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No surprise national TV neglects the Predators once again…

The first sentence of the NHL.com article announcing the league’s 2011-12 national TV schedule did not help things in Nashville, Tennessee. Matter of fact, it made things worse.

“More than 300 of the NHL’s regular season contests will be televised by the League’s national broadcast partners during the 2011-12 season.”

More than 300, eh?

The Nashville Predators are slated to have two on Versus. That’s right, two. At the New York Rangers on January 17 and at Chicago on March 25. Please notice that neither game is at Bridgestone Arena, arguably the best atmosphere in the National Hockey League. No no. No need to lug all that broadcasting equipment down to Tennessee so we can capture hockey fans at their best. There’s no need for that.

Sheesh.

We, as Preds fans, thought the second round playoff appearance against the Vancouver Canucks really showed the hockey world that Nashville was a great place to watch a game. We thought, because of that exposure, the national media would finally give us some respect. I mean, how could they not get caught up in the electric atmosphere, the organized chants, the peaked decibel meter and the TV timeout standing ovations?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand not wanting to put the Predators on a national NBC broadcast. It’s frustrating that they only show the same seven teams on Saturday and Sunday afternoons but it’s understandable. When there are other sporting events directly competing with hockey’s time slot, it’s not hard to comprehend why they won’t show the team from the second smallest U.S. market.

But that’s what Versus is for.

Versus, as the exclusive cable home of the NHL, should be required to show as many different teams as possible. Within reason, of course. Nobody is suggesting that Versus should televise the lowly New York Islanders as many times as they do the mighty Detroit Red Wings. But how about spreading the wealth a tad? For example, Nashville has two games, the Florida Panthers have just one and the Columbus Blue Jackets have zero. How does the NHL expect to grow the following of these smaller market clubs if the network that covers their sport won’t even show them?

They did get one thing right. They pit the smaller market Predators against the larger market Rangers and Blackhawks. That makes sense from a programming standpoint. If you put Nashville against Phoenix, from a ratings point of view, nobody’s watching. But you can get the best of both worlds by putting the Carolina Hurricanes up against the Boston Bruins. One team you’re trying to showcase and grow (Carolina) while piggybacking off the larger market (Boston). The league gets one of their southern teams exposure and the network gets the ratings benefits of the 10th largest market in the country. Everyone wins.

In the end, Bridgestone Arena is one of the best places to watch a hockey game. The Canadian media saw that first hand last year and there were countless people — media and fans alike — saying “Wow. It’s a lot of fun here!” It’s just too bad that the broadcast networks don’t want to do anything outside their comfort zone of Chicago, Detroit, New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington.

We shouldn’t be surprised though.

NOTE: The New Year’s Day game against the Calgary Flames will be televised on NHL Network. It will be a simulcast of either Nashville’s or Calgary’s broadcast.

To see the entire Versus broadcast schedule CLICK HERE.

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