Biringer: Time Is Right To Grow Women’s Hockey On Television

Biringer: Time Is Right To Grow Women’s Hockey On Television
March 22, 2020

With the sport of women’s hockey gaining so much traction over the past year, we can’t let these players fade from our minds.  It is a shame that this year’s IIHF Women’s World Championships got cancelled because of the coronavirus. The stage was set for another classic tournament featuring Team USA and Canada. The only way to keep women’s hockey relevant is to have it on television. Considering there are no sports on television for fans to watch, this is a perfect time and opportunity to expose those who have not seen women’s hockey to the great game. Not to mention what an opportunity this is to grow the game.

Sports fans are in need of a distraction from the real world of the coronavirus. But instead of the networks showing women’s hockey, they are showing re-runs of past games. Mostly these reruns are of men’s sports. For example, ESPN had a college basketball marathon, but only showed two women’s games. On top of that, they were at odd times. Not to mention on Sunday, ESPN is bringing back ESPN ‘The Ocho.’ While this is a fun concept once a year to watch, the spot could have been used to promote women’s hockey and other women’s sports.

During the last two stops of the PWHPA Dream Gap Tour, ESPN streamed the event. While those events happened on ESPN+, the network could have used that footage on the main network or even ESPN2 to expose those that do not have an ESPN+ account. Not to mention when ESPN first started out they use to show all different kinds of sports. Imagine the growth of women’s hockey if ESPN showed the Philadelphia and Tempe Dream Gap Tour Stops? Please do not take this as a knock on ESPN, but for a network that claims to be the “Worldwide Leader in Sports”, they are coming up short in that department.

That brings us to NBC/NBC Sports Network, the official broadcast partner of the National Hockey League in the United States. With no NHL hockey, as the season has been suspended due to COVID-19, the network will be giving hockey fans their fix this upcoming week with Hockey Week in America on NBCSN. The network will be running 12 hours of hockey programming March 23rd through March 26th from 3 p.m through 3 a.m. From March 27th through March 29th, the network will showcase seven hours of hockey programming in primetime from 8 p.m. through 3 a.m. They will be reliving some of the top games and moments from the last decade from Stanley Cup clinchers, Game 7 overtime thrillers, outdoor games, Olympic hockey moments, and the very best of the Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

On that Friday schedule, which features Olympic hockey moments, the network will feature one women’s hockey game, while they show three men’s hockey games. The game NBCSN is showing is the 2018 Women’s Olympic Gold Medal game that saw Team USA defeat Canada to win their first gold medal since 1998. But instead of being on at 8 p.m. the game comes on at 10 p.m. That is not right at all. For a network that on International Women’s Day had an all-female crew broadcast and call the game between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks on March 8th, maybe they can do more to promote the women’s game.

While I understand the importance of the Golden Goal, and while it was a great game, that was a Canadian hockey moment. And yes it was fun to see T.J. Oshie score multiple goals in the shootout against Russia. Team USA did not win either tournament. For an American network, they should be showing American Olympic moments. Outside of the 2018 Women’s gold medal, how about air the 1998 Women’s Gold Medal Game that saw Team USA capture the very first gold medal at the Olympics in the sport of women’s ice hockey. Not to mention the footage from the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition that saw the best players from Team USA and Canada square off in a 3-on-3 game.

And finally, what about the NHL Network? Throughout the years, NHL Network has shown the Women’s World Hockey Championships. Instead of showing classic series or Stanley Cup Winning games, they should dive into their archive and pull out games from this past year’s Rivalry Series that saw Team USA defeat Canada. All those games were exciting to watch, not to mention the game in Anaheim set the record for largest crowd to watch a women’s hockey game.

These networks can be doing more to promote and grow the game of women’s hockey, especially in a time when there are no sports being played. Women’s hockey can’t fade into the rearview just because their season is over. While I understand the networks need to appease their fanbase, the opportunity is right there for them to do the right thing and give women’s hockey the stage it deserves.