The Critical 'I'

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Sunday, November 16, 2003

THE LAST DAYS OF THE NHL ON ESPN
movin' on
Tonight on ESPN2, the World Series of Poker will be telecast from 7PM to 10PM Eastern time, basically as an ESPN alternative to the NFL Sunday Night Football game on the mothership. This, despite there being an NHL game tonight starting at 8PM, and a Sunday night hockey game has been a standard for the last few years of the NHL on ESPN. Not only that, but it's St. Louis at Anaheim, a game that's seemingly tailor-made on the schedule to be a national ESPN2 broadcast, as parent company Disney tends to broadcast games involving their wholly-owned (for now) Mighty Ducks as much as possible.

I know the TV schedules are set months in advance, so the lineup for tonight wasn't a recent decision. Still, I think it speaks volumes that pucks are being pushed aside for chips tonight:

- The ratings for hockey are still low-low-low, while the World Series of Poker has been a surprising ratings bonanza; so do the math.

-There's a certain ignominity in a sporting event being pushed aside for a non-sporting event (that's not necessarily a slight against the World Series of Poker, but note that even ESPN slots it under the ESPN Original Entertainment umbrella, where the network's non-pure sporting events go.

- This being the last year of the NHL's broadcast deal with Disney (which encompasses mainly ESPN/ESPN2, with ABC broadcasts mainly in the postseason), a move like this tells me that this marriage is over after the season. (Hello, NHL on NBC?)

Update: Looks like the broadcasting schedule was out of date, to the chagrin of poker spectator fans. The World Series of Poker is nowhere to be seen on the ESPN networks tonight; instead, the Deuce is showing men's tennis. Either way, it ain't hockey, meaning there's nothing for me.