That was one tremendous hockey game. Preliminary Olympic round or not, USA-Canada tonight was as thrilling as hockey gets, period. As much as I miss the old amateurs-vs.-professionals set-up that brought such joy in 1980, there's nothing like seeing the world's best go at it on the Olympic stage. Besides, with the USSR gone, sending a bunch of US college kids to take on other nations' pros would be no fun, anyway.
So, you did see the game, right? Three periods of furious, physical, fast hockey played with the kind of passion that even the Stanley Cup finals sometimes have trouble producing... You caught that, didn't you? No? Well, if you didn't, it was probably because NBC chose to bury the game on MSNBC--a "network" that I thought had ceased to exist and that I definitely don't get in high-definition.
Oh, Russia vs. Czech Republic was on live in HD on NBC this afternoon. But tonight, in prime time on a Sunday, NBC decided to go with taped replays of skiing, bobsledding and...well, I don't know what else because I watched the hockey game. I guess NBC switched to USA-Canada late in the game, but I didn't know that happened because...I was watching the game on MSNBC!
All this was tonight was Canada, the nation that created hockey, playing against the US, the nation that stole the game from the True North and overshadows Canada globally in just about every way possible. (By the way, I really like Canada, so that's not a shot at our northern neighbor--or neighbour, as the case may be.) All this was tonight was a battle on the ice not only for hockey supremacy but for the heart of Canada, which beats in rinks from St. John's to Victoria. And the US won, despite a furious fight from the home country's team.
NBC, however, decided that replaying Bode Miller's gold-medal run (what's the obsession with that guy, anyway?) and a bunch of other stuff that happened hours before it all aired would be better for ratings and advertising than broadcasting a marquee game in a marquee Olympic sport that did, let's not forget, provide us 30 years ago with the greatest moment in sports history.
Hey, NBC, today was Sunday. Most people don't work on Sunday. They could have watched Bode live if they'd wanted to. What they could not have done, however, was watch one of the biggest events of the Olympics live unless they had (and could find) MSNBC--and, even then, they (as I did) probably got the game in less-than-stunning standard definition.
NBC, you show NHL games on Sunday afternoons, and you do pretty well with the Winter Classic every year. Well, preliminary-round game or not, tonight's match-up was about a thousand times more important and thrilling than the Winter Classic was (and that's saying something coming from a Bruins fan), never mind a run-of-the-mill NHL game. Would prime-time Olympic hockey really have destroyed what have been thus far massive ratings for the Games? Or would it have boosted them even more?
Maybe this is why I'm not a TV executive, but I just can't understand why USA-Canada wasn't on the mother ship in high-def and in prime time. Bad show, NBC. You'd better hope that the US and Canada meet in the medal round because the kind of sport spectacle I watched tonight is rare and enthralling indeed. It deserves better than the dregs of basic cable.
A postscript: On the late-night show, NBC is now treating this game as if it was a massive event--which it was. Too bad it didn't merit prime-time coverage on the big network. Also, why is Cris Collinsworth commenting on hockey? Were there no former hockey players available? Granted, Jeremy Roenick and Mike Milbury have been a disaster on CNBC, especially since Milbury constantly picks fights with Roenick.
But Collinsworth? He's trying, but he knows nothing about hockey. He keeps comparing Jim Craig in 1980 to Ryan Miller tonight. Hey, Cris, Craig was a college goaltender in 1980. Miller is one of the best goaltenders in the world, an NHL star. Nice try, but the comparison isn't working. And NBC--really, you can do better. Andy Brickley has a few weeks off, and he's the best in the business. Plus, who wouldn't love to hear Jack Edwards blatantly cheer for the US? If only, NBC. If only.