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THN.com Playoff Blog: The troubling fact about NHL coverage

Henrik Zetterberg and the Wings look to knock off the Coyotes in Phoenix when the two faceoff for Game 7 Tuesday night. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Henrik Zetterberg and the Wings look to knock off the Coyotes in Phoenix when the two faceoff for Game 7 Tuesday night. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

It was a furious night of action Monday with two teams eliminated and another pushing its series to a seventh game. And for this weary traveler, it was a merciful reprieve from having to rely on ESPN for my hockey fix. I’m back home just in time.

Last week I was in hot and sunny Curacao – a Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela – for a wedding. Not the best of times for a hockey journalist to leave the comfy confines of home, I know, but somehow I managed to suffer through the beach life, the 90-degree weather and the all-inclusive resort with the 55 or so other wedding guests.

The only real problem I had was ESPN.

The American all-sports channel offered so little hockey coverage it was disheartening. Not that I was going to spend much time in my room, but there were about 15 hardcore Canadian hockey fans on the trip jonesing for some NHL playoff action and we couldn’t even get the previous night’s scores on the crawler.

Good thing there were some 3G phones around to keep us up-to-date on what happened.

What we could get on the tube was wall-to-wall MLB, NBA and even MLS highlights and a weekend of NFL draft coverage – and when I say weekend, I mean an entire weekend. I can’t recall even catching an NHL highlight on SportsCenter. It may have been somewhere, but I wasn’t about to sit in front of the TV all day to find out.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, ESPN and the NHL don’t exactly have a great working relationship. And other than the fact hockey is a sport, there’s no reason for ESPN to promote it.

But the trip drilled home for this Canadian why the NHL must get back on ESPN: it needs the exposure. Sure the cable giant will hold the hammer in any negotiations, but who cares? Every small business – and the NHL is small in the grand scheme of North American sports – is beholden to Big Brother in some way. That is, until that small business becomes big business. That’s just the way the world works.

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So anyway, it’s great to be back to civilization, where on Monday I watched the Canadiens push the Capitals to a Game 7 thanks to the goaltending performance of the year from Jaroslav Halak; the Bruins stun the Sabres and Ryan Miller in six games; and much of a wild and wacky Chicago-Nashville game that included seven first-period goals and the Hawks’ Antti Niemi winning his first playoff series, ever – in Europe or North America.

On Tuesday night I look forward to a Game 7 between Phoenix and Detroit in what, I’m told, has been the best series of the opening round. A coming-out party for the Coyotes? Hard to believe a 100-point team needs a debutante debut, but that’s what this series has been.

I’ll be watching tonight for sure, but I’m just glad to know that if I miss it for whatever reason, I’ll be able to see the highlights first thing in the morning.

THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.

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John Grigg is a copy editor and writer with The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his blog appearing Tuesdays and the Wednesday Top 10.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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