Photo courtesy Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Photo courtesy Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Later today will be Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals and if it is anything like Wednesday night’s triple-overtime thriller, it should be awesome.

Make sure to catch it. That is, if you can.

Why do I say “if you can”? Because it will be airing on the NBC Sports Network, a niche cable channel that makes its way to about 35 million fewer homes that broadcast television.

This begs one question: what makes pro hockey so, well, un-special? Every other major professional sport has its championship aired on network TV. The NBA Finals? That’s on ABC this weekend. The World Series? FOX has been covering that since I can remember. And I don’t think we need to get into the kind of money that gets thrown around at the chanc

e to air the Super Bowl.

So what gives? Why is pro hockey getting the shove?

Photo courtesy Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Photo courtesy Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

The only reason I can surmount is last year’s ratings. Last year’s six Stanley Cup games averaged a viewership just under 3 million people, it’s weakest turnout since 2007.

But how bad is that really during television’s offseason? Some of ABC’s television programming on Wednesday night, the same night of the

Stanley Cup Finals Game 1, dipped below 4 million and that’s just sort of an average night for network TV during this time of the year.

Meanwhile, Game 1, airing on NBC, raked in 6.4 million viewers, making it the MOST-WATCHED program of the evening.

And what is its reward? It’ll be knocked back to NBC Universal’s sister station tonight while NBC airs repeats of Chicago Fire, Law & Order, and Saturday Night Live.

Now, admittedly, that 6.4 million sits in the shadows of what the NBA Finals’ Game 4 (14.14 million) did last night and Game 3 (14.04 million) did Tuesday night, but the NBA championships have historically almost always done better than that of the Stanley Cup Finals.

And even with that now entered into the record, the Stanley Cup’s scheduled programming shouldn’t be dictated by what the other major sports pull in. The Super Bowl gets tens of millions of viewers. By that measure, the NBA Finals should be on the Oprah Winfrey Network (it would even fit right in with the rampant flopping pairing quite well with Lance Armstrong’s piss poor acting during one particularly famous interview).

Even if Game 2 sees a drop in viewership, which seems borderline impossible with all the news Game 1 made, it will almost undoubtedly do better than NBC repeat programming.

Maybe THAT’S why the NHL is being treated like the redheaded stepchild here: for no good reason. It’s just simply that NBC’s relatively new owners, Comcast, have their heads up a certain bodily orifice and made a bad call. If their anything like the people I used to argue with about my cable bills, that certainly seems more than plausible.

Still, that’s a hell of a price for 35 million viewers who had nothing to do with the decision to pay.

Yes, Games 4, 5, 6, and 7 will be back on NBC, but that’s hardly a consolation. What if FOX next year just switched programming for the second quarter of the Super Bowl next year to their new station FOX Sports 1? There would probably be riots in the streets.

I’m not usually the leader of progressiveness in sports, but I feel like mandating that each of the four major professional sports championships be broadcast on network television is just common sense. If Congress is so interested in the Redskins’ name, why don’t they take a minute passing a bill that does just that. Hell, PBS is government OWNED. Just threaten to have them carry the coverage with Jim Lehrer doing play-by-play.

Then again, that’s a bad idea. THAT would be the real redheaded stepchild treatment.

NOTE: This story was originally published for SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for NHL updates and other shenanigans!