[OFB note: This Sunday morning’s cup-a-joe is provided by Dan Schutte, news anchor at the Charlottesville, Virginia, Newsplex — CBS 19 — and studio colleague of our Tara Wheeler. In addition to being a Minnesota native and devoted skater of the State of Hockey’s ponds and lakes as a youth, Dan hosts a feature segment on his station’s broadcasts called ‘Make Dan Sweat.’ Next month he’s lacing up his skates and challenging Tara in a shootout, with the TV cameras chronicling.]
Greetings OFB readers. My colleague Tara Wheeler introduced me to OFB earlier this season, and I really enjoy following it — makes me feel like a bit of frozen Minnesota is with me each morning during the day’s first cup-a-joe. I did grow up in Minnesota playing outdoor hockey. Nothing ever organized, mostly on the outdoor rinks. A couple of my friends and I would play 2-3 nights a week. Because hockey is such a great workout, I used it to keep my weight in check for wrestling. It was a great way to get outside, skate, have some fun, and work out at the same time.
As for the Caps, I started following them in 1996. I was in D.C. to attend American University, and it was right after the North Stars left for Dallas(I’m still angry about that, by the way). In 1996, our strength coach for the AU wrestling team was the assistant strength coach for the Caps(guy named Jim Fox). He would help me get interviews with the Caps for my journalism classes. In fact, Dale Hunter was the first pro athlete I ever interviewed. It was a story about strength training (and it wasn’t very good if I remember; I was only a sophomore). I also had the chance to go to games in Landover, Md., at old Cap Centre on several occasions to watch Bondra and the boys. Now that I’m back just outside the area a bit, I’m still following them.
I’m the 6 and 11 p.m. anchor here at the Charlottesville Newsplex, and I also have a franchise called ‘Make Dan Sweat’ every week. For that, I go out and try different workouts and challenges sent in by viewers. I’m greatly looking forward to my next challenge — shooting on Tara Wheeler next month. We’ll let you know how that goes.
Some thoughts Caps as we head into the All Star break.
Will speedster Jason Chimera shift the Caps’ first line into high gear? Last Thursday night, Bruce Boudreau shifted speedy winger Jason Chimera to the first line to boost production. It’s too early to say if this will be a permanent fix, but after one game, it looked like a good plan.
The line was plus 2 on the night, and had several solid scoring chances. Chimera not only has speed to open up the ice, he also goes hard to the net, and is strong on the forecheck. With his presence in front, it will force defenses to keep a close eye on him. That, in theory, will open up the ice for Backstrom and Ovechkin, as seen against the Islanders Thursday night and again against the Leafs last night. Both goals Thursday were within two feet of the goal, and were a result of charging hard to the net. As Boudreau said after the game, good things happen when you put the puck on net.
During his Thursday press conference, Boudreau said he was happy with the production from Backstrom, Ovechkin, and Chimera. If the offensive production becomes a trend, it could be a front line that stays together for quite some time . . . and lights the red lamps at Verizon with more frequency. It might also be enough to shift the Capitals offense back into scoring gear.
Will ESPN Get Back on the Rink?
Hockey ratings are on the rise — but you wouldn’t know it watching the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.”
Ever since ESPN dropped National Night Hockey after the 2004 season, you don’t see much coverage of pucks on the network. SportsCenter doesn’t show nearly as much NHL action as it used to when it had broadcast rights for the games. (But you can see European soccer highlights on SportsCenter these days. Not coincidentally, ESPN recently signed a 3-year deal to broadcast the English Premier League).
When OLN (now Versus) picked up the NHL in 2006, many cable subscribers couldn’t find the network, or simply didn’t get it, and ratings suffered. However, thanks to exciting playoffs, the success of the Winter Classic, and the growth of the Versus network, numbers are on the rise. During last year’s Stanley Cup finals, ratings soared. During the NBC coverage of games 1 and 2, ratings increased from 4.8 million to 5.2 million viewers. The ratings for game 1 were the highest in 11 years. Add in the success of the Winter Classic, which drew in 4.65 million viewers this year even after a last minute time change, and you can’t argue that hockey is growing, and growing fast. The mainstream popularity of HBO’s ’24/7′ documentary with the Penguins and Capitals also built up interest in the Winter Classic, and the sport. The Capitals saw a 68 percent boost in game ratings when the series aired.
Then there is this little nugget from the LA Times:
“On May 7, the Boston Bruins played the Flyers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and got 328,000 viewers in Boston on Versus; the Red Sox played the New York Yankees and the local television broadcast on NESN had 223,000 viewers; and Game 3 of the Cleveland-Boston NBA Eastern Conference semifinals drew 142,000 on ESPN.”
Those are numbers that simply can’t be ignored.
It all leads to this: NHL television contracts are up after this year. If ESPN wants to remain the “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” network executives might want to think long and hard about bringing back National Hockey Night.