final run in 1986/7 and I’ll be a happy man. I know all the results, I know all the players off by heart. I still want to watch it. I’ve even got a DVD of the classic England–Scotland game at Wembley in 1967 (crowning us the linear [boxing style] world champions).

    And in general, it’s fascinating for me to watch football and rugby games from days gone by. The differences in tactics, physiques, arbitrary refereeing decisions and throat high tackles going unpunished are just amazing!

    But the boring truth of your situation probably lies in the facts that (1) it’s cheaper to show reruns you already own the rights to and (2) advertisers will pay relatively more for reruns that the majority of the NAm public will want to watch compared to mogul jumping or thrill-a-minute winter ferreting.

    (Oh, and cricket is only “commonly played” because each game takes a bloody working week)

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