As puckheads, we've read Mike Freeman's column for CBS Sports before. We read it every postseason. It's some version of the following:
"Hey, didja know the Stanley Cup Playoffs are actually more entertaining than the NBA Playoffs!? But since they don't have strong television ratings, it means no one cares. So despite my having just written how dramatic and compelling the current product is, the NHL needs to change everything because American audiences like scoring. You know, like Kobe does."
This Freeman piece -- titled "Olympic-sparked boost nonexistent as NHL toils in anonymity" -- reads like a Mad-Libs of mainstream sports columnist sloth when it comes to hockey. We have:
Validation of Hockey's Unpopularity by Comparison to Other Cable Programming: Freeman writes that most hockey playoff games "get beat by cable reruns of 'Mr. Belvedere' and 'Homeboys in Outer Space,'" and that SpongeBob SquarePants had triple the viewers, so the NHL was beaten by a cartoon. So was CBS's "Face The Nation" on Sunday morning, by the way. So Squidward > Bob Schieffer.
Validation of Hockey's Unpopularity by Comparison to the NBA: We'd love to read a general columnist's dissection of the NHL's approach to television, presentation of the game and integration of new technologies. But that discussion is nuanced and Freeman prefers easier discourse; like stating cable ratings for NBA playoff games and dismissing hockey's television challenges in the U.S. with, "There are various reasons why casual sports fans don't watch the NHL and they've all been stated before." They have, just not here.
Hey, here's one, just for giggles: Canadian ratings don't count in the Nielsens, and three of the NHL's most popular franchises on television (Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals) faced Canadian teams. A vital detail that needed to be included in any salient discussion of hockey playoff ratings? Sure, though apparently not as vital as a "Homeboys from Outer Space" reference.
If Only the NHL Were More Like the Olympics: This is usually the Michael Wilbon plan of attack. It ignores the fact that, as we've written, there are Olympic Hockey Fans and then there are NHL Fans, and anyone paying attention knew there wasn't an "Olympic ratings bump" anticipated by the league, USA Hockey or hockey fans. It also ignores the fact that the Olympics are an all-star tournament held every four years, with a championship round that's a series of Game 7s. Not exactly the NHL's business model.
No mention of crossover stars like Crosby and Ovechkin in Freeman's column. No mention of the legitimate ratings growth from Alabama to San Diego. No mention of local impact or anything alt-media, because apparently national television ratings are the arbiter of cool. Along with national sports columnists.
Stick-tap to Kukla for the link.