Friday, April 8, 2011

NCAA's Northern Exposure (or lack thereof)

The NCAA National Champion in hockey will be decided on Saturday in St. Paul Minnesota in a game featuring the Michigan Wolverines and the Duluth Bulldogs. There are 11 Canadians combined between the two teams and 17 players in all have already been drafted by NHL clubs. On top of that, half a dozen more are undrafted free agents with NHL teams circling nearby, armed with a pen and contract.

There is definitely a lot to watch for in Saturday's game but it's unfortunate that if you live in most of Canada, you'll have to be ultra-creative to actually see it.

During the regular season it's ridiculously hard to be able to find a live NCAA college hockey game on TV North of the border. The Big Ten network shows a Friday game but that's a specialty channel not available nation wide and not purchased by most who can.

Even finding a simple radio feed can be taxing. Unlike the CHL who list the radio rights holders on the websites for each league, college is tougher to track down, and if you can, there's a chance you can't listen in without purchasing a media package.

In past years I have been able to watch Hockey East and ECAC Conference playoff games (Sportsnet) and regular season games (The NHL Network) but that is no longer the case. To watch the Frozen Four in recent years I have had to scour the message boards on game day to find a link to an online feed that was available in Canada, usually turning out to be choppy and in low definition. The online feed in the United States is see via ESPN3 but that's not available in Canada either.

Apparently this year there is some relief for fans in Canada who want to watch their countrymen or the prospects of their favourite NHL team. Leafs TV is broadcasting the games in Ontario so there is at least a little foray into Canada this year for the NCAA.

"Hockey fans should be able to see good quality hockey at whatever level," said a NCAA spokesman on condition of anonymity, "The Frozen Four is terrific hockey played by top teams and there is no reason why these games shouldn't be broadcasted across Canada. We have players from every province literally."

"I'm glad Leafs TV opted to step up, agree with ESPN to broadcast the games into Ontario but it's really unfortunate that it's not readily available in Manitoba, Alberta and BC," he continued, "Hopefully we can work on that for the future but quite frankly, there are people [in Canada] who would prefer that young players won't get to see that."

It's really unfortunate because there are Canadians playing in the Frozen Four right now who have friends and family unable to attend who want to be able to watch... and can't. Players like Ben Winnett (TOR) of New Westminster B.C. who scored the winning goal on Thursday against North Dakota.

"Because there was no feed, my friends back home didn't have any idea that I was in a game [on Thursday] but my brother lives in Europe right now and he was able to pick up the feed which meant a lot to me," said Winnett, "I don't know what that says about it that he was able to pick it up and watch from Denmark and yet just North across the border they couldn't."

It's ridiculous is what that says to me. Duluth's Justin Fontaine comes from Bonnyville, AB and says he's using new technology so solve the problem.

"I have a Slingbox set up back home and a family down here that plugs it into their TV so they get everything back there that we get in Duluth so people can go over to my house and watch it," Said Fontaine.

In this day and age there are ways around it and fans who want to dig hard enough into various hockey message boards will be able to find an online feed on Saturday.

Again, if you know of a way to watch the Frozen Four in Canada either on TV or online, leave it in the comments section so other fans can watch too.


Dean Millard said...

so what's Fontaines address in Bonnyville and we'll all go there to watch the game...can we bring anything????

I understand that Sportsnet wouldn't put this on because they are in bed with the CHL. TSN is in bed with Hockey Canada so that quashes any chance of the FF getting on there. But what about the Score? They love airing NCAA Basketball, why not hockey?

Pretty ridiculous that it's not online or if it is, the online feed isn't being promoted.

Guy Flaming said...

I totally agree about why Sportsnet and TSN can't. I also wonder about the Score. Maybe if the Leafs TV experiment produces a large enough fan response in Ontario, the Score notices. Who knows?

The online feed is crazy too. The Michigan guys told me today that their radio feed is free and on their site... better than nothing but I'm sure most want to watch it rather than just listen to it.

Michael said...

Up until 2 years ago I remember seeing Frozen Four on The Score for a couple of years. I watched the Boston U comeback vs. Miami on there, I remember distinctly. (Pretty hard to forget a crazy game like that.)

I don't know if it's just that The Score is suffering from massive budget cuts or what. They couldn't even afford the NCAA March Madness coverage this year. Seems like the only thing they show these days is highlights, poker and wrestling.

Deano, you're in the TV biz. Maybe you can ask around a bit. All I know is that I really want to see this tournament and conference playoffs on TV. It really sucks that the major networks are too entrenched with the various organizations. It really is the viewers' loss.