Spawn of Lockout

As the story goes, last time there was a lockout in 2004-05, ESPN, the primary carrier of NHL games at the time, panicked.

The Bristol behemoth and “Worldwide Leader” suddenly had a ton of airspace to fill, and all other ” legitimate” sports were spoken for.
One can only imagine the tense, sweat-soaked and empty Chinese food box laden meetings, that went on among network brass since their 12-year run of success with the sport had come to an unexpected end.

I’m not sure who exactly it was, but I can imagine one underling meekly raising his hand to suggest using televised Poker. My guess is that a button was repeatedly smashed by the highest ranking exec at the table, and the brave and creative go-getter fell through a trap door into an alligator pit. But just as the poor staffers screams were tailing off, a few execs looked at each other and said, “You know, it’s just crazy enough to work.”

And work it did, spawning a multi-million dollar endeavor that would buoy ESPN and the entire country during a dark time. So successful was TV Poker, that when the NHL got themselves together and said, ” OK, we’re back! Here’s what it will cost ya to keep us on,” ESPN responded by saying: “No thanks, we’re good.”

So Poker became an ESPN staple and the NHL packed all of their belongings in a bandana on a stick and thumbed it on the Cable TV highway eventually getting picked up by the Outdoor Life Network…I mean Versus…I mean NBC SportsNetwork — and aside from my own frustration at having to pay extra for that ridiculous cable bundle, it’s been a pretty good marriage between the two. Until now.

With another lockout underway and the prospect of regular-season games going the way of the rotary wall-mounted phone, the next generation of sweaty execs are beginning to assemble. What could possibly catch the attention of scores of hockey fans in this new climate of reality TV? How can they compete with Honey Boo Boo or the Jersey Shore crew?

Well, I’m here to help, people. Here are some sports-oriented ideas for lockout replacements.

Sutter Family Values — these people are like The Jacksons of the hockey world and with a new generation of Sutters poised to take over the NHL, we get a behind the scenes look at how this clan keeps pumping out great hockey stars and minds.

The Stanley Cup Hangover — follow Mike Richards and the rest of the zany Kings team as they scramle around the Northern Hemisphere, trying to piece together what happened to the missing Stanley Cup, all culminating at Jeff Carters shore house in New Jersey.

The Slightly Peckish Games — athletes from various sports backgrounds are dropped into a controlled environment and battle to be the last man or women standing. Cruel irony rears its ugly head as UFC’s Chael Sonnen uses a hockey stick to pummel Don Brashear.

Crosswordz Showdown — Poker camera technology is used to delve into the exciting world of crosswords. Viewers sweat it out as a contestant tries to come up with a six- letter word for “a sport in danger of becoming irrelevant.” Starting with “H” .

Keeping up with Paulina Gretzky — Let’s face it, to the obvious chagrin of papa Wayne, just keeping a camera on this girl would get more viewers than the World Series of Poker and NHL combined. Or better yet, play out the whole dynamic like an episode of Married With Children, featuring a beleaguered Wayne sitting on the sofa, hand down his pants, as his offspring amaze and astound us.

Any one of these ideas should be as big a hit as the replacement refs in the NFL, which is to say that we should have our beloved sport back in no time.