Opinion: Three Things to Improve on in the next NCAA Hockey TV Deal

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

First and most importantly, congratulations to the Denver Pioneers are in order. They did what very few teams around the country could do this year. They went toe-to-toe against Minnesota State and hung in there until they could find their game. As always the Frozen Four and the NCAA Tournament were superb efforts showcasing 16 teams in this great sport done by ESPN. A lot of things were great this year. For many fans of this sport reuniting Dave Starman and Ben Holden to cover the Albany Regional was probably one of the best ones. There are some things we saw during this tournament, that have us asking, in three years when the new broadcast deal for this tournament starts, what should that include that this one doesn’t?

Keep in mind, that we will not be asked to limit play-by-play announcers. These things center around growing the brand of all teams in the sport throughout the year and amping up those personal stories that America loves to see on the basketball court every time the calendar rolls to March. Also, this game has a passionate group of coaches and alums that should be offered the chance to get more involved with commentary.

National games throughout the year on broadcast media

Why does John Buccigross know the eastern schools and Big 10 schools better than teams in other conference ? ( this isn’t directed to him, using him as an example). He covers the games ESPN has the rights to do which include the Big 10 on occasion, and ECAC hockey. This sport will have at least four other conferences in two years that have things to offer. Does that mean that ESPN needs to send a crew to every Atlantic Hockey or CCHA game? No,!74 does mean that the Worldwide Leader in Sports has a vested long term interest in promoting all of the teams we could see in this tournament. Seeing teams gives announcers and fans familiarity and gives schools more time to talk about themselves. For Division two or three schools with hockey at the top level, this is incredibly important time to promote all things about their school. AIC had a wrestler that became their first three time All American, and one that tied the all time wins record. Jo-Jo Gonzalez could have had better promotion nationally had his Yellow Jackets had some more time on ESPN.

Other schools at AIC’s level have plenty of stories that deserve that air time as well. That repetition builds affinity and draws more people in to find out more about these schools. It also helps analysts and announcers with ESPN go deeper when analyzing teams that they do not see.

Simulcasts for tournament games

ESPN has gotten this right with the Women’s Basketball tournament it holds the rights to. If they could work with schools and analysts if the game in general, we could see “Peyton and Eli” like simulcasts where former players and coaches talk about the game and share stories. Hearing a player like Paul Kariya chat with say, Dave Starman during the game and provide other analysis is a brand builder for this sport. For proof look at how much the Peyton and Eli broadcasts got discussed in media the next day. Is this possible for all games? No it is not. Should it be a part of the Tournament in some way? Yes it should.

All non marquee games available on ESPN Plus

Credit to Hockey East for adding all of their games to the ESPN plus lineup for next season. At the Division One level, College Hockey is still one of the most expensive sports to watch, which turns off causal fans. Two conferences have their game on this service already, the ECAC, and Hockey East as well. The other conferences all have a deal with Flo Sports, or their own TV network with occasional conference games on ESPN. If this sport acted as a collective body with every conference getting a better payout with ESPN plus, this would make the game more accessible and make those tournament wins a more community based experience.

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