I was rummaging through my mail last night and I almost spit out the red wine I was drinking when I saw that ESPN The Magazine actually put the NHL on the cover of their latest issue. Now let me tell you that I have been a subscriber to The Mag for almost 4 years - mostly due to these shady automatic renewals - and I have seen hockey grace the cover maybe 3 or 4 times in that span. If you aren't familiar with The Mag, they release issues bi-weekly, otherwise known as 26 issues a year. For those of you who suck at math that's 3-4 hockey covers out of 104 issues. Pathetic!
You've read on this site before that I think hockey coverage in the States is weak, well the way ESPN covers hockey is in a class of its own....very much a lower class of its own....meaning it's pretty much nonexistent. So you can imagine why I was pleasantly surprised to find out that The Mag had dedicated approximately 25 pages of the 128 page issue to hockey.
After reading the magazine cover to cover, I have five Pinot Noir influenced suggestions to help ESPN cover hockey better. 5. Get rid of Barry Melrose. Melrose couldn't hack it as a coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning and he feuded with budding star Steven Stamkos in that short lived process. He's too far removed from the game and his ridiculous haircuts do nothing to grow the sport beyond those who think hockey is only appreciated by Canadian farm boys. ESPN, please bring someone in who can better explain the X's and O's of hockey in an interesting and meaningful way. Finding a hockey figure in the same light as John Gruden would do wonders for the advanced hockey viewer. My suggestion? Wait till Tortorella is evenutally fired...
4. Hire Greg Wyshynski away from Yahoo Sports.
ESPN wisely milked Bill Simmons’ knowledge of basketball and his perfection at using relatable metaphors for all his worth. It’s time for the Worldwide Leader In Sports to bleed someone else for a while and why not that someone be Greg Wyshynski? He’s the only hockey blogger I can think of - aside from yours truly - who can successfully mesh hockey coverage and humor together in one column. Greg, feel free to invite me to your first ESPN podcast.
3. Get an NHL Player to contribute to the anonymous Player X Columns.
This is my only suggestion for ESPN The Magazine itself. For those of you who haven't read The Mag, ESPN recruited an anonymous football player and an anonymous baseball player to write about life in the pros. They cover everything from money, to women, to grueling training camps and it never disappoints. Well it never used to disappoint until they enlisted an anonymous NASCAR driver to talk about what it's like driving around in circles for a living...ZZzzz. Sorry I just fell asleep, what was I saying? Oh yes, the Player X Columns... Please hire Sean Avery to tell us what it's like to make millions playing hockey while having NYC as his playground. Oh and if he can toss in some "anonymous" stories about the joys of punking Martin Brodeur, bashing his ex-girlfriends to the media, and setting locker rooms on fire that would be an interesting read too.
2. Outbid Versus for the TV rights to the NHL.
This is just too obvious. I don’t really need to talk about this at length do I? Didn’t think so… But while you’re at it, you can outbid NBC too. This way a Game 5 of the Stanley Cup will never be pre-empted by horse racing coverage ever again. I still haven’t gotten over that.
1. Rotate Erin Andrews out of College Football and back into NHL coverage.
College Football is to the NFL as the American Hockey League is to the NHL, at least when it comes to those with potential vs. those who are at their pinnacle. Let's face it, no one really gave a sh*t about College Football until Erin Andrews came around. Yeah you always had national love for Penn State, Notre Dame, and Michigan (your welcome kido), but Oklahoma, Boise State, and West Virginia? C'mon man.
National TV viewers couldn't point these places out on a map let alone follow their College Football teams until Erin Andrews came around. Between her in-depth interviews, her breathtaking knowledge of all things sports, her incredible passion for…oh whatever just get her back to the hockey rink. You want to grow hockey down South with all the frat boys? Yoink, she’s your answer.
All kidding aside, it’s on you ESPN to help grow the game of hockey in the United States. Lord knows the NHL still hasn’t figured it out yet…