ESPN has owned the rights to many NCAA National Championships, including the Frozen Four for many years. In the fall, it was announced that ESPN would boost its coverage of the NCAA Men's Hockey Championships. The network announced that it would send quite possibly the biggest beauty in the hockey community, Barry Melrose, and ESPN college hockey front man John Buccigross to call regional games and the Frozen Four from Pittsburgh. All sounded good.
The network stated that the semifinals would be broadcast on ESPN2 at the bare minimum. Great. The National Championship Game would be broadcast live on ESPN and would be a centerpiece. Amazing. Finally ESPN is showing some initiative with its hockey coverage. This morning, I turned on my TV to watch SportsCenter.
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Last night, Minnesota, No. 1 in the Midwest region and No. 2 in the nation, lost nine seconds in OT to Yale. To put this in perspective, imagine Indiana losing on a last second shot in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Think ESPN would cover that? The only mention of the game was during the Top 10 where one play was shown.
Next, while promoting the next slate of games on ESPNU, the network completely messed up on teams. North Dakota has made six out of the last nine Frozen Fours and South Dakota does not even have a D-1 team. The saddest part of all of this is? I'm not surprised based on ESPN's downfall in the past year.
The most frustrating thing? ESPN could have great coverage. The network has a strong team in Bristol that knows its hockey. Melrose, Buccigross, Steve Levy, and even New York Rangers fanatic Linda Cohn could cover the event. Heck, ESPNChicago's Sarah Spain went to Cornell and could do a great job. It may not ever be as strong as NBC and NBC Sports Net's coverage of Friday Night Ice, but they could compete. When I see four b-rolls of a zamboni during intermission instead of analysis, it makes me wonder how amazing it would be to have Liam McHugh and Jeremy Roenick give insight.
I realize college hockey is not as mainstream as college basketball or the NBA, but ESPN needs to improve if it wants to boast about owning the TV rights. If you're going to broadcast games, then show them on television rather than regular season lacrosse. Put some effort into studio analysis and give some highlights to SportsCenter.
I don't want to see Skip Bayless and Stephen A. discuss Minnesota/Miami's defenses. As a matter of fact, I don't want to hear Stephen A. even say the word hockey based on what he said earlier about the NHL having ties. I just am hopeful that as this amazing tournament continues, coverage will improve and help build the sport. If you're going to be the "Worldwide Leader in Sports", then actually be it.