NHL on NBC

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NHL on NBC
NHLonNBC2012logo.png
NHL on NBC logo since 2012.
Format Sports
Created by NBC Sports
Directed by Billy McCoy
Salvatore Nigita (technical director)
Richard Sansevere (technical director)
Starring NHL on NBC commentators
Country of origin United States
Production
Executive producer(s) Terry O'Neill[1]
Producer(s) Glenn Adamo
Mike Finnocchiaro
John Shannon (feature producer)
Running time 150 minutes or until game ends, with an option to dump out at 180 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel NBC
NBCSN
CNBC (playoffs)
Picture format 480i (SDTV),
1080i (HDTV)
Original run February 25, 1940 (1940-02-25) – present
External links
Website

The NHL on NBC is the branding used for NBC and NBCSN's telecasts of National Hockey League (NHL) games. While NBC has covered the league at various points in its history, the NHL returned to NBC from ABC (which previously broadcast games on NHL on ABC) beginning in 2006. Its current contract with the league runs until the year 2021.

As of 2012, NBC's coverage includes: the annual NHL Winter Classic, an outdoor game usually played on New Year's Day; one national weekly regular season game each Sunday afternoon following the New Year; one week of regionally televised contests in February for Hockey Weekend Across America; coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs; and one nationally televised game the day following Thanksgiving. NBCSN's coverage includes 90 regular season games, mostly on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings (and later in the season on Sunday evenings), throughout the NHL season, and shared coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with select playoff games also airing on CNBC.

History[edit]

February 25, 1940 and 1966[edit]

As part of a series of experimental broadcasts that W2XBS (now WNBC, NBC's flagship station) produced between 1939 and 1940, the station broadcast a game between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens from Madison Square Garden on February 25, 1940. About 300 people in the New York area saw the Rangers win, 6–2. Over the next few years, W2XBS (later WNBT) carried some home games of the New York Rangers on a local basis.

Regularly scheduled American network broadcasts of NHL games would not begin until the late 1950s, when CBS began carrying regular season games, but no playoffs. The deal was broken off in 1960, due to a combination of a dispute over the players receiving a share of the rights fee and the then-regional nature of the sport.

Televised NHL games resumed for the 1965–66 NHL season, but this time on NBC; the regional issues were settled by the league's pending addition of six new teams, which expanded the league's reach nationwide and into lucrative markets in Pennsylvania and California (in addition to two other midwestern markets; NBC, however, would lose the broadcast rights before the six new teams would make it to play). In 1966, NBC became the first[2] United States television network to air a national broadcast of a Stanley Cup Playoff game. They provided coverage of four Sunday afternoon playoff games[3][4] during the 1965–66 postseason.[5] On April 10[6] and April 17,[7] NBC aired semifinal games between the Chicago Black Hawks and the Detroit Red Wings. On April 24[8] and May 1,[9] NBC aired Games 1 and 4[10] of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings. Win Elliot served as the play-by-play man while Bill Mazer served as the color commentator for the games.[11]

NBC's coverage of the 1966 Stanley Cup Finals marked the first time that hockey games were televised on network television in color.[12] The CBC would follow suit the following year. NBC's Stanley Cup coverage preempted a sports anthology series called NBC Sports in Action hosted by Jim Simpson and Bill Cullen, who were between-periods co-hosts for the Stanley Cup broadcasts.

NHL broadcast rights returned to CBS the next season, but due to other programming commitments, regular-season games were handed off to RKO General.

1970s[edit]

From 1972–73[13]1974–75,[14] NBC not only televised the Stanley Cup Finals[15] (including a couple of games in prime time[16]), but also weekly regular season games on Sunday afternoons. NBC also aired one regular season and a couple of playoff games in prime time during the first couple of seasons. Tim Ryan and Ted Lindsay (with Brian McFarlane as the intermission host) served as the commentators for NBC's NHL coverage during this period.[17][18][19] Since most NHL teams still didn't have players' names on the backs of jerseys, NBC persuaded NHL commissioner Clarence Campbell to make teams put on players' names on NBC telecasts beginning with the 1973–74 season to help viewers identify players.

NBC's NHL coverage during the 1970s was probably most notable for the introduction of the animated character Peter Puck.[20][21] Peter Puck, whose cartoon adventures (produced by Hanna-Barbera) appeared on both NBC's Hockey Game of the Week and CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, explained hockey rules to the home viewing audience.

Besides Peter Puck, the 1970s version of The NHL on NBC had a between-periods feature titled Showdown. The concept of Showdown involved 20 (16 shooters and four goaltenders) of the NHL's greatest players going head-to-head in a taped penalty shot competition. After the NHL left NBC in 1975,[22][23][24] Showdown continued to be seen on Hockey Night in Canada and local television broadcasts of U.S.-based NHL teams.

Prior to January 14, 2006, NBC's last regular season NHL game occurred on April 6, 1975, with the Minnesota North Stars against the Chicago Blackhawks.[25]

Schedules[edit]

1972–73[edit]
Date Teams
December 29 (prime time game starting at 8:30 pm EST) Boston at Minnesota
January 7 Boston at Chicago
January 13[26] New York Rangers at St. Louis
January 21[27] Minnesota at Detroit
January 28[28] Detroit at Montreal
February 4[29] Pittsburgh at Minnesota
February 11 Montreal at New York Rangers
February 18[30] Montreal at Toronto
February 25 St. Louis at Detroit
March 4[31] Chicago at Boston
March 11 Toronto at New York Rangers
March 16 (prime time game starting at 8:30 pm EST) Boston at Detroit
March 18 Detroit at Chicago
March 25[32] St. Louis at Philadelphia

Note: The December 29 and March 16 games were on Friday nights; all other regular season games were on Sunday afternoons. All start times at 3:00 pm Eastern Standard Time unless noted.

1973–74[edit]
Date Teams
January 4 (prime time game starting at 8:30 pm EST) Boston at New York Rangers
January 19[33] New York Rangers at Chicago
January 27 Philadelphia at Boston
February 3 Montreal at Detroit
February 10 Los Angeles at Atlanta
February 17 Philadelphia at Montreal
February 24 Boston at Buffalo
March 3 Chicago at Detroit
March 10 Philadelphia at Boston
March 17 New York Rangers at Boston
March 24 St. Louis at Philadelphia
March 31[34] Toronto at New York Rangers
April 7[35] Pittsburgh at Atlanta
April 14[36] Montreal at New York Rangers
Note: The January 4 game was on a Friday night; all other regular season games were on Sunday afternoons. All start times at 2:00 pm Eastern Standard Time unless noted.
1974–75[edit]
Date Teams Play-by-play Color commentator(s) Studio host
January 5[37] St. Louis at Buffalo[37] Tim Ryan[37] Ted Lindsay[37] Brian McFarlane[37]
January 11[38] Philadelphia at Montreal Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay Brian McFarlane
January 19 California at Chicago
January 26 Philadelphia at Boston
February 2[39] Detroit at New York Rangers
February 9[40] Montreal at Buffalo
February 16 Boston at Philadelphia Tim Ryan[41] Ted Lindsay[41] Brian McFarlane[41]
February 23 New York Rangers at Philadelphia Tim Ryan[42] Ted Lindsay[42] Brian McFarlane[42]
March 2 Chicago at Boston
March 9 Montreal at New York Rangers
March 16 Los Angeles at Philadelphia
March 23[43] St. Louis at Vancouver
March 30 New York Islanders at Atlanta
April 6[25] Minnesota at Chicago
Note: All start times (with the exception of the January 19 and February 9 telecasts) were at 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.

NBC did not broadcast the sixth game of the 1975 Finals, in which the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Buffalo Sabres to clinch their second consecutive championship, played in prime time on a Tuesday night. Had the Finals gone to a seventh game, NBC would have pre-empted its prime time lineup on a Thursday night to carry that deciding contest. But by that time, the network had informed the NHL that unless ratings for the Finals spiked, it would drop the sport, which it did at the end of the season.

Stanley Cup playoffs[edit]
Year Round Series Games covered Play-by-play Color commentator(s)
1973 Quarterfinals Montreal-Buffalo Game 4 Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay
Semifinals New York Rangers-Chicago Game 2 Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay
Montreal-Philadelphia Game 4 Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay
1974 Quarterfinals Atlanta-Philadelphia Game 1 Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay
Montreal-New York Rangers Game 4 Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay
Semifinals Boston-Chicago Game 2 Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay
Philadelphia-New York Rangers Games 4, 7 Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay
1975 Quarterfinals Toronto-Philadelphia Game 1 Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay
Pittsburgh-New York Islanders Game 4 Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay
Semifinals Montreal-Buffalo Game 1 Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay
Philadelphia-New York Islanders Games 3, 6 Tim Ryan Ted Lindsay

The dark years (1976–1989)[edit]

For 17 years after the 1975 Finals, there would be no national over-the-air network coverage of the NHL in the United States (with the exception of CBS' coverage of Game 2 of the 1979 Challenge Cup and Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals and NBC's coverage of the NHL All-Star Game beginning in 1990) and only spotty coverage on regional networks. This was due to the fact that no network was willing to commit to a large number of games, in turn, providing low ratings for NHL games. ABC would eventually resume broadcasting regular NHL games (on a time buy basis through ESPN) for the 1992–93 season (and continuing through the 1993–94 season before Fox took over for the next five seasons).

1990s[edit]

From 1990 through 1994,[44][45][46] NBC[47][48] only televised the All Star Game.[49][50] NBC reportedly wanted to test the appeal of hockey,[51] having recently lost the Major League Baseball package to CBS. Shortly thereafter however, NBC would gain the broadcasting rights to the National Basketball Association from CBS, thus there was a bit of a notion that NBC no longer really needed hockey.

Marv Albert[52] and John Davidson[53] called the action, while Mike Emrick[54][55] served as an ice-level reporter in 1990.[56][57][58] Meanwhile, Bill Clement served as an ice-level reporter in 1991, 1992[59] and 1994.[60] Hockey Night in Canada's Ron MacLean also served as an ice-level reporter, and was the lone correspondent for NBC at the 1993 All-Star Game.[61] Brenda Brenon worked on NBC's intermission features for the 1994 All-Star Game. Jim Gray served as correspondent for the 1994 NHL All-Star Game. As previously mentioned, the 1990 All-Star Game[62] marked the first time since Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals was broadcast on CBS[63][64] that the NHL appeared on American network television.

The Montreal Canadiens were slated to host the 1990 All-Star Game, but however withdrew their bid to considerations due to the superb hosting by Quebec City of Rendez-vous '87. This had allowed the Pittsburgh Penguins, who wanted to host an All-Star Game in 1993, to move up three years early. For its part, Pittsburgh's organizers added much more to previous games, creating the first "true" All-Star weekend.[65] Firstly was the addition of the Heroes of Hockey[66][67] game, a two-period oldtimers' game between past NHL greats. The second was the addition of the National Hockey League All-Star Skills Competition, a competition between the players invited to the All-Star Game. The Skills competition was created by Paul Palmer, who adapted the Showdown feature seen on Hockey Night in Canada from 1972–73 to 1979–80. All-Star players would be rewarded with US$2,500 for any win in the skills competition.

To accommodate the altered activities, the game itself was played on a Sunday afternoon[68] instead of a Tuesday night, as was the case in previous years. This allowed NBC to air the game live across the United States – marking (surprisingly) the first time that a national audience would see Wayne Gretzky[69] and Mario Lemieux[70] play. Referees and other officials were also wired with microphones in this game, as were the two head coaches. Finally, NBC was also allowed to conduct interviews with players during stoppages in play, to the chagrin of the Hockey Night in Canada crew, whose attempts to do likewise were repeatedly denied by the league in past years.

In 1991,[71] NBC broke away[72][73] from the telecast in the third period to televise a briefing from the Pentagon involving the Gulf War. SportsChannel America[74][75] included the missing coverage in a replay of NBC's telecast. (NBC owned 50%[76][77][78][79] of Rainbow Enterprises, the parent of SportsChannel America.)[80]

There were reports[81] about NBC making an arrangement to air four to eight regular season games for the 1992–93 season[82] but nothing materialized. NHL officials had arranged a 4–8 game, time-buy package on NBC, but that fell through when the NHL wanted assurance that all NBC affiliates would carry the games. (Since 2006, NBC has generally gotten all but a couple of affiliates in the Top-50 markets to carry the games.) For instance, in 1990, NBC's affiliates in Atlanta (NBC's coverage of the 1992 All-Star Game aired on the independent station WTLK in Atlanta), Charlotte, Memphis, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Phoenix didn't clear the game (Atlanta and Phoenix would eventually receive NHL teams, but Atlanta's team moved to Winnipeg in 2011). Ultimately, roughly 15% of the nation didn't have access to the game. ABC was the league's network broadcaster instead, and then Fox won a bidding war with CBS for TV rights lasting from the 1994–95 through 1998–99 seasons.

2000s[edit]

Terms of the deal[edit]

NHL on NBC logo from 2005–2012

In May 2004, NBC reached an agreement with the NHL to broadcast a slate of regular season games and the Stanley Cup Finals. The plan called for NBC to air at least six weeks of regular season games (three regional games each week) on Saturday afternoons. Also, NBC was to show one or two playoff games per weekend during the playoffs. Between two and five games of the Stanley Cup Finals would air in prime time (OLN/Versus received the other two as part of its package). NBC's primary game each week, as well as the Stanley Cup Finals, would air in high definition.

Unlike previous network television deals with the NHL (like Fox, who had the rights from 19941999 and ABC, who had the rights from 19992004), NBC paid no upfront rights fee, instead splitting advertising revenue with the league after meeting its own production and distribution costs. On the other hand, the league avoided the arrangement some minor sports leagues have, where they pay networks for broadcast time and produce their own telecasts, but keep any advertising revenue.

The last time NBC Sports entered a television deal which didn't require them to pay any rights fees was in 1994–1995, when they were involved in the Major League Baseball joint venture called "The Baseball Network." To a lesser extent, NBC also had a similar sort of revenue-sharing agreement with the Arena Football League and, because of their ownership in the XFL, also paid no rights fees for airing that league.

NBC's out-of-market games were available on NHL Center Ice through 2006–07; NBC switched to stand-alone games in 2007–08.

2004–05 NHL lockout[edit]

NBC's initial contract with the NHL ran for two years, with a network option to renew for two more. NBC's NHL coverage was delayed a year because of the 2004–05 NHL lockout, which wound up cancelling the entire regular season and playoffs.[83] NBC instead, decided to replace five of its scheduled NHL broadcasts with alternate sports programming (such as reruns of NASCAR Year in Review and The Purina Incredible Dog Challenge). NBC also decided to give one of the slots back to local affiliates, some of which filled the time given back to them with infomercials.

2004–05 Schedule[edit]
Date Teams Start times (All times Eastern)
1/22/05 Philadelphia vs. NY Rangers
Chicago vs. St. Louis
San Jose vs. Colorado
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
1/29/05 Tampa Bay vs. Boston
Colorado vs. Detroit
Anaheim vs. Minnesota
1:30 pm
1:30 p.m
1:30 pm
2/5/05 Chicago vs. Boston
New Jersey vs. Philadelphia
Dallas vs. St. Louis
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
2/19/05 Philadelphia vs. NY Rangers
Detroit vs. Tampa Bay
Dallas vs. St. Louis
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
2/26/05 NY Islanders vs. New Jersey
Colorado vs. Philadelphia
San Jose vs. Detroit
1:30 pm
1:30 pm
1:30 pm
4/8/05 NY Rangers vs. Boston
Chicago vs. St. Louis
Anaheim vs. San Jose
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
5 p.m.

2005–06 NHL season[edit]

The NHL on NBC's new agreement debuted on January 14, 2006, with three regional games (New York vs. Detroit, Colorado vs. Philadelphia, and Dallas vs. Boston) to substantial praise among hockey fans and writers, who often compare national TV network's presentation to Hockey Night in Canada, which is broadcast in full on the NHL Center Ice package (although some writers even speculated that NBC's playoff broadcasts were superior to CBC's, largely because of announcers and HD coverage of games prior to the Finals).

2005–06 Schedule[edit]
Date Teams Start times (All times Eastern) Commentator crews
1/14/06 NY Rangers vs. Detroit
Colorado vs. Philadelphia
Dallas vs. Boston
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
Mike Emrick, John Davidson and Pierre McGuire
Dave Strader, Brian Hayward and Joe Micheletti
Chris Cuthbert, Peter McNab and Cammi Granato
1/21/06 Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh
Colorado vs. Detroit
San Jose vs. Los Angeles
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
6 p.m.
Mike Emrick, John Davidson and Pierre McGuire
Chris Cuthbert, Peter McNab and Cammi Granato
Dave Strader, Brian Hayward and Joe Micheletti
1/28/06 Pittsburgh vs. NY Rangers
Detroit vs. Dallas
Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
Mike Emrick, John Davidson and Pierre McGuire
Chris Cuthbert, Peter McNab and Cammi Granato
Dave Strader, Brian Hayward and Joe Micheletti
2/4/06 Detroit vs. Colorado
Dallas vs. St. Louis
NY Islanders vs. Pittsburgh
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
Mike Emrick, John Davidson and Pierre McGuire
Chris Cuthbert, Peter McNab and Cammi Granato
Dave Strader, Brian Hayward and Joe Micheletti
4/8/06 NY Rangers vs. Boston
Colorado vs. St. Louis
Anaheim vs. Los Angeles
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
6 p.m.
Mike Emrick, John Davidson and Pierre McGuire
Chris Cuthbert, Peter McNab and Cammi Granato
Dave Strader, Brian Hayward and Joe Micheletti
4/15/06 New York Rangers at Philadelphia
Minnesota vs. Dallas
Boston vs. Atlanta
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
Mike Emrick, John Davidson and Pierre McGuire
Chris Cuthbert, Peter McNab and Cammi Granato
Dave Strader, Brian Hayward and Joe Micheletti

2006–07 NHL season[edit]

For the 2006–07 season, NBC broadcast three regional games per weekend of coverage during the regular season. They also scheduled ten coverage windows during the playoffs (not including Stanley Cup Finals). The additional broadcasts were expected to replace the Arena Football League, which NBC dropped after the 2006 season. NBC also produced two games per week in high definition, up from one in 2005–06.

The newly titled NHL on NBC Game of the Week premiered for a second season January 13, 2007 with three regional games (LA vs. STL, BOS vs. NYR, PIT vs. PHI) at 2:00 pm ET. Games started at various times, ranging from 12:30 to 3:30 during the season (this variation primarily resulted from NBC's commitments to the PGA Tour and other programming).

The NHL on NBC moved to Sundays after its season premiere (listed above) for the final eight dates of the season. NBC's nine games amounted to the league's most extensive U.S. broadcast television coverage since 1998, during Fox's tenure.

A new Sunday Night Football-esque score banner designed by Troika Design Group also debuted during the season.

2006–07 Schedule[edit]
Date Teams Start times (All times Eastern) Commentator crews
1/13/07 Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia
Boston vs. NY Rangers
Los Angeles vs. St. Louis
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
2 p.m.
Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire
Dave Strader, Brian Hayward and Joe Micheletti
Chris Cuthbert, Peter McNab and Darren Pang
1/28/07 Colorado vs. Detroit
Dallas vs. Anaheim
Philadelphia vs. Atlanta
3:30 pm
3:30 pm
3:30 pm
Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire
Dave Strader, Brian Hayward and Joe Micheletti
Chris Cuthbert, Peter McNab and Darren Pang
2/11/07 Colorado vs. Dallas
Tampa Bay vs. New Jersey
Chicago vs. Columbus
3:30 p.m
3:30 pm
3:30 pm
Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire
Dave Strader, Brian Hayward and Joe Micheletti
Chris Cuthbert and Peter McNab
2/18/07 Washington vs. Pittsburgh
Chicago vs. NY Rangers
San Jose vs. Dallas
3:30 pm
3:30 pm
3:30 pm
Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire
Dave Strader, Peter McNab and Joe Micheletti
Chris Cuthbert, Brian Hayward and Darren Pang
3/4/07 Colorado vs. Detroit
Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh
12:30 pm
12:30 pm
Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire
Dave Strader, Peter McNab and Joe Micheletti
3/11/07 Boston vs. Detroit
Carolina vs. NY Rangers
12:30 pm
12:30 pm
Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire
Dave Strader, Brian Hayward and Joe Micheletti
3/25/07 Boston vs. Pittsburgh
NY Rangers vs. NY Islanders
12:30 pm
12:30 pm
Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire
Dave Strader, Brian Hayward and Joe Micheletti
4/1/07 Detroit vs. Columbus
Los Angeles vs. San Jose
12:30 pm
6:00 pm
Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brett Hull and Pierre McGuire
Chris Cuthbert, Brian Hayward and Peter McNab
4/8/07 Buffalo vs. Philadelphia
Chicago vs. Dallas
1:00 pm
1:00 pm
Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire
Chris Cuthbert, Joe Micheletti and Peter McNab
2007 playoffs controversy[edit]

On May 19, 2007, during the Stanley Cup playoffs, NBC angered many fans and journalists when it pre-empted coverage of the overtime period of the tied Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres, instead going directly to pre-race coverage of the Preakness Stakes horse race. A typical horse racing broadcast generally contains about two hours of pre-race coverage, with the actual races lasting two or three minutes. Coverage of the overtime period was shunted to Versus,[84] the league's cable partner, although viewers in the Buffalo and Rochester markets were able to continue watching the game on WGRZ and WHEC, their local NBC affiliates.

The move was originally seen not only as a snub of small-market teams (such as the Sabres), but of hockey in general. However, NBC and the NHL later revealed that the Preakness deal had been made several years before and contained mandatory advertising commitments during the pre-race build-up. Both sides could have agreed that the entire game would air only on Versus or begin earlier in the day, but the NHL wanted at least one Eastern Conference Finals game to air on NBC, and said that it does not schedule with the assumption that games will go into overtime. Moreover, an earlier start time could not be arranged because the broadcast window was fixed in advance, and both the NHL and NBC needed the flexibility to pick the Western Conference Finals for that window if they so desired.

In 2006, NBC televised Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes on the same day as the Preakness. Before the game, Bill Clement advised the audience that in the event that the game went into overtime, it would be televised on Versus, or OLN as it was known at the time. The Sabres won the game in regulation.

NHL on NBC Faceoff[edit]

For the 2006–07 season, NBC added an online, broadband-only pregame show to its NHL coverage. This is similar to what it does with its Notre Dame football coverage. Titled NHL on NBC Countdown to Faceoff, it airs for a half-hour before every NHL on NBC telecast on NBCSports.com. The show features a breakdown of upcoming action, as well as reports from the game sites and a feature on an NHL player.

On March 27, 2007, NBC Sports and the NHL agreed to a one-year contract extension with a network option for a second year.

Beginning in 2007–08, NBC has "Flex Scheduling", similar to NFL broadcasts. The league selects at least three potential games at the start of the season for most of NBC's regular-season coverage dates. Thirteen days prior to the game, NBC selects one to air as its Game of the Week. The other two games move outside of NBC's broadcast window and return to teams' regional carriers. Since the league made network coverage a priority in the 1990s, regionalized coverage had been the norm; NBC is the first network to try regularly presenting one game to the entire nation. Additionally, studio segments now originate from the game site instead of 30 Rockefeller Center. All games are produced in 1080i high definition.

On New Years Day, January 1, 2008, NBC began its 2007–08 schedule with an outdoor hockey game (the 2008 NHL Winter Classic) between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The game went head to head with some of the New Year's Day college football bowl games, but none of the feature Bowl Championship Series games. While never expected to beat or directly compete with football ratings the timing was designed to take advantage of the large audience flipping between channels to watch the different bowl games. It was the first such game to be televised live by an American network and the NHL's first outdoor regular season game since the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens played the Heritage Classic, which aired on CBC. CBC also showed the 2008 outdoor game. Although originally maligned as a mere publicity stunt by some in the media, the 2008 Winter Classic drew a 2.6 Nielsen rating in the U.S. (or about 2.9 million viewers), the highest rating for a regular-season contest since February 1996, when Fox was the league's network partner.[85] By comparison, CBS received a 2.7 rating for the Gator Bowl, which also had a 1 pm start.[86]

Except for the day after Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, all regular season telecasts now air on Sunday afternoons.

In April 2008, NBC announced the activation of its option to retain broadcasting rights for the 2008–2009 season. NBC's scheduling will be similar to the 2007–2008 season (flex scheduling for regular-season games, up to five games of the Stanley Cup Finals—changing in 2009 to include the first two and last three games, etc.) except that all (or nearly all) of the Sunday-afternoon games will begin at 12:30 pm Eastern time. Coverage again included an outdoor game, which was between the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field on January 1, 2009.

Teams featured[edit]

Regular-season NHL telecasts on NBC itself usually only feature U.S.-based teams. During the Stanley Cup playoffs, broadcasting a game involving a Canadian team might be unavoidable. NBC has the first choice of games and times on its scheduled broadcast dates. CBC and TSN are required to adjust accordingly during the playoffs, even though both pay the league substantial rights fees and NBC, until its most recent contract extension, did not.

There have been two exceptions to this policy since 2006; in 2008, the Montreal Canadiens became the first Canadian team featured on the NHL on NBC during the regular-season (NBC Sports' Dick Ebersol was rumored to have specifically wanted to do a game from Montreal at some point). They played the New York Rangers on February 3. The 2014 NHL Winter Classic also featured a Canadian team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, up against the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium. Due to the revamp of the league's conferences and divisions that season, the cross-border rivalry had become an interdivisional one with the Wings' move to the Eastern Conference.

Like its predecessors, NBC frequently chooses games with a focus on about six teams: New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, and most recently the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks. The relation has very little correlation with team success; for instance, the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007, and the Buffalo Sabres made it to the conference finals in both 2006 and 2007. Those teams received one and two potential games respectively in the 2008 season, compared to the seven potential games given to the Rangers and the four games which could include the rival Philadelphia Flyers.[87] There also is significant emphasis on the Philadelphia Flyers; the Flyers are a subsidiary of Spectacor, a majority-owned subsidiary of NBC owner Comcast, making its favored status a conflict of interest (specifically self-dealing), especially since Comcast has become the exclusive national television broadcaster of the NHL in the United States. None of the other three major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada currently have any such conflict between their team owners and broadcasters, since they have at least two separate national broadcasters. (Buffalo has fared better in its number of NBCSN appearances, due in part to the channel's relatively high viewership in the Buffalo market.)[88]

The most frequently cited reasons for this relative lack of diversity are low ratings in a market (such as for Anaheim, which competes with the older Los Angeles Kings in its market) and market size (such as for Buffalo, where hockey ratings are the highest in the league, but the market itself is the smallest of any American NHL team).

On some occasions, NBCSN will add select games to air other than those already scheduled during the final two months of the season. The 'bonus games' have featured teams who are covered locally on Comcast SportsNet (e.g. Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, San Jose), with the NHL on NBC studio team taking care of pregame, intermission, and postgame reports. Such broadcasts also apply in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The network also airs a simulcast of games aired in Canada on Sportsnet, CBC and TSN.

Innovations[edit]

Some of NBC's innovations include putting a star clock underneath the scoreboard at the top of the screen. During each game, NBC takes one player from each team and clocks how long that player is out on the ice each time he comes out for a shift. Also, goalies like Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury may wear cameras inside their masks, much like Major League Baseball on Fox asks catchers to do. Finally, NBC puts one of its analysts in between the two teams' benches for what they call Inside the Glass reporting, which was later emulated by sister network Comcast SportsNet, CBC and TSN. In addition to providing color commentary, this allows the analyst to observe and report on the benches, as well as interviewing the coaches periodically.

2010s[edit]

In 2010, NBC would retain the rights to the NHL. They continued to broadcast the Winter Classic, Sunday-afternoon games at 12:30 pm Eastern time, six weekends of playoff action, and Games 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

On February 20, 2011, NBC introduced Hockey Day in America[89]—patterned after the CBC's Hockey Day in Canada, it featured eight of the most popular American teams in regional games: Capitals at Sabres, the Flyers at Rangers, and the Red Wings at the Wild, followed by the Penguins at Blackhawks for the national nightcap. The Flyers-Rangers game was aired in the majority of homes, while the Sabres-Capitals game was only seen in the Buffalo and Washington markets; as was the Red Wings-Wild game in their respective markets. The tripleheader would be completed with the 2011 Heritage Classic, for which viewers were redirected to Versus.

2011: New contract, new synergy[edit]

On April 19, 2011, after ESPN, Turner Sports and Fox Sports placed bids, NBC Sports announced it had reached a ten-year extension (through 2020–2021) to its television contract with the NHL worth nearly $2 billion over the life of the contract. The contract would cover games on both NBC and sister cable channel Versus,[90] which became part of the NBC Sports family as the result of Versus parent Comcast's controlling purchase of NBC Universal earlier in 2011. In relation to the contract's announcement, Versus would receive a new name to reflect its synergy with NBC Sports; that new name, NBC Sports Network,[91] would take effect on January 2, 2012,[92] however NHL coverage on Versus would begin to be produced identically to NBC's NHL coverage beginning in the 2011–12 season.

The terms of the deal include:[93]

  • A rights fee of roughly US$200 million per year for the combined cable and broadcast rights, nearly triple that of the previous contract.[94]
  • Increased weekly regular season coverage on NBCSN (as many as 90 games per season on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights). The channel also adds Sunday night games later in the season.
  • An annual "Thanksgiving Showdown" game airing on NBC the day after Thanksgiving ("Black Friday" afternoon) (the 2012-13 edition was cancelled due to the lockout). The November broadcast is the earliest an NHL regular season game has aired on an over-the-air U.S. network since the 1950s, when the league still only had six teams. The 2013 "Thanksgiving Showdown" game featured the Boston Bruins hosting the New York Rangers and it is expected that Boston will remain the home team in future years and launch a holiday tradition for the league and network (Boston has hosted matinee games the day after Thanksgiving since the 1980s), much like Detroit and Dallas traditionally host National Football League games on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Continued coverage on NBC of the NHL Winter Classic, to be played on New Year's Day unless that day lands on a Sunday, in which case the game is moved to January 2. Although the original terms of the contract publicized that the game would continue the 2011 precedent and play in prime time, both the 2012 and 2014 Winter Classics (the 2013 Winter Classic canceled due to the lockout) were scheduled for daytime slots. (Despite the open time slot on Sunday afternoons, NBC is effectively forbidden from counterprogramming against the NFL games on CBS and Fox.)
  • A national "Game of the Week" continuing on NBC as in previous years, beginning each January. (January is the start month due to NBC's contract with the NFL.)
  • Hockey Day in America becoming a permanent annual part of the NBC schedule.
  • Rights to any future Heritage Classics, which would be aired on NBCSN.
  • Digital rights across all platforms for any games broadcast by NBC or NBCSN.
  • Increased coverage of Stanley Cup Playoff games,[95] with all playoff games airing nationally on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, and NHL Network.[96] Local sports networks can carry their teams' 1st round games, but any games on NBC, and any NBC cable games from the 2nd round onward, will be exclusive to NBC.
  • Continued sharing of the Stanley Cup Final on NBC (which will air Games 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7) and NBC Sports Network (Games 2 and 3). The deal gives NBC the option of moving Games 2 and 3 to the company's broadcast network.

Currently, NHL regular season games on NBC are exclusive to the network. While most NHL games on NBCSN are exclusive (e.g. Wednesday Night Rivalry), other games carried by the network may be blacked out regionally in favor of local networks.

Starting with the 2012–13 season, Wednesday broadcasts on NBCSN were now being titled as Wednesday Night Rivalry. As such, it features rivalry games in the National Hockey League. For the 2013–14 season, NBC Sports introduced the series NHL Rivals. The series looks back at the participating teams' historic rivalry leading up to the featured Wednesday Night Rivalry game.

Personalities[edit]

Ratings[edit]

National Hockey League coverage on NBC's owned and operated television stations[edit]

Team Stations Years
New York Rangers W2XBS (later WNBC)
WNBT (later WNBC)
1940–1941
1941–1942; 1945–1946

Comcast SportsNet[edit]

Name Region served Year Joined/ Launched Home to Former Name Notes
California Northern and central California. 2008 Oakland Athletics (MLB), Sacramento Kings (NBA), San Jose Sharks (NHL), San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), San Jose SaberCats (AFL), California Golden Bears (NCAA), other local sports coverage. CSN West Created in conjunction with Maloof Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Kings and Monarchs, after they did not renew their previous contract with FSN Bay Area. Originally launching as CSN West, the channel was renamed CSN California on Sept. 4, 2008 to serve as a compliment to CSN Bay Area.[citation needed]
Chicago Illinois, northwestern Indiana, Iowa, non-Milwaukee market areas of southern Wisconsin 2004 Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago Cubs (MLB), Chicago White Sox (MLB), Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Fire S.C. (Major League Soccer), coverage of local women's college basketball games, as well as softball (the Chicago Bandits), and arena football (mainly the Chicago Rush). FSN Chicago Created in conjunction with the Bulls, Blackhawks, White Sox, and Cubs (who own 20% each) in order to effectively replace FSN Chicago by giving them better editorial control over their broadcasts.[citation needed]
Mid-Atlantic Delaware, Maryland, south-central Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia 2001 Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Wizards (NBA), Washington Mystics (WNBA), D.C. United (MLS) and local coverage of the Atlantic Coast Conference and Colonial Athletic Association. Home Team Sports Carried the Baltimore Orioles through 2006.
Online coverage is split into Comcast SportsNet Baltimore and Comcast SportsNet Washington.[citation needed]
Northwest Oregon, Washington 2007 Portland Trail Blazers (NBA), Vancouver Canucks and other NHL games, Oregon Ducks and other college sports programming, assorted local sports Created in conjunction with the Trail Blazers after they were unable to come to an agreement to stay on FSN Northwest (now known today as Root Sports Northwest). Currently available mostly to Comcast customers. Neither Dish Network nor DirecTV has picked up this channel. Canby Telcom has accused Comcast of being inflexible in its negotiations.[97] The Oregonian newspaper has reported that CSN Northwest is seeking $2 per month per subscriber, more than what is being paid to the well-established FSN Northwest.[98]
Philadelphia Philadelphia, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, southern and central New Jersey 1997 Philadelphia Phillies (MLB), Philadelphia Flyers (NHL), Philadelphia 76ers (NBA), Philadelphia Union (MLS), Philadelphia Wings (NLL), and college sports. PRISM & SportsChannel Philadelphia Flagship of the Comcast regional sports networks. Originally a joint venture between Comcast, the Phillies, and Spectacor (owner of the Flyers and 76ers), controlling interest in Spectacor was acquired by Comcast in 1996. Due to its re-use of the infrastructure from PRISM (which does not use any satellite uplinks to distribute programming to providers), it was legally exempt from requirements to offer its programming to satellite broadcasters until the FCC closed the loophole in 2010. Despite regulations closing the loophole & FCC directives included in the approval for the NBC purchase, Comcast continues to refuse the sale of Philadelphia Sports Programming to competing satellite television providers [DirecTV and DISHNetwork.

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External links[edit]