Yesterday it was announced that our friends south of the border (unless you’re from the States and reading this now. In which case, you) will have the opportunity to tune in for some KHL action on ESPN3 as early as, well, now. Apparently this will bring the KHL in to something like 70 million homes in the U.S.
Naturally, you’re thinking "when are they going to get something going in Canada?", and while it’s been reported that the KHL is working on striking a deal here in the north, answers may be hard to come by.
When the NHLPA was rumored to be looking at international events and whatnot as sort of a way to continue showcasing their players, the issue came up as to who could broadcast it. If there was a new Russia-Canada series set up for, say, November, what major carrier would go near it? TSN and CBC would both be in a tough spot. And I think the same rules apply to a potential KHL deal.
I don’t want to get in to it too much, because you’ve likely read it elsewhere, but the short of it is neither of the big two—CBC and TSN—will want to piss off the NHL with Hockey Night in Canada potentially up for the bidding in 2015. Rogers (Sportsnet and now The Score) are believed to make a big push for Saturday night hockey as well.
So how much any of these companies want to air KHL games with NHLPA players in the spotlight is up in the air, unless they feel that HNiC is only about money and it’s possible to burn that bridge and still snatch it up from CBC. Either way, I think you can take CBC’s horse out of the KHL race. They’ll want to be loyal to NHL.
With all that out of the way, another big question remains: Will we even want to watch? The KHL is hockey, but it isn’t close the NHL in terms of on ice product, and we’ll find that out quickly. But it is hockey, so I think it will definitely have the big sports fans, the bloggers and writers, the folks who rant about hockey on twitter, all tuning in to check it out. Not to mention fans of NHL teams who want to see how their favorite players are doing. Leafs fans will watch for Kulemin and Grabovski, Caps fans for Ovechkin, that sort of thing.
So yeah, I think we’ll watch. A fair amount of us, anyway.
The timezone thing will throw a big wrench in to it all, but there’s PVR, and I’m guessing if a network picks up these games, they’ll show them on delay to maximize viewship anyway. If , for example, TSN bites and takes this on, it would make sense to throw a KHL game on TSN2 at night so we can plunk our asses on the couch after work and enjoy it properly.
Ratings probably won’t be the greatest, because I’m not sure how much interest there would be from casual NHL fans. And even the hardcores seem to have focused on other things. Personally, my main focus will be on the AHL this year, given that we have the IceCaps. Others are looking to get more out of junior hockey than they have in the past, and so on.
While I don’t think we’ll go crazy for KHL hockey, when we grab a beer from the fridge and see it on the channel guide, we’ll have to check it out. I guess we’ll see whether it can eventually rake in our interest and have us talking at the water coolers, or if it just turns out to be background noise while we discuss how much better the NHL is.