The great series that nobody is watching


Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins are currently playing to the best of their abilities in a matchup hockey buffs have dreamed about. Problem is, not many people are aware of it and if they are, they’ll have trouble finding the games as they are on the Versus network.

It’s a once-in-a-decade duel — the kind of rare treat that somehow exceeds the hype. So tonight, tune into channel 603, and catch the last game of an instant classic.

That’s right: channel 603, square in television’s Yukon Territory. Since the hockey playoffs are on Versus, formerly known as the Outdoor Life Network, viewers in many markets will have to search the hinterland of channel listings in order to watch the games. Versus is channel 603 on DirectTV, and its placement isn’t pretty on cable, either. On Time Warner Cable’s Los Angeles system, it’s channel 267; in New York, Cablevision puts Versus on channel 146; and in Dallas, Versus gets prime position on channel 254. Of the nation’s 115 million television households, some 40 million do not even get Versus.

The series is drawing a smaller audience than last year’s College Baseball World Series, on ESPN, when it averaged 1.4 million viewers. On May 8, only 647,000 viewers tuned into Game 4 of Penguins-Capitals, making it the 81st highest-rated program on cable that night. The Crosby-Ovechkin dream duel clocked in behind both a Batman episode on the Cartoon Network (1.5 million viewers), and a “Reba” rerun on Lifetime (930,000). The Los Angeles Lakers-Houston Rockets NBA playoff game on ESPN, with nearly 6 million viewers, came in first. The May 9 NASCAR Sprint Cup race, a regular season affair, drew 7.5 times more viewers than Game 5 — an overtime thriller — shown the same night on Versus.

I remember when I was completely out of the hockey loop last year. I knew that the playoffs were on and but I didn’t have much interest in watching. Then one day I literally got lost in the hundreds of channels that we received and somehow landed on this station called Versus. Turns out, the Sharks vs. Stars series was on and I stuck around. I had never heard of the network. Even in all the sports reading I did and in watching other sports, I never saw an advertisement for Versus.

I know what channel the network is on now, of course. It’s just a shame really since these playoffs have actually been fairly exciting. I’m not sure how much of a financial success the NHL was this year but I’m sure it didn’t do horrible. Regardless, here’s hoping Versus puts more money into their public relations department as Crosby and Ovechkin are reasons enough to watch.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Couch Potato Alert: 5/8

The plot thickens in the ever changing world of the NBA playoffs, and several scenarios could play out this weekend. Will KG play or not? Celtic management has repeatedly stated that Kevin Garnett will not see action in this playoff season. Okay, then why hasn’t he had surgery to repair the knee and begin rehab for next season? Please Kobe, don’t let Ron Artest crawl inside your head because he will do damage. Just play your game and get ready for the inevitable showdown with King James in the Finals.

All times ET…

NBA Playoffs
Fri, 7 PM: Boston Celtics @ Orlando Magic (ESPN)
Fri, 9:30 PM: Los Angeles Lakers @ Houston Rockets (ESPN)
Sat, 5 PM: Denver Nuggets @ Dallas Mavericks (ESPN)
Sat, 8 PM: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Atlanta Hawks (ABC)
Sun, 3:30 PM: Los Angeles Lakers @ Houston Rockets (ABC)
Sun, 8 PM: Boston Celtics @ Orlando Magic (TNT)

NHL Playoffs
Fri, 7 PM: Washington Capitals @ Pittsburgh Penguins (Versus)
Sat, 7 PM: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Washington Capitals (Versus)
Sun, 7:30 PM: Carolina Hurricanes @ Boston Bruins (Versus)

Sat, 3:40 PM: Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox (Fox)
Sun., 12:30 PM: Atlanta Braves @ Philadelphia Phillies (TBS)
Sun., 8 PM: Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox (ESPN)

Ovechkin and Crosby begin playoff duel, two teams also play hockey

The NHL is banking a lot on the appeal of the series that started yesterday with a 3-2 win for the Washington Capitals over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The reason, of course, is the presence on the ice of the league’s two current marquee players: Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.

– Brian Anders over at THE LOVE OF SPORTS has an opinion a bit less excited than I think the NHL hoped to elicit:

Look at the major sports. With the exception of the NBA, which has an infinitesimal roster, dream matchups involve teams typically in big markets. The NBA thrives on LeBron v. Kobe, because with only five on the floor and seven on the bench, the superstars will go mano-a-mano for the majority of the game.

With 1:30 to 2:00 shifts and four forward lines, star hockey players go toe-to-toe a lot less often in the course of an NHL game. In fact, over the course of a seven-game series, the stars will actually face off less than the stars do in just one NBA game.

Well, I’d say that mathematically speaking, it’s true that face-to-face play time is greater in the NBA than a lot of other sports. But that’s certainly not true for individual sports like tennis or boxing, is it? There’s no way we can compare them to the NHL or NBA, they aren’t even team sports. It’s the nature of the beast that team sports don’t have common individual match-ups.

And that statement right there is also why I’m not entirely comfortable with the comparison Mr. Anders makes. I can’t say it’s wrong, but I won’t say it’s right either. Sure, I gotta admit that some of my favorite basketball games have been duels between opposing players, Jordan vs. Magic or even Jordan/Pippen on Malone/Stockton (guess where my loyalties lie yet?) come to mind quite readily, but even those match-ups were won based on the performances of players in general, not entirely on their crushing of each other.

The NFL’s most popular players, to draw on a new example, are by and large the quarterbacks. So it’s basically impossible for them to ever truly play facemask to facemask. We judge them on their individual stats and their ability to help their team win. Works pretty well for the NFL.

I don’t see that hockey should be particularly different. As a team sport, its raison d’etre is pitting one team against another. I’m excited to see how this series continues because I won’t to know who’s going to help their team out more. Furthermore, the sport does allow for frequent individual acts of brilliance. Just because Ovechkin and Crosby might not both be on the ice at once all the time does nothing to detract from the incredible plays they are capable of making whenever they play.

They both scored a goal in Game 1. Let’s hope that tally only increases over the course of the series. It’s a shame I can’t watch the game without some serious cable TV, but that’s another post by itself…

Couch Potato Alert: 5/1

The NBA and NHL playoffs are heating up, as the Boston Celtics/Chicago Bulls series could go down as maybe the best first round series ever. The Detroit Red Wings will again battle the Anaheim Ducks, who have defeated them in consecutive playoff series. They defeated the Red Wings in the 2003 Western Conference quarterfinals, it marked the first time since 1952 that a defending Stanley Cup champion was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

All times ET…

NBA Playoffs
Fri, 8 PM: Atlanta Hawks @ Miami Heat (ESPN)
Sat, 8 PM: Chicago Bulls @ Boston Celtics (TNT)
Sun, 1 PM: Miami Heat @ Atlanta Hawks* if necessary (ABC)
Sun, 3:30 PM: Dallas Mavericks @ Denver Nuggets (ABC)

NHL Playoffs
Fri, 7 PM: Anaheim Ducks @ Detroit Red Wings (Versus)
Sat, 1PM: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Washington Capitals (NBC)
Sat, 9 PM: Chicago Blackhawks @ Vancouver Canucks (Versus)
Sun, 2 PM: Anaheim Ducks @ Detroit Red Wings (NBC)
Sun, 7:30 PM: Carolina Hurricanes @ Boston Bruins (Versus)

Sat, 3:40 PM: New York Mets @ Philadelphia Phillies (Fox)
Sun., 1:30 PM: Boston Red Sox @ Tampa Bay Rays (TBS)
Sun., 8 PM: Chicago White Sox @ Texas Rangers (ESPN)

Sat, 9 PM: Ricky Hatton vs. Manny Pacquiao for the world junior welterweight title from Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena (HBO PPV)

Horse Racing
Sat, 4 PM: Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.(NBC)

Couch Potato Alert: 4/24

The Detroit Lions are now on the clock.

Well, they have been on the clock since the first week of preseason. The unofficial kickoff to the upcoming football season is here, as the 2009 NFL Draft will be the highlight event of the weekend. Your mock draft is due prior to the start of the draft. So be sure to cram in every player’s 40 yard time and wonderlic score during an all-night study session tonight. And if you want to play a good drinking game on Saturday, take a sip when Mel Kiper says “that was a value pick” or “he was the best player available.” I guarantee you will pass out halfway through the first round.

All times ET…

Sat, 4 PM: 2009 NFL Draft (ESPN/ESPN2/NFL Network)
Sun, 10 AM: 2009 NFL Draft (ESPN/NFL Network)

NBA Playoffs
Fri, 7 PM: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Detroit Pistons (ESPN)
Fri, 8 PM: Orlando Magic @ Philadelphia 76ers (ESPN2)
Fri, 9:30 PM: Portland Trail Blazers @ Houston Rockets (ESPN)
Sat, 1 PM: Denver Nuggets @ New Orleans Hornets (ESPN)
Sat, 4 PM: San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks (TNT)
Sat, 6:30 PM: Atlanta Hawks @ Miami Heat (TNT)
Sat, 9 PM: Los Angeles Lakers @ Utah Jazz (ESPN)
Sun, 1 PM: Boston Celtics @ Chicago Bulls (ABC)
Sun, 3:30 PM: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Detroit Pistons (ABC)
Sun, 6:30 PM: Orlando Magic @ Philadelphia 76ers (TNT)
Sun, 9 PM: Portland Trail Blazers @ Houston Rockets (TNT)

NHL Playoffs
Fri, 7 PM: New York Rangers @ Washington Capitals (Versus)
Sat, 1 PM: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Philadelphia Flyers (NBC)
Sat, 10 PM: Anaheim Ducks @ San Jose Sharks (Versus)
Sun, 2 PM: Washington Capitals @ New York Rangers*if necessary (NBC)
Sun, TBD: New Jersey Devils @ Carolina Hurricanes (Versus)

Sat, 4:10PM: New York Yankees @ Boston Red Sox (Fox)
Sun., 12 PM: Philadelphia Phillies @ Florida Marlins (TBS)
Sun., 8 PM: New York Yankees @ Boston Red Sox (ESPN)

Related Posts