After weeks of increasing criticism of ESPN's less-than-comprehensive hockey coverage, the NHL finally made SportsCenter. After a 19-0-3 start, a record, the Chicago Blackhawks have finally become a "sports" thing instead of a hockey thing. But be careful what you wish for: on this morning's SportsCenter, the Blackhawks got their due—with a rant from Stephen A. Smith.
Even worse, the Blackhawks were reduced to their point streak, and jammed into the context of the Miami Heat's 14 straight wins. Here's how you embrace debate: You take two talented teams who play different sports, and instead of breaking down their success, you quantify which is more successful. And you do it by yelling.
Smith gets a lot of things wrong here, like the fact that the NHL hasn't had ties since two lockouts ago. (The fact that he's not interrupted by Sara Walsh, who covered the Capitals on D.C. TV for a few years, just emphasizes that "debate" is actually "monologuing.") Please consider Puck Daddy and Awful Announcing for your "Stephen A. said stupid things" catharsis-reads. Instead, I'll pose a question that's only semi-rhetorical: Why are you watching ESPN for your hockey coverage?
No, seriously, did you flip on SportsCenter expecting to learn something new about the Blackhawks, or for an in-depth examination of Patrick Kane's heroics? And did you think Stephen A. Smith was going to be the guy to deliver? He's a basketball guy; you have an equal chance of Barry Melrose dissecting Ray Allen's PER.
It's a big media world out there, with hundreds of sites catering to every conceivable hockey angle. There's an entire new TV network, with its own morning highlight show, that views the NHL as a fundamental part of its programming. SportsCenter has been very clear on what it is now, and complaining about hockey coverage isn't going to bring about change. It's been years since ESPN lost the NHL TV deal—more than enough time for you, the viewer, to figure this out. You shouldn't need Stephen A. Smith to shout-confirm.
(Here's a dirty little not-so-secret. The shootout is awful, and does cheapen that second point. Unwittingly, SportsCenter getting hockey very, very wrong shows what the average fan knows about the sport, and what they think of the anticlimactic skills competition that follows overtime.)