Hockey fans have always been a slighted bunch when it comes to coverage of their sport. From the lack of highlights on sports shows to the little or no media coverage in certain markets, the "red-headed stepchild syndrome" continually shows up.
That show, however, was on the other foot Tuesday night as Game 2 between the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers was set to begin on Versus in the U.S. at 7 p.m. ET. Leading into the game was the Amgen Tour of California cycling event.
According to the LA Times, the race was two kilometers from finishing when the clock struck 7 p.m. and Versus immediately switched over to hockey, where a pre-game interview was taking place. Cycling fans were left in the dark about who won the race. A crawl was placed on the bottom of the screen alerting viewers they could watch the end of the race on the Versus website. Viewers who didn't get to a computer in time missed Dave Zabriskie edge out Michael Rogers at the finish line in what, by all accounts, was an exciting race overall.
Hockey fans are all too familiar with this situation recalling the 2007 Eastern Conference finals when NBC, to get to pre-race coverage of horse racing's Preakness Stakes, moved the end of Game 5 between the Buffalo Sabres-Ottawa Senators to Versus, leaving many viewers unable to watch the finish.
It was the first time in the five-year history of the Tour of California that it was broadcast live and, as with all race events, there isn't a set end time if you're trying to set your TiVo. The decision by Versus to leave immediately for hockey was a contractual obligation, according to a company spokesperson. Race spokesman Michael Roth blamed rider fatigue from rain in an earlier stage for the slow pace for Tuesday's third stage. The race was replayed on Versus after the Canadiens-Flyers game had ended.
Cycling fans have taken to the Versus website, setting up an online petition in a forum threatening to boycott sponsors and polling readers if the sport should leave the network.
One of the biggest cycling fans that joined the Internet outrage about the slight was Lance Armstrong. The seven-time Tour de France winner took to Twitter Tuesday night and lashed out at Versus' programming decision:
The irony here, as Sports Illustrated's Ann Killion pointed out, is that behind Armstrong's Tour de France domination in the 2000's, the Outdoor Life Network (now Versus) became known.
This comes two days after Versus stayed long with post-race coverage that bled into the beginning of Game 1 of the Canadiens and Flyers. No game action was missed, but Versus obviously heard from upset viewers and stuck by its contractual obligation with the NHL. As Travis Hughes of SB Nation pointed out Wednesday, Stage 5 of the Tour of California is scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m. ET on Versus with Game 3 of Canadiens-Flyers set for 7 p.m. ET. Will Armstrong launch an Allan Walsh-esque Twitter tirade if coverage is cut short again?