I’ve been watching a lot of the NHL Network lately—and I have to say that it is freaking fantastic. (I just recently started watching it after upgrading my cable package.) What sets them apart is how they show highlights. Most of the time on “NHL Tonight” or “NHL on the Fly” the highlights are played without any annoying voice-overs and without any background music. IMAGINE THAT! Sports highlights without any techno music! ESPN not only has loud shitty music but they also have fifteen people talking over the highlights and as many graphics, captions and crawls as they can fit on the screen. OH PLEASE RAPE ALL MY SENSES WHY DON’T YOU? On the NHL Network highlight shows, the focus is on the actual on-ice action. The only voices you hear over the highlights are those of the actual in-game announcers recorded during the game. Hockey has the best announcers too since the action is fairly fast-paced and non-stop so there is little time for banter and stupid inane comments. Unfortunately, though, sometimes NHL Tonight does revert to the ESPN formula and the hosts provide commentary over the highlights and they play music too—but they don’t do it often and I think it’s only with the later showings. (I don’t know why they do it at all and I certainly hope they don’t make a habit of it.) In addition to highlights, NHL Tonight also offers frequent “Live Look-Ins” on current games for several minutes at a time. It is by far the best nightly sports show.
Another great offering on the NHL Network is the weekly ”Best of” show where they rank the 10 best goals, saves and hits of the week. Great stuff and they wrap it up in a tight 30 minutes. I also liked the “10 Best Rivalries” feature that I recently watched. (Not sure when it originally aired but it may have been a couple years old. Pens/Flyers were 9th and Pens/Capitals were 5th. Montreal/Boston was number 1.) Unlike the music video format that the NFL Network uses with their “Top 10” shows, the NHL Network’s “10 Best Rivalries” did not feature lots of irrelevant talking heads and annoying graphics but instead used lots of game footage and player interviews. I look forward to more of their “10 Best” fare. From what I’ve seen with the NHL Network so far, they are less about noise and distractions like the other sports networks and more dedicated to preserving the excitement that the game already inherently provides.
By the way, I don’t completely hate the NFL Network. I will always stop and watch anytime they show an episode of “America’s Game”. I even watch the ones for teams that I hate like the’ 95 Cowboys that beat the Steelers in Super Bowl 30. Why did they interview their PR guy Rich Dalrymple for that one, though? Was everybody else on that team in prison when they filmed? Anyway, great series. I also pretty much watch any replay of old Steeler games and I watch a lot of the NFL Replays that air midseason. Also, I do like when Deadspin’s Drew Magary or Pittsburgh’s own Mark Madden appear on the NFL Network’s “Top 10” shows, but those two are the rare exceptions. The format of that show is terrible and the NFL is way overpaying the network’s chief executive, Steve Bornstein, at $12.2 Million per year. They obviously have money to burn. All he did was try to be as much like ESPN as possible. As for ESPN, the “30 for 30” documentaries are usually fantastic. “The Real Rocky” is one of my favorites as is the OJ one and the one on “the U”. Everything else on ESPN is garbage except Monday Night Football but they do their best to try to ruin that too.
I’ll be interested in seeing the NHL Network’s offseason programming. Do they have their own documentary style shows? Classic footage? Gratuitous nudity? I just hope they continue to remain unique and steer clear of the disaster that ESPN has become. The one downside I have noticed with the NHL Network, though, is the lack of programming. They tend to repeat stuff like 80 times in a row because they just don’t have a lot of shows right now. I plan to watch the shit out of it during the playoffs, though. GO PENS!
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