Monday, 26 March 2018

Living In A Glass House

One league is defined as three nautical miles, but it seems that one league is all the rage today. If you've missed the yelling from the mountaintops, women's hockey has a movement swelling to try and bring the two bickering leagues together under one league to make women's hockey better. The sentiment is fine - it would produce better hockey and better players - but there are deeper issues that simply can't be solved by sitting in a conference room. Today, though, the women's hockey movement got a big audience when two sports broadcasters decided to take up the cause on their nationally-broadcasted television program.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Sportsnet's Tim Micallef and Sid Seixeiro talking about why professional women's hockey isn't more popular.
I get what Tim and Sid are doing when it comes to trying to get this popularity of the women's game on the fast track. The thought, it seems, is that if one pumps NHL money into the women's game and NHL marketing into the women's game, the game is going to catch fire. The problem, gentlemen, is that the very network you're broadcasting on does the bare minimum to promote women's hockey.

Rogers Sportsnet holds the broadcast rights to both the Canadian professional women's league and all the U SPORTS Championships at the university level. That's 22 individual sports championships from the highest amateur level we have in the country and one professional league. Do you know how many women's hockey games from the two offerings were broadcast nationally on Sportsnet this season?

Lemme spell that one out for you, Sesame Street-style.

Rogers Sportsnet, who paid somewhere in the range of a zillion dollars to broadcast the NHL on its stations, aired just four games from the U SPORTS and Canadian professional women's hockey levels this season. In fact, they aired zero of the U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship which took place in London, Ontario some 205kms west of Toronto, so really they aired only four women's hockey games from the professional level and none from the amateur level. As a national broadcaster and rights-holder to these events, are you seriously asking why the sport isn't more popular?

Let's back up for a moment here. I get that networks make money by selling advertising they can air in the form of commercials and hits during the broadcast. I get that Sportsnet is possibly taking a bit of a financial risk in airing women's hockey as they can't charge as much for advertising as they would for, say, OHL hockey or a poker tournament. I understand how the business works at its most empirical level, but Sportsnet holds the broadcast rights to these women's hockey events and they still won't show them. While it may not be as lucrative as a poker tournament - which is NOT a sport - the only way they become lucrative is to have more people watch.

And how do you have more people watch, you ask? Well, you could start by actually broadcasting more than four games per year.

Look, there are always going to be people who complain that there's no hitting so it's not exciting. For those Neanderthals, I give to you the PyeongChang Winter Olympics where that Canada-USA gold medal final not only featured hits like Poulin's to the right, but broke records for the broadcaster. Granted, Canada and the US have a heated and storied rivalry that may go unmatched in women's professional hockey, but even if there was a rivalry like that in professional women's hockey we wouldn't have known about it because Sportsnet broadcasts a mere four games all season long.

As the major broadcast partner for the Canadian pro women's league, why can't Sportsnet work a game into the Hockey Night in Canada scheduling in the afternoon? How hard would it be to go from women's hockey into Rogers Hometown Hockey on Sundays? They play only on the weekends, so it's not like there would be crews crisscrossing the nation in following women's hockey. Outside of Calgary, the entire league is played within a very small area of the continent. If Sportsnet can't send a camera crew down the road to London to broadcast the U SPORTS National Women's Ice Hockey Championship, do they have any right criticizing the two pro women's leagues when they don't send a camera crew to the MasterCard Centre located in Toronto more than twice per year?

You can't throw stones when you live in a glass house, and you as a broadcaster, Sportsnet, have a right to help grow this game. You signed up to broadcast the league's games, yet you do the bare minimum in promoting, marketing, and supporting the Canadian pro league. Until you take a real interest in broadcasting women's hockey at the pro and amateur levels, you have no right in dictating how a couple of leagues that have serious problems between them should be running their businesses.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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