Kings fever in L.A., but not all networks are feeling it

So close.

The Stanley Cup and all its silver glory was in the house Wednesday, at Staples Center ready to get a nice post-game spin around the rink. Alas, the Los Angeles Kings couldn’t close the deal, losing 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils and will head back east for game five Saturday night.Kings1

For those who were preoccupied and didn’t know who won and turned on the 6 o’clock edition of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” this morning to find out, they wouldn’t have known for a long time either.

It wasn’t until about 35 minutes past the hour, and at least 15-20 items on its on-screen ticker, before ESPN offered a segment on the game. That’s unacceptable.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports either has terrible editorial judgment or is spiteful in that it didn’t win the NHL rights that were captured by NBC.

Granted, I’m not going to think for a nanosecond that hockey is more popular than the NBA, but the cabler couldn’t have at least done a short piece on the game early in the telecast — maybe somewhere in-between an analysis on a problematic hangnail for a San Antonio Spurs player or what LeBron James might be having for lunch to prepare him for Game 6?

And, to make matters worse, even if you are in the opinion that a slew of basketball stories should be reported before one hockey mention, ESPN does a Tim Tebow report about his coming to the New York Jets and how that will affect quarterback Mark Sanchez.

It’s June, people! Maybe the calendar is different in Bristol, Conn., than the rest of the country, but to offer another Tebow story, when 1,724 of them have been done before, prior to a Stanley Cup Finals story is nonsensical.

Kings2Last I checked, the teams in the finals are in Los Angeles and the New York metropolitan area, so it’s not exactly Phoenix vs. Tampa Bay. We’re actually fairly big markets, in case anyone is looking it up.

Whether ESPN is burying hockey because they lost on the contract to NBC is purely speculative, and there is an absolute right for them to concentrate on sports in which they have live rights deals, but let’s hope they are not putting business decisions in light of the public good. And that public does actually know what a hockey puck is.

While ranting, I’m also not particularly happy with NBC either. Again, a business deal got in the way of common sense when local Peacock L.A. station KNBC couldn’t air the Kings game Monday or last night. Instead, the game was shown on cabler NBC Sports Network. Longtime KNBC sports anchor Fred Roggin said he worked for days to try and shift the game, but to no avail.

Two problems here: If you’re NBC and the NHL — a collaboration that is in the first stages of a 10-year-deal — and trying to build your sport, airing it on NBC Sports Network in a town that, for the first time in ages, wanted to watch hockey in masse isn’t a smart idea. Yes, pre-existing advertising and carriage deals were made, but those could have been worked out and exceptions made.

I can’t tell you how many casual hockey fans, who rarely go to the games or watch them, said to me over the last few days: “I wanted to watch the Kings game but couldn’t find it. Where is NBC Sports Network?”

But, if neither party would budge and move to the game over to KNBC, how could the NHL or NBC or even the cable carriers and satcasters not taken out an ad in the Los Angeles Times or other publications and online and alerting fans what channel the game is on? For example, no viewer is going to casually scroll to channel 603 on DirecTV to find the game.

So to those long-suffering Kings fans, and even those who are finding room on the bandwagon, it looks like we’re in this on our own.