Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Where Have You Gone Badger Bob?

Greg Wyshynski of the AOL Fanhouse's NHL page had an interesting post on the NHL's TV situation.

In particular, he highlighted a quote from USA Today's Kevin Allen on the need for the NHL to be on ESPN. The quote:
"One of the major beefs from many players is that Versus is not available in any hotel that they have ever stayed in. If a network isn't on a hotel cable package, is it a real network?"
That quote reminded me of a story Doc Emrick told about former Colorado College and Wisconsin coach "Badger" Bob Johnson after Johnson passed in 1991.

Johnson was staying at a national hotel sometime during the mid-80's. This was during the NHL's first run with ESPN, back when ESPN was just a fledgling station, before it became the annoying monolith known as the World Wide Leader, filled with Shouting Heads and discussion of Who's Hot? Anyway, Johnson was dismayed to find out that the cable package for that particular hotel chain did not carry ESPN. Johnson wrote a letter to the president of the hotel chain, explaining how important it was for kids to be able to see hockey games on television, and thus, why it was essential that ESPN be part of the hotel's cable package. Apparently the letter was so convincing that that hotel chain made of point of making sure every room was capable of watching ESPN.

I'm not sure how much of that story is truth, and how much is legend, but it's a good story nonetheless.


Anonymous said...

Badger Bob is missed around the country as his promotion of hockey in this country made such positive in roads. He also is greatly missed in Madison. No coach since has had such a great and positive impact on the hockey program. It truly was "A great day for hockey", with him at the helm.

rr said...

Well money talks and bullsh*t walks. If pro hockey really had a big enough national following the NHL would be on a cable system accessible to a larger audience.

It's all about the size of the audience and advertising dollars. ESPN has probably found in the past that the audience just wasn't there. They really aren't in the business of putting a product on the air out of the goodness of their heart.

Face it, the NHL killed themselves a couple of years back by over expanding into weak markets and then the strike season really damaged their image. The fans in non traditional hockey markets just don't care that much. Too many Europeans in the NHL. Too many other leisure time options.

As a fan of college hockey I have very little interest in following the pro game. I see the NHL as historically being a very poorly run Organ-I-Za-Shun that for many years didn't care one bit about players that came through the college ranks. Yet now the NHL in the past couple of years appears to be doing their level best to ruin the college game by syphoning off players to stock their minor league teams. With an occasional player making it to the NHL.

Tough bounce Bettman, the problems that the NHL face are all self inflicted. Quit screwing up the college game.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Badger Bob a former Gopher hockey player? Thought so.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across a neat website…A book on “Badger” Bob Johnson is in the works, as a collection of personal stories from the many lives he touched. As the website says:

“Tom Osenton, best-selling author and former CEO & Publisher of The Sporting News as well as a former Badger Assistant under Johnson, will team with Bob's son Peter to write the book.”

I was fortunate enough to meet the late Bob Johnson during his time here in Wisconsin. He was not only a great coach, teacher and motivator, he was a great man. He helped the sport of hockey grow tremendously and his positive influence can still be seen today.

The website address is below, which includes a chance to share stories.