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NHL on NBC is a TV show that televises National Hockey League games on NBC and is produced by NBC Sports.

History

NBC previously televised the National Hockey League on three different occasions.

1960s

NBC was the first United States television network to air a national broadcast of a Stanley Cup Playoff game. They provided coverage of four Sunday afternoon playoff games during the 1966 postseason. On April 10 and April 17, NBC aired semifinal games between the Chicago Blackhawks and 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 respectively. 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 televised on network television in color. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 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.

1970s

From 19721975, NBC not only televised the Stanley Cup Finals (in actuality, a couple of games in prime time), but also weekly regular season games on Sunday afternoons. NBC also aired several regular season and playoff games in prime time during this period (namely, during the 1972–1973 season). Tim Ryan and Ted Lindsay (with Brian McFarlane as the intermission host) served as the commentators for NBC's NHL coverage during this period. 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. 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 with 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, 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. The game in question featured the Minnesota North Stars at the Chicago Blackhawks.

1990s

From 19901994, NBC only televised the National Hockey League All-Star Game. Marv Albert and John Davidson called the action, while Mike Emrick served as an ice-level reporter in 1990. Meanwhile, Bill Clement served as an ice-level reporter in 1991, 1992 and 1994. Hockey Night in Canada's Ron MacLean also served as an ice-level reporter, and was the lone correspondent for NBC for the 44th National Hockey League All-Star Game in 1993. When NBC broadcast the 1990 All-Star Game, it marked the first time since Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals aired on CBS, that a National Hockey League game would be nationally televised on an American over-the-air network.

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 Citymarker 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. Firstly was the addition of the Heroes of Hockey 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 1973 to 1980. All-Star players would be rewarded with $2,500 for any win in the skills competition.

To accommodate the altered activities, the game itself was played on a Sunday afternoon instead of a Tuesday night, as was the case in previous years. This allowed American broadcaster NBC to air the game live across the United States - marking (surprisingly) the first time that a national audience would see Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux play. Referees and other officials were also wired with microphones in this game, as were the two head coaches. Finally, NBC also was 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, NBC broke away from the telecast in the third period to televise a briefing from the Pentagonmarker involving the Gulf War. SportsChannnel America included the missing coverage in a replay of NBC's telecast. NBC by the way, owned 50% of Rainbow Enterprises, the parent of SportsChannel America.

There were reports about NBC making an arrangement to air four to eight regular season games for the 1992–1993 season 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 Atlantamarker, Charlottemarker, Memphismarker, New Orleansmarker, Indianapolismarker and Phoenixmarker didn't clear the game. 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 1994–1995 through 1998–1999 seasons.

2000s

Terms of the deal

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 1-2 playoff games per weekend during the playoffs. Up to 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 19941995, 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.

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
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 due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout, which wound up cancelling the entire regular season and playoffs. 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.

2005–06 NHL season

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).

2006–07 NHL season

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 p.m. 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.

2007 playoffs controversy
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 2007 Preakness Stakes (a 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, the league's cable partner, although viewers in the Buffalo and Rochester markets were able to continue watching the game on WGRZmarker and WHECmarker, 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
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.

2007 and beyond

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 high definition.

On New Years Day, January 1, 2008, NBC began its 2007–08 schedule with an outdoor hockey game (the AMP NHL Winter Classic) between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadiummarker. 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. By comparison, CBS received a 2.7 rating for the Gator Bowl, which also had a 1 p.m. start.

New Year's Day aside, 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 p.m. Eastern time. Coverage again included an outdoor game, which was between the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Fieldmarker on January 1, 2009.

In 2010, NBC will retain the rights to the NHL. They will continue to broadcast the Winter Classic, Sunday-afternoon games at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time, six weekends of playoff action, and Games 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Teams featured

The NHL on NBC usually only features U.S.-based teams, except during the Stanley Cup playoffs when 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.

In 2008, this changed as the Montreal Canadiens was the first Canadian team featured on the NHL on NBC during the regular-season (NBC Sports' Dick Ebersol is rumored to have specifically wanted to do a game from Montreal at some point). They played the New York Rangers on February 3.

Like its predecessors, NBC frequently chooses games with a focus on about five teams (New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Boston Bruins). 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 Flyers. However, no team can air more than four times during the regular-season.

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).

Innovations

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. In addition to providing color commentary, this allows the analyst to observe and report on the benches, as well as interviewing the coaches periodically.

Personalities

Ratings

References

  1. NHL on NBC - Not the Modern Version
  2. Nbc Considers Icing The Puck
  3. NBC chose him for this year's NHL All-Star Game, over the eight NHL analysts employed by SportsChannel America, which is co-owned by NBC and Cablevision.
  4. NBC's ALL-STAR TELECAST
  5. NHL eyes NBC national breakthrough
  6. Bleacher Report > NHL Winter Classic
  7. Bloomberg.com > News
  8. Winter Classic Ratings
  9. TheStar.com | Sports | 'Ice Bowl' proves to be hot ticket for league, NBC


External links




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