Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Reality of the Reality Situation

It's being reported that HBO is going to put a "Hard Knocks" type of docu-drama (via Wyshynski) together about the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, leading up to the Winter Classic at Heinz Field on New Year's Day. Shockingly, this may not sit well with some, but others could eat it up.

The thing about the fans of the NHL is that they're a confusing bunch. They want a lot of coverage for the NHL in the mainstream. However, the participants that are picked for the mainstream coverage are overused in sporting what the game is about, thus making fans unhappy. They want their cake and to eat it, as well. The problem is that it's not going to work that way in the real world of entertainment and exposure.

While Puck the Media's Steve Lepore is right in saying that it's an overused narrative that may not create a personality beyond what has been shown to us thus far, the fact remains that it's the NHL being put out to a potential big audience with two of the most recognizable names playing the game today. The NHL wants to market their product to outliers and what better way to do it than to display Ovechkin and Crosby to the mainstream. Sadly, it hasn't been able to catch on using NBC or other avenues, so maybe one last kick in the can with HBO will do it.

More over, you cannot base a series and hour long shows to just Crosby and Ovechkin. That's a given because they are already known up and down by most people. What this does, to me, is give the producers a chance to give more insight to the other players that surround the teams. People can learn more about Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom, M-A Fleury, and John Carlson than they every would without doing the research themselves or hope that one of them surpass the other two for popularity. You're going to learn more about the players, the coaches, the drama in the locker room should a team get down, the joy of wins coming from unlikely heroes. You have plenty of story lines, like the Penguins heading into their new digs, the Caps young defense and goaltending, the Penguins new faces and both teams need for depth scoring. While Ovechkin and Crosby will be main-focused, there are going to be other outlets for players to learn about.

And yes, I will admit the Ovechkin/Crosby story line does get stale-- how could it not when the NHL has been running with it, but it's still going to be one of the better rivalries to be out there for this coming season and season's to come-- so you're going to have to get used to it. I'm sure the same would have went with Gretzky and Lemieux had they played in the same Conference when they were in their primes. Which is just it-- the uniqueness of this "feud" is that these teams already have a deep resentment for each other because of the playoff meetings in the 90s with some of more memorable overtime games; but add to it two of the best players in the NHL and it's going to be amped up more. I can't really think of two players of this caliber battling it out and meeting each other in the regular season with this much frequency in the past. I'm sure I'll be corrected, but still.

There's always going to be teams that are going to be overused in trying to promote the game. Why?? Because more often than not, they get the biggest draw because they're more recognizable. The vicious cycle is that other teams that aren't as popular won't get shown, which could get them more popularity. At the same time, this isn't communism, so everyone won't get their fair share of TV time. How many times in the 90's did we have to hear about the Avalanche, Flyers, and Red Wings playing on National Hockey Night?? They brought in the most viewers, which is what the NHL is aiming for. Maybe this series will capture a great feat of one of the opposing teams, which someone will catch while watching and turn them onto that player or team-- it could happen.

There's been a push for a reality series for a while by some and now it seems to be coming true if all falls into place. Sure, it's going to be teams who are pushed to the max now, but it's a start. If this series does well, who knows what doors it could open up to other teams. Love them or hate them, you have to keep an open mind because it's for the greater good of the sport. If you expect hockey to grow out of the niche status (maybe not by much, but still); then people will have to support it when it keeps throwing the same people in the national spotlight time after time. Abandoning the show or games because it's not your team is not the way the sport will grow. Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it.

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