Why Isn't the NHL on USA?

The biggest problem facing the NHL is still the lack of a major television deal in the United States. The league was dumped a few years ago by ESPN and rebounded with the nice but ultimately inadequate Versus.* I think we can all agree that the NHL needs a network with a little more panache and a little less rodeoing, but they can't by all rights go back to ESPN because one, ESPN sucks and two, they already have too many things going on as it is. So who does the NHL turn to? Why not the USA Network?

*Versus probably cries after sex.

Yes, USA, the network that loves characters and formulaic mystery shows. Some may be wondering how the USA Network is qualified to show the NHL, but USA already has some experience broadcasting sports (they had a lot of Olympics coverage and recently showed the US Tennis Open). Besides, did TNT have experience before they started showing the NBA? Or TBS, before they acquired the rights to Major League Baseball? Most other leagues have a deal with ESPN and a non-sports network to diversify their coverage, and the NHL should follow that. A weekly schedule with a major game on Monday on Versus and, say, Thursday or Friday on USA would be great for the NHL. Plus, USA is owned by the same company that owns NBC, so it would seem pretty easy to add something to that existing agreement.

The USA Network is perfect because it's high profile enough to garner notice among casual fans while still needing original programming to fill their time slot. NBC has to worry about the Stanley Cup Playoffs impacting sweeps, while USA only has to shuffle their weekly Monk marathon. Putting the NHL on USA would be a boon for hockey and would help spread the game to a wider audience. It should happen.

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