As soon as the news of the AHL/ESPN America deal hit the media wire, I couldn’t wait to get to my computer and feverishly type a message to dear friend slash British hockey journalist Anthony Russell. Russell, who covers the Basingstoke Bison of the English Premier League, is an avid fan Milwaukee Admirals fan (even though Milwaukee is 3,876 miles away from his town of Southampton, he still loves Pekka Rinne), so I knew he’d think it was a real bobby dazzler (currently crossing my fingers that I used that term correctly…)
A little background (emphasis on little) on the deal: ESPN America, which is comparable to our BBC America in the fact that select tv series on the British version of BBC are televised here, brings one of America’s favorite channels to the televisions in more than 35 countries in Europe and the Middle East.
According to the AHL website, “ESPN America’s coverage will initially feature up to 10 games per month, selected from the AHL’s existing broadcast schedule, in a combination of live and delayed telecasts. In addition to the regular-season and Calder Cup Playoff action, ESPN America will carry the 2012 AHL All-Star Classic from Atlantic City in late January.”
HGM: Talk a little about ESPN America and what is shown on that network in England:
AR: ESPN America is part of ESPN’s network of channels in Europe. Here in Britain, ESPN shows soccer, rugby and a variety of sports that are more popular in Britain shall we say. ESPN America covers US sports so they show a lot of college football, Major League Baseball and the like. Up until the end of last season they had the NHL. ESPN America is essentially like the regular ESPN for North Americans; SportsCenter, Pardon the Interuption, Around the Horn, College Game Day, all the favourites get shown.
HGM: As a hockey writer who comes in contact with hockey fans across the UK, how excited are they for the AHL to be broadcasted across the pond seeing the NHL deal didn’t go through?
AR: It was an interesting one because the NHL deal ended up getting done but not really in the way we wanted it. My colleague at Pucks Across the Pond (www.pucksatp.com) Mark Rackham started a campaign to get the NHL to sort it out as Europe was on the verge of getting no NHL at all. Essentially what has happened here in Britain is we now have GameCentre Live so people can watch online (and those smart enough can hook their computer to their tv) and NHL rights went to a channel called Premier Sports. Now the market is about making money but the issue for a lot of people was Premier Sports was only available one cable supplier and you have to pay extra to get it. ESPN America is more widely available and with one cable supplier you don’t have to pay extra to get it.
Premier Sports also made a few blips shall we say. When the coverage started they had none of the period break coverage (Coach’s corner etc.) Also recently they cut away from overtime in a Blackhawks/Red Wings game to show greyhound racing. This didn’t go down well as you can imagine. Premier will get there but for my money they need to do it properly or not at all.
A lot of people though still have ESPN America and having hockey back on the network pleases them. The fact it’s AHL is a bonus. As someone who keeps touch with the AHL a fair bit (thanks to wonderful websites like Hockey Gal Milwaukee ) I think people who have never seen the AHL will be plesantly surprised.
HGM: What is the first AHL game you plan on watching?
AR: I don’t have the channels myself but if there’s an Admirals game on you can bet I’ll be watching.
I know Russell will enjoy the fruits of the deal, but I’m excited to check back in with him to see what other British hockey fans say after taking in some of the televised games. While we wait on his feedback, I urge you to visit his page, Banners On The Wall, to learn a little bit more about the world of hockey in Great Britain.