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Saturday, 29-Apr-2017 19:16:26 EDT
hockey just ahead of roller derby
JOCK TALK with JAKE THE SNAKE
SPORTS

When I was a kid, I wondered, "Why does a winter sport like hockey share the same time space with a summer game like basketball?"

Hockey Lovers Are Canadian
Hockey lovers are C.A.N.A.D.I.A.N.

But first, before I get to that, I'll cover off football's season finale. Just a small blurb, I promise... The football season came to a glorious end with an exhilarating Baltimore Ravens win – barely – over the San Francisco 49ers. It was a 34-31 final. And then of course there were the controversies of two or more no-calls in the last seconds when the 49ers seemed to be making a comeback, plus the questionable play calls... Why didn't Kaepernick run on the 4th down? It certainly gives food for thought and fodder for an off-season of what-ifs and what-will-be's for every pigskin diehard – and what are the rest of us to do to change it?

Yet it was thrilling, particularly the great power outage hopefully caused by Beyonce's much publicized half-time extravaganza.

Moving on now, as promised. This entry is going to be more about the regularly inexplicable sports flip-flop of a schedule from season to season... Consider it a bit of an annual laugh-a-thon, so to speak. Thus enter Jake the Snake, forked tongue et al as expected – as in his usual form.

This particular February / March's sports brain cramp is, in truth, compounded by hockey's inability to produce any kind of excitement on the ice following the lockout's shortened season. The play is poor to say the least, the teams are sluggish, the players are rusty, and so on, and so on... But before we even get there, who in their right mind schedules two major leagues to go head-to-head in this sports universe anyway?

Hockey and basketball. A longtime beef...

The Snake's Skins... Ever since I was a kid, old enough to formulate this question, it was, "Why does a winter sport like hockey share same time space with a summer game like basketball?"

The answer is quite simple actually, now that I'm (just a little bit) older... NBA is in third place of the giants in North American sports. It's first NFL, MLB and then NBA, a mere trifle of a few million dollars between the three but the line-up remains 1, 2, and 3.

Hockey? Our Canadian #1 sport passion of all time since the beginning of time? Well, bluntly, it ranks somewhere between 15th and 25th place in North America, depending on the latest audience participation numbers. Hockey is actually snuggly between in-door soccer aaa-and... roller derby. Wait, roller derby? Sadly, it's true. It's just not an American sport and it may never be.

Blame the south, blame the Civil War, blame the geography and climate of the continent – it really doesn't matter. America's third-place sport easily beats our national sport on account of each sport's fan base. There simply is more of them than us. Plus there are only so many weeks in the sports calendar and basketball has rightfully taken its share. Yes, it's completely unseasonal but it is also the only calendar stretch without prime time competition against America's top two titans.

Well, here's a question: should hockey continue to hold onto its winter roots? To gain prime time? That said, can we imagine anything other? After all, who wants to talk shinny in August. But then – thanks to the ever-expanding Playoff format and the recent addition of American teams in the southern States – Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals is already more often enjoyed on a patio wearing shorts and bug spray instead of huddling by the fireplace safely indoors at home or in a pub.

Unless you are a fan of both sports – hockey and basketball – you probably don't care. However if you enjoy the slam dunks anywhere near as much as the slap shots, there is an irony and a sense of loss attached to this issue. Maybe it's time for Mr. Bettman to reach out to the long-suffering fan base and make a simple – yet effective – move to improve hockey's positioning on television's prime time rotation. Perhaps allow hockey to steal a bit of the spotlight and showcase their Playoffs without any competition. What could possibly be so bad about a Leafs vs. Oilers final without a Celtics vs. Lakers headline interrupting the sportscast?

Well, one can dream, no? And yet, can you imagine the Superbowl sharing air time with any other professional league? It doesn't take a marketing genius to figure out that the networks will pay more for broadcast rights when they don't have to split them.

Can you imagine a Stanley Cup final in early April when nothing else is on? Aaaah yes, sweet dreams are made of this...

Jock Talk With Jake the Snake
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