I can't help it, it has been too long since my last rant, so here we go --
ESPN has been bitch-slapping college hockey all over the rink the past few years, but it seems to have hit a new low this year. The Division I Championships have been exiled to ESPNU and treated very shabbily. The last draw for me was when they referred to the ECAC as the East Coast Athletic Conference on one of their graphics. As the SID at RPI I worked with then ECAC Commissioner Joe Bertagna and the other ECAC schools 25 years ago to have ESPN and other media outlets get the name of the conference right with the Bristol bunch. Back then they cared about getting things right.
College hockey was good to ESPN back then, giving them news, feature ideas and even a weekly poll some of us conducted just for their use. I can't believe they have nobody left in Bristol who remembers. Come on ESPN, college hockey deserves better. We all love college basketball and March Madness but have you grown so large that you have forgotten those who were in your corner when you launched in 1979?
Look, the announcers could be better prepared for broadcasts, as Tom Mees and the others were in the 80's, but that is not a big deal. Most of the announce crews are good. Barry Melrose knows a lot about hockey, but sounds like he just walked into the booth from lunch five minutes before air time. I think Melrose is much better in the studio, like he is for NHL games. He makes you nostalgic for Bob Norton and his down-home New England delivery. ESPN could find some more people with some real ties to the game and real knowledge about the history and the current rules and issues. Anson Carter could also develop into a nice studio analyst with some training and experience, but let him get that experience doing regular season games for the regional networks, not the NCAA tournament.
Part of the problem is the NCAA. There is not enough money in hockey for them to care. ESPN needs to be held accountable by college hockey and the NCAA. College hockey also needs to step up and be more aggressive in defending and promoting the game. With realignment continuing and the addition of more programs possible in the next five years, college hockey needs to speak with one strong, respected voice. My choice right now would be Joe Bertagna, the Hockey East Commissioner. He has the stature of an elder statesman - sorry Joe - and the respect of people in hockey, at the NCAA and with the media to raise the profile of college hockey.
ESPN is not the only issue, there are others facing college hockey as well. Part of the problem is a lack of will and a lack of money to address the issues with one voice. With fewer than 60 Division I men's programs and a women's game with even less visibility, college hockey doesn't have the clout to make people take notice, yet. I think it can and will in the near future with the addition of a Big 10 league and other changes on the horizon. I would like to see traditional partners of the game, such as ESPN help, not hinder that progress.