When Sidney Crosby scored the overtime goal to clinch gold for Canada, the most successful sport in the Olympics came to an end. Olympic hockey drove the ratings throughout the Olympics, with CNBC and MSNBC offering limited commercial breaks and solid commentary. The ability to broadcast live games – such as the Canada-US gold medal match – greatly helped the ratings. And for that gold medal match, NBC drew 27.6 million viewers, the highest hockey rating since the tape-delayed U.S. vs. Finland gold medal game in 1980.
The Olympic hockey action drew a wide range of new and old viewers to the sport. But Olympic hockey differs in a few key ways from the NHL game. It moved quicker, didn’t allow fighting, and showed several all-star teams taking each other on. The Olympic product was high quality, but there are plenty of things the NHL can consider to improve their on-ice product and keep new fans watching the game.
Number 1: Keep The Game Going
As we all know, sometimes a hockey game can drag. There are those games when there seems to be seven whistles every minute. But, in the Olympics, many of the games seemed to flow. I would watch the game, look at the clock and realize five or ten minutes had already ticked off the clock. The Olympics kept the flow of the game while limiting the amount of commercials shown. With the games on CNBC and MSNBC the majority of the time, NBC probably could afford the advertising loss. But the NHL should take note.
Many viewers enjoyed the fast pace and almost non-stop action of the Olympic games. While watching the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche game last night, I realized the Olympic system could work for the NHL. If networks can keep commercial breaks to a minute or two, then the break in the action won’t be so noticeable. Then it won’t seem as if there is a clear break in the action. It’ll keep the breaks short and the action flowing.
Number 2: Institute No-Touch Icing
The Olympic rules differ from the NHL, including the no-touch icing rule. While I don’t know if I’m 100% in agreement with no-touch icing, the rule should be instituted in the NHL. There are too many injuries (or possibility of injuries) that result when two players chase down the puck. With the NHL attempting to become safer, no-touch icing becomes a no-brainer. You eliminate the possibility of a boarding or cross-checking penalty during the chase, and the game moves quicker.