23 April, 2014


An End of Summer Letter to Comcast SportsNet

My Friends at Comcast SportsNet:
On behalf of the entire OFB team, I want to express appreciation for your enthusiastic support of OFB and Washington’s hockey blogs, and convey my team’s anticipation for your coverage of the Caps in 2008-09. It’s our view that on a number of fronts SportsNet markedly upgraded the breadth and caliber of broadcast coverage of the Caps and hockey for the region last season, and we anticipate bigger and better things from you this season, during what may well be the most anticipated Caps’ season in team history.
Today, however, I’d like to share my concern with the thorough dropoff in hockey coverage on Comcast this summer. Please regard my reflections as aiming at strengthening an already strong broadcast product; Comcast SportsNet is home to knowledgeable and devoted hockey experts, and the outlet’s in-season coverage of the Caps is something the area’s hockey fans ought to take pride in. Your Caps’ page is terrific looking and deserves more credit for the quality of its content as well.
Around the time that SportsNet signed off from the NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa in June it more or less seemed to sign off on covering hockey for the summer, save for a brief blip (Day 1) from Capitals’ Development Camp in mid-July. Of course it’s not that there’s a frenzy of activity in hockey in July and August generally (the region’s hockey blogs slow considerably then as well); I guess my hope was to see, amid the predictable and necessary local media Redskin frenzy, very brief, very modest remembrances of last hockey season wedded with high-octane marketing messages for the new one. A few mere broadcast morsels might have gone a long way to carrying over the feel-good vibe for hockey that SportsNet so successfully cultivated last spring.
Specifically, I wonder if something more might not have been achieved with the novelty of Anton Gustafsson’s selection by the Caps at the June Entry Draft. We in Washington following the draft on TV caught one or two engaging interviews with father and son in Ottawa, but nothing substantive followed. The Gustafsson family charm — to make no mention of the novelty of the moment — seemed to beg for more broadcast product.
The younger Gustafsson’s selection really is an amazing moment in Capitals’ hisory, when you think about it. His father Bengt of course ranks among the most accomplished players in team history. He’s also one of the most accomplished coaches in international hockey, having won gold at both the Olympics and World Championships — in the same year (2006)! In June he watched his son become a first-round NHL draft pick — picked by the same club with which he fashioned a distinguished NHL career.
This very special hockey family easily could have been the subject of a special, in-depth Comcast feature. I’m imagining something like a 30-minute program — much like the one you guys produced for the Capitals’ 2006 Entry Draft — Capitals Under Construction. This time, however, the feature’s focus could have been on one draft pick and his family’s distinctive link to Washington’s hockey team.
How remarkable such a feature could have been had it melded footage of father dangling and dazzling in his classic old Caps’ sweater in the NHL’s ’80s brand of firewagon hockey with contemporary footage of son Anton just emerging as a world-class talent in Sweden’s professional ranks. The feature might also have offered the reflections of one or two or three long-time NHL scouts (European ones, perhaps) offering their comparative assessments of the games of father and son. It might not have been a bad idea, either, to solicit the views of long-standing Caps’ season ticket holders, who could have shared their reflections on father while also expressing their eagerness to see the son in action in a Caps’ sweater.
Now imagine if you’d produced such a program and aired it the night before the start of training camp next month, immediately followed by a broadcast of father Gustafsson’s 5-goal game (on five shots!) against the Flyers in 1984. What a welcome to Washington to the Gustafsson family that would have been. The feature program could have aired at least a handful of times during hockey’s quiet months of July and August, and served as a novel bit of nourishment for the region’s hungry hockey fans.
You may realize that beginning this summer many of those fans began tuning in to the NHL Network, now offered on select cable systems about the region, to satisfy their puck-lust. I think it should be Comcast’s aim to retain them all 12 months on the calendar.
Another idea for a fan-friendly feature in summer might have been to sit down with Head Coach Bruce Boudreau not long after his Jack Adams win and explore in depth — again in feature-length fashion — his extraordinary run in Washington last season. You already know how accomplished a story-teller he is; so why not roll the cameras and allow him, removed from the soundbite setting of the in-season arena, to tell his insider’s tale? My prediction is that the editing on your end would have been distinctly minimal. Washington this summer is home to the greatest coach in hockey — but who visiting our city this summer would have learned that while here?
Washington this summer is also home to the greatest player in all of hockey. Beyond Comcast’s producing something substantive such as a feature-length profiles, I also wonder at the absence this summer of quick-hitting broadcast blurbs related to Alexander Ovechkin’s remarkable rise to the very top of his sport. When he had all that hardware surrounding him in his stylish tuxedo up in Toronto in June, you guys asked us for some photos we published of it. Those stills in some fashion should have been aired on Comcast every day this summer, just for mere seconds, so that the tens of thousands of tourists in our town could have been reminded that they were visiting a city home to hockey royalty.



9 Comments

  1. Flying Cloud wrote:

    Ditto. I remember seeing Gustafsson Sr. (on a B&W TV) fly straight to the net, stick-handling with one hand and the other arm lying on his back in what the announcer called “the European style,” opponents slack-jawed and standing around, and of course he scored! They don’t skate like that anymore except in short track, I guess, but it was stunning then. I don’t know who the announcer was but he made the point that the Europeans were coming to this league, and it would be a good thing for hockey. That would be an interesting story for Comcast, too, especially since our team is multi-national. Like our capital.

    28 August, 2008 at 8:01 am | Permalink
  2. b.orr4 wrote:

    Comcast must have heard you since Tarik is going to be on Washington Post Live tonight.

    28 August, 2008 at 11:44 am | Permalink
  3. Dan, Jr. wrote:

    While I share in your hockey enthusiasm, in a general way, I don’t expect to see Comcast SportsNet give our sport the coverage it deserves until the Cap’s win the Stanley Cup. As long as our guys continue their winning ways though, I’m sure we will see small increases from time to time.

    28 August, 2008 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  4. Cathy W wrote:

    Tarik has been on Washington Post Live several times in the off season as well as posting in his blog. Comcast had stories on the World Championship,the NHL draft, rookie camp, the NHL awards, Ollie leaving, signing Theodore, Green’s contract, Laich’s contract, Ovie getting the keys to the city, an interview with Bruce, Jill interviewed Chris Clark, and Comcast had Caps week when they replayed five games. I thought there was more Caps off season coverage this year. There are three local professional teams (DC United, Mystics, and Nationals)that play during the off season, as well as the Olympics this year , so unless something news worthy happens I don’t see Comcast doing feature stories on the Caps until the upcoming rookie camp.

    28 August, 2008 at 7:44 pm | Permalink
  5. Aim higher, Cathy. Believe it or not, even in a Michael Phelps summer there’s room on a 24-hour cable sports outlet for a little hockey love.

    28 August, 2008 at 9:24 pm | Permalink
  6. pepper wrote:

    Relentlessly, keeping the local MSM’s feet to the fire, eh pucks?

    29 August, 2008 at 12:06 am | Permalink
  7. evil blog hater wrote:

    Nice suggestions…but it is obvious you don’t know what it takes to PRODUCE such a program. Have you worked in TV before??? Guess not.
    First, where is Bengt??? Can you get access to him? Is he out of the country?? If he is, that makes that kind of travel difficult. Traveling overseas with TV gear is not easy.
    As to your suggestion about interviewing Bruce. Love to…but most of the key figures around the team LEAVE during the summer. Again, find coach, get access and THEN produce a piece.
    TV stations are not bottomless pits of money that get to flit all over the place at the fan’s whim. They are businesses that have to weigh ALL coverage of ALL sports based on their resources. I understand your passion for the game and wanting more coverage since I am a puckhead, too. But, be realistic. Even stations that do care about hockey coverage have parameters they have to operate in. Your “fix” will be well accomadated in the fall.

    29 August, 2008 at 11:49 am | Permalink
  8. DrinkingPartner wrote:

    This post wasn’t about, nor should it have been, suggesting how realistic it would have been to get these features, just that it seems like Comcast should have tried a little harder. I agree with most of what Pucks said — there should have been more long-lasting acknowledgment of the Caps’ incredible year with O-V-P, Bruce’s Adams, and the Gustafsson family tree. As soon as the new schedule came out, there should have been a string of commercials with an Ovie highlight ending in silence with “Opening Night: October 11, 2008.” But there wasn’t.
    They were Washington’s most successful, most exciting franchise (exception to DC United), and you’d never know it. Comcast should have been on constant red alert trying to keep people excited and interested about the coming season.
    Side notes: there should have been localized draft coverage, and there should have been World Championships coverage, too. TV coverage, I mean. Oh well.

    29 August, 2008 at 4:17 pm | Permalink
  9. DrinkingPartner, you’re my kind of drinking partner. You got the spirit and target of this file smack in the bullseye.

    29 August, 2008 at 8:54 pm | Permalink