Oh, boy, where do I start. OK, let's start with Roenick's specific knuckleheadedness, then work our way out to the entirety of sports media.
At its core, Roenick's complaint is that his team, the Phoenix Coyotes, were snubbed entirely by NBC, and only appear on OLN (Do We Get That Channel?) once all season. Sounds like sour grapes, sure, and I don't think he's really going much deeper than that, so I have a simple answer:
You want to be on TV more? Make the playoffs! Then OLN(DWGTC?) will give you wall to wall coverage.
But here's where his argument slingshots into an escape vector. He thinks the 'Yotes should be on TV more because Wayne Gretzky is the owner/coach, and more Americans would watch if they got to see Wayne Gretzky.
Um, JR? Us Americans didn't watch hockey in the '80s to see The Great One standing on the bench, wearing a bad suit, and giving the stink-eye to Kerry Frasier for an entire penalty kill. And even if we were interested in a Gretzky-coached team, so far he's somewhere between Steve Sullivan and Kevin Constantine in the pantheon of Great NHL Coaches. Let him catch up to Barry Melrose, then we'll talk.
But this is one of the great things about giving Jeremy Roenick an open microphone. He doesn't have that cliche-pass filter that every other player has, so we sometimes get the unvarnished truth from him, even when he doesn't know he did it. (Of course, he also shoots himself in the foot at Mario's golf tournaments, but I think it's time to put the Late Great Unpleasantness behind us, eh?)
Percolating under his distress at only having one shot at sharing a network with Ted Nugent is the fact that the NHL has to share a network with Ted Nugent in the first place. In other words, why has the NHL been banished to OLN?
My short, snarky answer: The NHL cancelled a season, so ESPN gave them a timeout for a few seasons.
Of course, ESPN has been working to marginalize hockey for a few years now. When the NHL and OLN announced their deal, ESPN's reporting revealed something interesting:
For the networks that have had hockey, including Fox and ESPN, investing in growing the hockey audience simply didn't pay off when considering how much more they had invested in other sports programming.
In other words, "We gave up on promoting our hockey broadcasts, which pulled the rug out from under the ratings, then used the low ratings as an excuse to chuck 'em over to the fishing channel."
Or how about this little gem?
In the NHL's place, ESPN filled the air with original programming, like "Bowling Night" and "Stump The Schwab." Programs like these drew ratings that were at least comparable to the number of people watching NHL games.
This is a bit disingenuous. They were really airing poker in the NHL's old time slots. In place of a sport where there's no place to banish out-of-shape players, ESPN aired an entirely unathletic card game, which was cheap to produce, easy to over-promote, and only had to draw better ratings than a mid-January Blue Jackets at Predators game to justify it's existence.
Ah, so that's the NHL's problem. It can't feature Jennifer Tilly's cleavage once a week.
And I'm just getting started with this. Right now, it probably looks like I'm reading too much into what is, ultimately, a business decision by ESPN's front office. But Skip Bayless had to open his mouth...