I begin this week’s column with a confession:
I am a complete geek when it comes to Hockey Night In Canada.
I have the hockey package on DirecTV and look forward every Saturday night to the coverage on HNIC, which is carried in the States on the NHL Network and starts at 6:30pm with the inimitable pre-game show and continues with an early game—usually featuring the Leafs, Canadiens or Senators—which is then often followed by a late game featuring a Canadian team.
I’m usually not home on Saturday nights, most often at one of my son’s games. But I Tivo everything, from 6:30 until past midnight. And when I get home, or on Sunday morning, I go through it all—the panel discussions, Hot Stove, Coach’s Corner, After 40….the whole deal, savoring every minute.
And last Saturday night, during the late game between the Canucks and Blackhawks, I was looking forward to After Hours, the terrific, informal chat with a player after the late game conducted by Scott Oake and Kelly Hrudey. Their guest was going to be Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.
So the game ends. And very soon after the crew signs off, teases After Hours one last time and then kicks it all back to Ron MacLean in the Toronto studio, the unthinkable happens: The whole operation is cut off, the music logo for the NHL Network’s “NHL Tonight” highlights show jarringly appears and suddenly I’m watching highlights of all the games around the league.
OK, I think. After Hours is probably on some other channel on DirecTV. But of course it’s not. And it all makes me wonder why it has to be this way. I mean, if we can watch the pre-game show on HNIC here in the States, why can’t we also watch After Hours?
This isn’t meant to be a knock on the NHL Network and in particular the crew and the highlights and news they deliver every night. They’re great. It’s only an affirmation of what seems to me to be the obvious: Nobody covers hockey quite like HNIC, and Saturday, that night of all nights, nobody in the States should have to wonder (or in my case, worry) that the presentation of the entire broadcast should in any way be compromised.
And while I’m on this soap box, there’s another, related question in need of an answer:
Why are some of the games that are available on other Canadian networks, mostly during the week, oftentimes not in high def? This is not an issue that’s confined to hockey fans here in the States: Earlier this week on NHL Radio I heard a couple of Toronto-based hosts grousing about the fact that many of the games on MSG that air in Canada aren’t in high def either.
Answers coming as soon as possible, although this is a bad week for them: Thanksgiving is here in the States on Thursday. So I’ll get on the case ASAP. In the meantime, Happy Bird Day to everyone.