NHL on SportsChannel America
|NHL on SportsChannel America|
|Also known as||NHL on SportsChannel|
|Created by||SportsChannel America|
|Directed by||Larry Brown|
|Starring||See announcers section below|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|Executive producer(s)||Jeff Ruhe|
|Running time||180 minutes or until game ends (including commercials)|
|Original network||SportsChannel America|
|Original release||1988–89 –|
June 1, 1992
|Related shows||Hockey Night in Canada (CBC)|
Terms of the deal
Taking over for ESPN, SportsChannel's contract paid US$51 million ($17 million per year) over three years, more than double what ESPN had paid ($24 million) for the previous three years SportsChannel America managed to get a fourth NHL season for just $5 million.
The SportsChannel America deal was in a sense, a power play created by Charles Dolan and Bill Wirtz. Dolan was still several years away from getting control of Madison Square Garden and Wirtz owned 25% of SportsChannel Chicago. NHL president John Ziegler convinced the board of governors that SportsChannel America was a better alternative than a proposed NHL Channel backed by Paramount and Viacom that had interests in the MSG Network and NESN.
Unfortunately, SportsChannel America was only available in a few major markets, and reached only a 1/3 of the households that ESPN did at the time. SportsChannel America was seen in fewer than 10 million households. In comparison, by the 1991–92 season, ESPN was available in 60.5 million homes whereas SportsChannel America was available in only 25 million. As a matter of fact, in the first year of the deal (1988–89), SportsChannel America was available in only 7 million homes when compared to ESPN's reach of 50 million. When the SportsChannel deal ended in 1992, the league returned to ESPN for another contract that would pay US$80 million over five years.
SportsChannel America took advantage of using their regional sports networks' feed of a game, graphics and all, instead of producing a show from the ground up, most of the time. Distribution of SportsChannel America across the country was limited to cities that had a SportsChannel regional sports network or affiliate. Very few cable systems in non-NHL territories picked it up as a stand-alone service. Regional affiliates of the Prime Network would sometimes pick up SportsChannel broadcasts, but this was often only during the playoffs, and often to justify the cost, some cable providers carrying it during the playoffs only carried it as a pay-per-view option. SportsChannel America also did not broadcast 24 hours a day at first, usually on by 6 p.m., off by 12 Midnight, then a sportsticker for the next 18 hours.
Since SportsChannel Philadelphia did not air until January 1990, PRISM (owned by Rainbow Media, the owners of SportsChannel, at the time) picked up the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals. Other than that, there was no NHL television coverage in Philadelphia except for the Flyers for the first half of the original deal.
As previously mentioned, the NHL would return to ESPN following the 1991–92 season. Shortly after the ESPN deal was signed, SportsChannel America would contend that its contract with the NHL gave them the right to match third-party offers for television rights for the 1992–93 season. SportsChannel America accused the NHL of violating a nonbinding clause. SportsChannel America argued that it had been deprived of its contractual right of first refusal for the 1992–93 season. Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court justice Shirley Fingerwood would deny SportsChannel America's request for an injunction against the NHL. Upholding that opinion, the appellate court found the agreement on which SportsChannel based its argument to be "too imprecise and ambiguous" and ruled that SportsChannel failed to show irreparable harm.
In the aftermath of losing the NHL, SportsChannel America was left with little more than outdoors shows and Canadian Football League games. For SportsChannel, the deal was a disaster overall. While the cable channel three years later, was available in 20 million homes (as previously mentioned), the broadcaster lost as much as $10 million on the agreement, and soon faded into obscurity. Some local SportsChannel stations – which carried NHL games in their local markets – were not affected.
Regular season coverage
SportsChannel America would televise about 80–100 games a season (whereas ESPN aired about 33 in the 1987–88 season). Whereas the previous deal with ESPN called for only one nationally televised game a week, SportsChannel America televised hockey two nights a week in NHL cities and three nights a week elsewhere.
It was very rare to have a regular-season game on SportsChannel America that wasn't a regional SportsChannel production from the Chicago Blackhawks, Hartford Whalers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders or Philadelphia Flyers. The San Jose Sharks were added in 1991–92. As previously suggested, SportsChannel America for the most part, used the local telecasts. The dedicated SportsChannel America station was little more than an overflow channel in the New York area for SportsChannel New York.
In 1989, SportsChannel America provided the first ever American coverage of the NHL Draft. In September 1989, SportsChannel America covered the Washington Capitals' training camp in Sweden and pre-season tour of the Soviet Union. The Capitals were joined by the Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames, who held training camp in Prague, Czechoslovakia and then ventured to the Soviet Union. Each team played four games against Soviet National League clubs. Games were played in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Riga. The NHL clubs finished with a combined 6–2 record against the top Soviet teams, including the Red Army club and Dynamo Moscow. Five of the eight contests were televised by SportsChannel America.
All-Star Game coverage
SportsChannel America was the exclusive American broadcaster of the 1989 All-Star Game. The following year, they covered the first ever NHL Skills Competition and Heroes of Hockey game. SportsChannel America would continue their coverage of these particular events through 1992. In 1991, SportsChannel America replayed the third period of the All-Star Game on the same day that it was played. That was because NBC broke away from the live telecast during the third period in favor of Gulf War coverage.
A fair number of times in their first season, they would use their own production services for games. But very rarely would this sort of practice occur in the last three seasons. Since programming was so sparse otherwise on SportsChannel America, usually the games were replayed immediately following the live telecast.
For playoff coverage, if any of the aforementioned teams made the playoffs, SportsChannel America would focus on those teams, using their facilities. For example, SportsChannel Chicago produced the SportsChannel America coverage for the Blackhawks' 1990 playoff run. Because of Hawks owner Bill Wirtz's disdain for free and basic cable home telecasts of his games, the road games were shown in Chicago, with the home games only given short live look-ins as "bonus coverage". The same occurrence happened in 1992 only this time, Blackhawks' home games were broadcast on a pay-per-view basis via "Hawkvision". Sometimes, they would use the CBC feed for other series (the Boston Bruins–Montreal Canadiens series, for example). For the Stanley Cup Championship, SportsChannel America would use their own facilities. They would also use their own facilities for any Conference Final series that did not involve one of SportsChannel's regional teams.
John Shannon was the senior producer of The NHL on SportsChannel America.
Bob Papa and Leandra Reilly were the studio hosts during the regular season coverage. For the Stanley Cup Finals, Jiggs McDonald served as the play-by-play man while Bill Clement was the color commentator. Also during the Stanley Cup Finals, Mike Emrick served as the host while John Davidson served as the rinkside and intermission analyst (Herb Brooks filled that role in 1989).
- Mike Emrick
- Pat Foley
- Steve Grad
- Dave Hodge
- Jiggs McDonald
- Rick Peckham
- Joe Starkey
- Gary Thorne
- Ken Wilson
- John Kelly
- Jeff Rimer
- Herb Brooks
- Gerry Cheevers
- Bill Clement
- John Davidson
- Don Edwards
- John Kelly
- Bruce Affleck
- Craig Laughlin
- Dave Maloney
- Peter McNab
- Joe Micheletti
- Denis Potvin
- Pete Stemkowski
- Dale Tallon
- Ed Westfall
- on YouTube
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- Demak, Richard (February 17, 1992). "Scorecard". Sports Illustrated.
- Gatehouse, Jonathon. The Instigator: How Gary Bettman Remade the NHL and Changed the Game Forever. Triumph Books. p. 158.
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- Taaffe, William (June 27, 1988). "A Better Open; Too Much Brent". Sports Illustrated.
- "Scorecard". Sports Illustrated. January 16, 1989.
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- Allen, Kevin (June 16, 1989). "A look at the NHL's 27th draft". USA Today. p. 8C.
- Fachet, Robert (December 26, 1988). "Soviets In, With Army and Dynamo". Washington Post.
- Hiestand, Michael (April 5, 1990). "Schmidt tries to ease into broadcasting job". USA Today. p. 3C.
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- on YouTube
- on YouTube
- on YouTube
- on YouTube
- Bradley, Jeff (May 13, 1991). "A Strong Voice for Hockey". Sports Illustrated.
- on YouTube
- on YouTube
- Bradley, Jeff (May 13, 1991). "A Strong Voice For Hockey". Sports Illustrated.
- Scher, Jon (June 8, 1992). "Swept Away". Sports Illustrated.
- Schuster, Rachel (May 11, 1989). "NBC's O'Neil known for boldness, making changes". USA Today. p. 3C.
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