Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Finally A Sports League Has Embraced the Net

As far as I know the NHL is now the first sports league to have games available in full for FREE online. The NHL has partnered with Google Video, who will host the videos. The games will be delayed, posted one to two days later, but the partnership will also have classic games also available. For instance, you can now watch the 1967 Stanley Cup Final between Montreal Canadians and Toronto Maple Leafs, game 5 of the 1991 Western Conference Finals between the Minnesota Northstars and the Edmonton Oilers, or the 1974 Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers.

For myself, as an avid hockey fan, I can now watch Buffalo Sabres games that aren't on Versus (6 games), NBC (1 game), or the CBC (9 games). I can also watch the Chicago Blackhawks now also; I must admit I am quite excited about this not only for myself but for the NHL also. Due to the NHL strike of '04-'05 season, the '05-'06 season saw a lack of television broadcast in the States, and attendence. So with that said anything the NHL can do to boast television coverage, game attendence, and awareness of the sport in the U.S. in particular would be welcome amongst NHL executives, team shareholders, players, and the fans. I can not see this move with Google having any negative effect for the NHL, its teams, and its fans.

I only wish that the NFL, MLB, NBA, and the US soccer league MLS would have their games available for free. Hell I might actually watch a baseball or basketball game if they we're online for free. Having the games for free online would be a great thing for any sport no matter how small the following. For the NFL, MLB, and NBA the following is so big that in reality having the games available for free would most likely not hurt or help them, but for sports such as soccer, rugby, and hockey where the following and awareness is not as broad in the states having games available for free could do nothing but help.

As I watched the MLS Cup Final in Frisco, Texas on ESPN between the Houston Dynamo and the New England Revolution the attendence was at 22,427. This is more than some NFL, MLB, and NBA games, and to think that some people believe that soccer could never succeed in the United States. Soccer is alive and well in the States and can only grow. But like hockey soccer does not have the television broadcast reach like the other major sports leagues. This is where putting your leagues matches free and in full online can truly help you. The reach of the NHL, MLS, and the US Rugby Super League would spread 100 fold if only these leagues can pull their heads out of their ass and embrace the online world. The NHL has done it and I can only hope that the other sports leagues will follow. Hell if we can get them all to do this, the next step is the ability to watch them live from your computer for free.