Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Hockey is Back!

Ah ha! Back to some high quality (or not so) sports blogging! What better way than to celebrate the return of the NHL! (I know I am a week or so late, but I have had stuff on, a blog about that soon to follow) I was all excited to watch my beloved Penguins. However, it seems I might not be able to watch any at all!

First of all, my thoughts on the season. Well as a Penguin fan, I have started the season wanting my team to win the cup, but doesn't every hockey fan? Now with the Russian sniper, Evgeni Malkin back into the fold, I definitely think we are in a better position than last season. Hopefully him, alongside the talented Jordan Staal, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz can do enough to carry us into a position to be successful. Then there is the long awaited return of Sidney Crosby, who will always produce the goods, which will obviously take us to another level.
As for the rest of the NHL, well the champion Bruins are going to be dangerous along side the usual contenders Blackhawks and Capitals. I am also looking for the Kings to have a big season as the pieces seem to be in place for them to get up there. Also I am looking for somebody to push from obscurity and start shaking things up, I personally am looking towards the brand new Winnipeg Jets (formerly Atlanta Thrashers). I just feel that, as well as Canada's passion for hockey, the buzz going round Winnipeg to have their Jets back and their huge support for their team will be enough to carry an average side into the upper tier of the NHL.
Now its all very well me saying all this, but it seems I might not get to see any of it. After a quick google search it seems that the UK rights for the NHL, once owned by ESPN and broadcast on its ESPN America channel, has now gone to an opportunistic non-broadcasting company called Medge Consulting/AMI, who are looking to sell the rights on to the highest bidder, until 2016.
This then poses the question, will any UK broadcaster take the rights? ESPN, still licking its wounds after losing the NHL deal, may choose not to bother. Sky Sports are unlikely to pursue it as they seem to have quite a full schedule of sports and it may interfere with its deal to broadcast the UK's Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL). This is then just leaving either Channel 4 or 5, but as they are not solely sports broadcasters this will cut down the games to one or two per week at 2am, like the old days.
Hopefully this will be sorted, but I fear that the demand for the NHL brand, although it has a loyal following, it isn't a large one, so why would anyone want to pay an outrageous price for it. It would be a shame as I feel that it had gradually started to grow in England, and following relatively successful games in the O2 Arena, it was ready to make one big push, like the NFL, to get into the hearts and minds of the British public.
On a brighter note, a week on Saturday, I will getting my first look at the brand new Billingham Stars (my local team!) very exciting!
So Hockey is back! However not back in my house just yet.

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