OLN serviceable in NHL debut

Published October 7, 2005

Hockey returned to television Wednesday night, and Outdoor Life Network made its big time debut (with apologies to the Tour de France) by pulling off a successful first night.

The only beef many had with OLN was airing the Philadelphia-New York Rangers game instead of promoting superstar-to-be Sidney Crosby's debut with Pittsburgh against New Jersey.

OLN did switch to Crosby's debut a few times, but considering many have called him the future of hockey, it may have missed a golden opportunity to kick off its NHL coverage by looking forward rather than back.

Even New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur admitted as much, and he played against Crosby.

"That's what it should have been (Penguins-Devils on Tuesday)," Brodeur told the Bergen Record. "It would have been easy to do, but OLN starts with Flyers-Rangers.

"Sidney Crosby is the guy you want to market. He's the new, up-and-coming guy."

Crosby will get his primetime slot Monday when the Penguins play Buffalo at 7 p.m.

One other minor beef: the continuing sports obsession with Hollywood. An introduction by Keifer Sutherland and a welcome back by Donald Trump? Well, at least they weren't promoting their own shows, unless OLN is picking up 24 and Apprentice re-runs.

Otherwise, a fine job. The announcers and analysts did a good job filling in fans on the new rule changes and seemed genuinely excited to be working again.

With a mini-rink set up in studio, the team of host Bill Clement and analysts Keith Jones and Neil Smith were entertaining and informative, showing viewers the options for the better players on offense and how they get free for shots.

From a technical standpoint, OLN was clean and concise, which may not suit the statniks. It showed game highlights with a soundtrack, which isn't as annoying as you might think, and the whole look of the broadcast had a definite throwback feel. Those just tuning in might think they stumbled across ESPN Classic.

Instead of filling the screen with slick graphics, OLN kept it simple and it worked. One of the biggest complaints about today's sports broadcasts concerns screen clutter: score in top right corner, other scores in top left, network logo bottom left, a scroll, etc.

But OLN offered a remarkably threadbare screen by today's standards, and quite honestly, it was nice.

Obviously, one night does not a season make. And no matter how simple and interesting, OLN can't save hockey my itself.

Wednesday night, though, it seemed up to the job of doing its part.