By Andrew McGilligan
The rumour of replacement NHL players has been batted about in the past few days. Would NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman try this tactic? Would fans pay to watch players from various minor pro leagues in Europe and North America take to the ice as NHL players?
The answer to the first is probably. Bettman doesn’t have much to lose from a negotiating standpoint of exploring the replacement player option. However, the second question should get a resounding ‘No.’
This is Canada, do you have any idea how much hockey you can watch even with the NHL players being locked out. There’s the AHL, which will contain many NHL players this season, major junior hockey, CIS hockey, not to mention the countless minor hockey games that will be played at local arenas.
If you absolutely need a fix of pro hockey, ESPN has reportedly signed a deal to air some KHL games and there’s rumours a Canadian broadcaster will follow suit. Let ESPN do what it wants, but there’s no need for a Canadian company to do the same. What this presents is a golden opportunity for the folks at Sportsnet who already broadcast CHL games and cover the CIS championship tournament every year.
Before I continue, I need to point out that I don’t know the specifics of the contracts between the broadcaster, the CHL and CIS.
That being said, it’s hard to believe your average hockey fan wouldn’t tune into midweek games and weekend action from these leagues should Sportsnet provide it. For fans of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, a professional broadcast compared to the quality offered up by the feeds from the league would be greatly appreciated.
As for the CIS, it’s a great brand of hockey that wouldn’t hurt from some more exposure. Another option is for The Score to broadcast more NCAA hockey games. You can catch a game every once in a while on The Score from the American collegiate ranks and see some future NHL stars taking part. Once again, a good brand of hockey that’s definitely worth watching.
We don’t need replacement players, what we need is to shift our focus to some other leagues. The NHL isn’t playing, leaving a vast frozen tundra devoid of televised hockey. But we’re Canadian, you give us a vast frozen tundra, someone will play hockey on it.
Image via NHL Snipers