NHL on television in the 1960s
From 1965 through 1975, in addition to the Saturday night game on CBC, Hockey Night in Canada also produced and broadcast a Wednesday night game on CTV, CBC's privately owned competitor; beginning in the 1975–76 NHL season, these midweek games would begin to be broadcast by local stations.
After CBS ended its four-year run of airing Saturday afternoon regular season games from 1956–57 to 1959–60, the NHL did not return to American network television until NBC televised selected 1966 playoff games. The clinching game of the 1966 Stanley Cup Finals then aired on RKO General-owned stations. CBS later agreed to air weekend afternoon regular-season games and playoff games from 1966–67 to 1971–72. Due to other programming commitments, CBS subleased its 1966-67 regular-season games to RKO General.
CBS first broadcast National Hockey League games for four seasons from 1956–57 to 1959–60. CBS aired games on Saturday afternoons with Bud Palmer and Fred Cusick initially handling the announcing duties. Palmer served as the play-by-play announcer while Cusick did color commentary as well as interviews for the first three seasons. In 1959–60, Cusick moved over to play-by-play while Brian McFarlane came in to do the color commentary and interviews. The pregame and intermission interviews were done on the ice, with the interviewer on skates. No playoff games were televised during this period and all broadcasts took place in one of the four American arenas at the time.
In the May 28 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, a Canadian Press article mentioned the fact that the CBC fielded numerous angry calls from viewers upset that CBC continued to televise all three overtimes of the third game of the Toronto-Detroit playoff series. Because of this, the angry viewers missed several previously scheduled shows as the overtime continued on. The CBC said that the policy of telecasting each Stanley Cup playoff game to its conclusion would be enforced.
CBC's Winnipeg affiliate carried Game 3 of the Montreal-Chicago playoff series at 8:30 p.m. Central time (9:30 p.m. Eastern time). Meanwhile, they aired The Ed Sullivan Show at 7:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. Eastern), which included guest stars Wayne and Shuster. This was followed by Close-Up at 8:00 p.m. (9:00 p.m. Eastern) and then the hockey game in progress. On April 3, CBC's affiliates in and near Toronto aired The Garry Moore Show at 8 p.m. followed by Game 4 of the Toronto-New York Rangers game in progress at 9:00 p.m.
CTV's involvement with the NHL began in the 1965–66 season with a series of Wednesday-night regular season games. These were produced by the McLaren ad agency, which also produced the Saturday night Hockey Night in Canada games for the CBC. As was the case with the Saturday games, they were contests (usually at home) of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, and after 1970, the Vancouver Canucks. CTV decided to pull out of midweek NHL coverage in 1975, opening the way for local TV stations in the three Canadian cities which had NHL clubs to carry mid-week telecasts of their hometown NHL clubs (also usually on Wednesday nights).
On March 16, 1966, CTV's coverage of the game between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs was frequently interrupted for news updates on the Gemini 8 space mission, which had run into serious trouble after being successfully launched that morning; when the game ended, CTV joined a simulcast of CBS News coverage in time for the capsule's re-entry and splashdown.
There was no American network television coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs until 1965–66 (which also marked the first telecasts of an NHL game in color), the second to last season of the Original Six era. The earliest known American television coverage of any kind occurred in 1956, when Games 3 and 5 of the Montreal-New York Rangers playoff series were televised in the New York area on WPIX 11 at 9 p.m. local time. Bud Palmer worked play-by-play for those games on WPIX while and Jack McCarthy hosted from the studio.
The regional issues that caused the NHL's previous American television deal with CBS to be terminated 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 television network in the United States to air a national broadcast of a Stanley Cup Playoff game. The network provided coverage of four Sunday afternoon playoff games during the 1965–66 postseason. On April 10 and April 17, NBC aired semifinal games between the Chicago Black Hawks and the Detroit Red Wings. On April 24 and May 1, NBC aired Games 1 and 4 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.
NBC's coverage of the 1966 Stanley Cup Finals marked the first time that hockey games were broadcast on network television in color. 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. To accommodate the American TV coverage on NBC, Game 1 of the 1966 Stanley Cup Finals was shifted to a Sunday afternoon. This in return, was the first time ever that a National Hockey League game was played on a Sunday afternoon in Montreal.
In the United States, the clinching game of the 1966 Stanley Cup Finals on the evening of Thursday, May 5 aired on RKO General's stations, such as WOR-TV in New York City and WHCT in Hartford, Connecticut. The commentators for RKO's coverage on that occasion were Bob Wolff and Emile Francis. Wolff at the time did play-by-play for New York Rangers games seen on WOR.
Although the TV listings page of the May 5, 1966 edition of the Boston Globe indicated that RKO-owned WNAC-TV in Boston would not carry the game, the then-ABC-affiliated station did clear the broadcast at the last minute.
For six seasons, from 1966–67 through 1971–72, CBS aired a game each week between mid-January until early-mid May in each of those seasons, mainly on a Sunday afternoon, including playoffs. Each American based franchise was paid US$100,000 annually for the first two years of the initial contract and $150,000 for the third. From 1968–69 through 1971–72, the intermission studio was called "CBS Control," just like with its NFL coverage.
Due to prior programming commitments, CBS could not broadcast regular season games during the 1966–67 season, so that portion of the package was subleased to RKO General, which syndicated eight regular-season games to some cities, including the four U.S. cities that then had NHL clubs and the six U.S. cities that would gain new teams in the 1967 expansion. RKO General aired series of Sunday afternoon broadcasts at 4 p.m. Eastern Time during the last eight weeks of the regular season. This started on February 12, 1967. Some regular-season games were blacked out in the cities where they were played. For example, the March 26, 1967 game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens in Boston was not televised on any station in the Boston area.
CBS started its weekly 1967–68 coverage with the opening game (the Philadelphia Flyers vs. Los Angeles Kings) at The Forum in Inglewood, California on December 30. Then after two more Saturday afternoons, CBS switched to covering Sunday afternoon games beginning on January 28 for the next 10 weeks. Due to another strike by AFTRA (which resulted in the cancellation of a New York Rangers-Montreal broadcast), CBS started its playoff coverage with a CBC tape of the previous night's Boston-Montreal game. On April 13, CBS started its three-week-long weekend afternoon Stanley Cup coverage. The last game of the series was St. Louis-Montreal on May 11. For the playoffs, Jim Gordon worked play-by-play and Stu Nahan worked color commentary and intermission interviews. During the regular season, Gordon and Nahan alternated roles each week. For instance, Gordon worked play-by-play on December 30 while Nahan worked play-by-play the next week.
In 1968–69, CBS broadcast 13 regular season afternoon games and five Stanley Cup playoff games. Dan Kelly did play-by-play while Bill Mazer did color commentary and intermission interviews.
- Bob Wilkin (July 3, 1956). "Television Coverage For Ten NHL Contests Sports Here and There". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 16.
- Bob Wilkin (August 2, 1956). "Bruins Eye TV, Rookies, Ponder Starting Switch". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 10.
- Bob Wilkin (September 19, 1956). "Boston Bruins To Try 7:30 Starting Time For Sunday's Exhibition". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 11.
- Bob Wilkin (February 14, 1957). "Bruins Tie for Second Place; Play Exhibition Game at Barrie Tonight". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 10.
- "CBS Increases Hockey On TV". Hartford Courant. May 23, 1957. p. 19A.
- "Hockey Captures New Fans With Televised Games". Hartford Courant. United Press. December 22, 1957. p. 6D.
- Bob Wilkin (March 7, 1957). "Harvard Clinches Ivy League Hockey Title, Downs Princelon Tigers, 5-1". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 10.
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- Fred Cusick (2006). Fred Cusick: voice of the Bruins. Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 9781582619811.
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- "Stanley Cup Hockey Playoffs on Today". Hartford Courant. Times Mirror Company. April 10, 1966. p. 3G.
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- Bob Gates (April 29, 1966). "Abel's 'switcheroo' works". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 7.
- Stan Issacs (January 19, 1990). "TV SPORTS Hockey Gets Network – for a Day". Newsday. Cablevision Systems Corporation. p. 137.
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- Boston Globe, May 5, 1966
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- "NHL Signs Rich TV Contract". Hartford Courant. Associated Press. September 23, 1966. p. 25A.
- Phil Elderkin (September 24, 1966). "NHL nets rich pact for CBS-TV coverage". The Christian Science Monitor. p. 10.
- "Sportslook". Los Angeles Times. Times Mirror Company. September 24, 1966. p. B2.
- Gerald Eskenazi (July 7, 1972). "NHL and NBC Sign $7-Million Pact". The New York Times. p. 25.
- Gary Deeb (June 3, 1975). "NBC wants to get out after messing up NHL telecasts". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. p. C3.
- "NHL Lists Security Campaign". Hartford Courant. Associated Press. March 10, 1970. p. 28.
- United Press International (May 20, 1970). "Athletics' Owner Finley May Buy Oakland Seals". Hartford Courant. p. 48A.
- Mordecai Richler (March 13, 1972). "A Canadian Critic Grows Restless Over The Usurpation Of His Country's Gift To Sport". Sports Illustrated.
- Gary Ronberg (October 14, 1968). "In Year 2 Of The New Era The Boom Goes On". Sports Illustrated.
- Federal statutory exemptions from antitrust law. ABA Publishing. 2007. p. 224. ISBN 9781590318645.
- William Johnson (December 22, 1969). "Tv Made It All A New Game". Sports Illustrated.
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- "CBS and NHL Make Agreement For One Year". Hartford Courant. August 5, 1969. p. 27.
- "Networks Get 1-Year Extensions Of Pro Football, Hockey Pacts". The New York Times. August 5, 1969. p. 30.
- "SCHEDULE OF HOCKEY ON TV IS ANNOUNCED". Chicago Tribune. Dec 13, 1966. p. C4.
- Lipsyte, Robert (September 23, 1966). "CBS Purchases TV Hockey Rights For $3.5-Million". New York Times. p. 28.
- "NHL television opener Feb. 12, Hawks vs. Wings". Christian Science Monitor. December 23, 1966. p. 7.
- "PRO HOCKEY GAME IS DUE ON TV TODAY". New York Times. February 12, 1967. p. 184.
- Boston Globe, March 26, 1967, p. 37
- Owen Griffith (April 8, 1968). "Grist From The Sports Mill". Hartford Courant. p. 21.
- "New Year Party Offers Variety". Hartford Courant. December 30, 1967. p. 20.
- "Rangers to Play Canadiens Today; End Best Regular Season in Battle at Garden". The New York Times. Mar 31, 1968. p. S2.
- "Oakland Meets Minnesota on Ice". Hartford Courant. February 4, 1968. p. 5G.
- Ted Damata (January 4, 1969). "Hawks, Canadiens Meet in TV Special". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. p. D1.
- Robert Prinsky (April 29, 1969). "Some Canadians Fret That U.S. Television Is Taking Over Hockey". The Wall Street Journal.
- Frank Keyes (April 30, 1969). "Grist From The Sports Mill". Hartford Courant. p. 45.
- Mike DelNagro (April 20, 1981). "Sporting A Whole Lot Of Sport". Sports Illustrated. Time Inc.
- Don Page (January 25, 1969). "Sportslook". Los Angeles Times. Times Mirror Company. p. A2.