Finally, after years of anticipation, the greatest Hockey Tournament in the world is about to start. In Canada, we're salivating, completely jacked, even though we open against Norway, the Glass Joe in our Olympic hockey punch-out.
South of the border, this insane assembly of hockey talent is being embraced with roughly the same enthusiasm you'd expect for a resurrection of the XFL.
The Canada-United States matchup is the most anticipated game of the qualifying round. It's such vital programming they're dumping it over to MSNBC, famous for its excellent hockey coverage. This channel is available only to those people with expensive cable packages; even then, it is not easy to find. Typical MSNBC fare includes House of Representatives debates, presidential news conferences and book readings by Stephen Hawking.
NBC broadcasts the more popular events on network television. This Sunday night, while two of the fiercest rivals in the tournament are squaring off to decide playoff matchups, NBC will be showing -shudder- ice dancing.
For the fringe sports fan (read: female TV viewer) this is an opportunity to watch the magnificent sport of ice dancing, which pops up on TV about every four years, like clockwork. To the true sports fan, this is a travesty.
In Canada, we show every Olympic hockey game on prime time network television. In the United States, the only game to be shown live on network television will be the Gold Medal game.
Every four years or so Gary Bettman wonders aloud whether the NHL should make its players available to the upcoming Olympics. Inevitably, it is decided that it’s a great opportunity to showcase its players to a worldwide audience, so the NHL sends its players. The same process is happening as we speak, as the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia loom. The reality is, the Olympics are in our backyard and hockey is not being showcased in the United States.
It is time for the NHL to accept the fact that the average viewer prefers their skaters to be wearing toe picks. If the NHL decides to send players to Sochi, it should do so only as a reward to let the best players in the game represent their countries at the Olympics. It's doing very little to sell the game in America, the frontier Bettman most covets.
You what else doesn't help? Having Wayne Gretzky, your greatest player ever, wearing little red mittens, waving at people in a cold rain, standing in a slow moving pickup on a pointless, never ending drive through the streets of Vancouver.