ESPN/ESPN2/ABC to cut the number of hockey telecasts.

Is less more? According to the powers that be at Disney, it is. For the 2002-2003 season, ESPN and ESPN2 will cut the number of televised games from 102 to 71. Their argument is that they do not want to saturate the market with uninteresting games and would rather focus on higher rated games.

ESPN/ESPN2 also announced that they will be moving their “National Hockey Night” from Wednesday to Thursday to accomodate the NBA package which they recently purchased. The NBA games will be shown on Wednesday and Friday evenings.

With the cut in the number of games, the network(s) will not show any hockey until after December 5th and will not start a regular hockey schedule until after January 16th. ESPN/ESPN2 will broadcast 6 Sunday afternoon games and ABC will broadcast 5 weeks of regionalized games.

What puzzles me as a fan is on one hand, they talk about focusing on better matchups, justifying the cut in the number of games. On the otherhand, out of the 5 games on ABC in the NY market, the Rangers will be on all 5 weeks, the Devils once (I assume a Rangers-Devils matchup) and the Islanders 0. Now if memory serves me correctly, the Devils and the Islanders made the playoffs while the Rangers did not. Where is the better matchups? As far as ESPN/ESPN2 is concerned, the Rangers get 10 appearances, the Islanders 4, the Devils 1.

Something isn’t kosher here. They might say they are focusing on quality, but in reality, the are keeping the same mindset they have had over the past few years of the contract which is put the big name teams on no matter how good or bad they are. Now that they have shelled out a ton on the NBA, they need to save money. So to do that, they cut back on the number of NHL games by almost 30% I will be the first to admit that a lot of the games did not interest me, but there were a number of games that were very interesting. Many of those were not the marquis matchups, but the 2nd level teams fighting for playoff spots or divisional batles.

Finally although I have always enjoyed ESPN’s hockey coverage (not so much of ABC’s), I could never understand why the NHL 2night program wasnt put on at a better time. Who is going to stay up till 12:30 or later on the east coast to watch it? It just shows that their commitment has dwindled over the past few years.

So I ask all of you in the States: Is less more when it comes to televised games?