As the new hockey guy at the OrangeWedge, I’m joining the writing team at an exciting time. After an embarrassing 113 day lockout, the 2013 NHL season is about halfway finished, and the league is as popular as ever.
That is, as popular as ever among long-time hockey fans.
Many writers undoubtedly point to the past work stoppages as the leading factor for the lack of American support. While I agree with this, I believe that the NHL’s popularity cannot be discussed without mentioning ESPN, the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports.”
The big story of this year has been the Chicago Blackhawks’ miraculous 22-game point streak. As a Detroit Redwings fan, it sickens me, but I have to tip my hat and say well done. After the Hawks and the Wings faced off this past Sunday, in NBC’s second most viewed hockey game in history, ESPN was forced to properly highlight the achievement. How did they bring attention to this historic streak, you ask? By allowing their controversial NBA analyst, Stephen A. Smith, to discuss it on their flagship program, SportsCenter. Smith, unimpressed by the streak, attacked long-time hockey analyst Barry Melrose, barely letting him get a word in while he attacked with nonfactual arguments.
My gripe with Stephen A. Smith’s prideful ignorance has more to do with ESPN than Smith himself. It is not surprising that a basketball guy thinks poorly of hockey. To be honest, I doubt you’ll ever find me mentioning basketball on the Wedge, unless of course I’m discussing this year’s top NHL prospect Seth Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. But more to the point: ESPN, in their quest for higher revenue and ratings, fails to cover the NHL with the integrity and fairness it deserves. Until this changes, ice hockey will forever be the little brother of North America’s big 4 sports.
Lucky for American hockey fans, there may be hope in the future:
Let’s just hope that the reporter there was not Stephen A.