NHL fans with digital cable rejoice: The NHL Network has its annual fall free preview until October 31. (Channel 110 on Videotron Illico, 421 on ExpressVu and 465 on StarChoice)
For the unfamiliar, NHL Network is a TSN-run station that carries nothing but NHL hockey coverage, with classic games, analysis shows, highlight reels and game recaps (with “NHL on the Fly”, the recaps happen as the games are still going on). It includes everything you’d expect from such a network, except for live games.
Unfortunately, the NHL Network is a victim of exclusivity contracts. First comes CBC with Saturday night Leafs games and most of the playoffs, then comes TSN with major games during the week and the rest of the playoff games. Then comes Rogers SportsNet with games in their markets (Senators, Flames, Oilers and Canucks) and by the time they’re done NHL Network is left with about 40 games in the entire season, of which none involves a Canadian team.
So remind me again why anyone would pay to have this channel on their lineup?
Anyway, enjoy the free preview.
UPDATE (Dec. 1): The network is apparently getting some success in the U.S., which is making some down there wonder how many die-hards there really are.
Maybe if they were to rework the marketing and call them selves The NHL Classic Network they could sell the concept, but as it is, no, not for money, without live games of interest.
I can see it now:
The Re-Run Sports Network! See great games of the past in all their amazing predictable glory!
Will DirecTV, Comcast, or Dish Network carry the channel?
Supposedly yes. A U.S. version of the network, which has the same programming but different games (thanks to different national exclusivity contracts), was supposed to launch this month. It’s owned by Comcast, so supposedly they’d have the channel on their cable lineups. Dish Network is also supposed to be carrying the network on channel 403.
A couple of things here:
1-CBC gets English-language Canadian exclusivity on Saturday nights. Meaning that if a team in English Canada is playing on Saturday and the Ceeb decides not to pick it up, you can’t see it. It’s not just the Leafs that they have that deal for.
2-TSN (I think) gets English Canadian broadcast exclusivity on Wednesday nights, meaning that with maybe a few exceptions, Rogers Sportsnet gets nothing that night, even locally.
3-Ever watched ESPN Classic (Canada)? There is a base of people out there that love it. I’m not one of them, but I admit that if I’m passing by and they’re showing a game featuring one of the all-time greats who played before my time, I’ll stop for a few minutes at least. The other day, they showed the famous 1975 New Year’s Eve game between the Habs and the Soviet Red Army, considered by many to be the greatest single hockey game ever played. There’s some value in that. Similarly, if I happened across Dennis Martinez’s perfect game, I could see myself watching that from start to finish.