NBC previously televised the National Hockey League on three different occasions.
NBC was the first United States television network to air a national broadcast of a Stanley Cup Playoff game. They provided coverage of 4 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. Win Eliot served as the play-by-play man while Bill Mazer served as the commentators 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 CBC followed 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.
From 1972–1975, 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 1972-75). Tim Ryan and Ted Lindsay (with Brian McFarlane hosts the intermissions) 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.
|December 29 (prime time game starting at 8:30 p.m. Eastern)||Boston at Minnesota|
|January 7||Boston at Chicago|
|January 13||New York Rangers at St. Louis|
|January 21||Minnesota at Detroit|
|January 28||Detroit at Montreal|
|February 4||Pittsburgh at Minnesota|
|February 11||Montreal at New York Rangers|
|February 18||Montreal at Toronto|
|February 25||St. Louis at Detroit|
|March 4||Chicago at Boston|
|March 11||Toronto at New York Rangers|
|March 16 (prime time game starting at 8:30 p.m. Eastern)||Boston at Detroit|
|March 18||Detroit at Chicago|
|March 25||St. Louis at Philadelphia|
- 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 p.m. Eastern Standard Time unless noted.
|January 4 (prime time game starting at 8:30 pm Eastern)||Boston at New York Rangers|
|January 19||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||Toronto at New York Rangers|
|April 7||Pittsburgh at Atlanta|
|April 14||Montreal at New York Rangers|
- The January 4 game was on a Friday night; all other regular season games were on Sunday afternoons. All start times were at 2 p.m. Eastern Time unless noted.
- All start times (except for the January 19 and February 9 telecasts) at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Stanley Cup Playoffs Edit
|Year||Round||Series||Games covered||Play-by-play||Color commentators|
|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|
From 1990–1994, 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. 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 at the 1993 All-Star Game.
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. 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 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 Pentagon 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.
Terms of the dealEdit
In May 2004, NBC reached an agreement with the NHL to broadcast a slate of regular season games and Stanley Cup Finals. The plan called for NBC to air at least 6 weeks of regular season games (3 regional games each week) on Saturday afternoons. Also, NBC was to show 1-2 playoff games per weekend during the playoffs. Up to 5 games of 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 Stanley Cup Finals, would air in high definition.
Unlike previous network television deals with the NHL (like Fox, who had the rights from 1994–1999 and ABC, who had the rights from 1999–2004), 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.
NBC's out-of-market games were available on NHL Center Ice through 2006–07.
2004–05 NHL lockout Edit
NBC's initial contract with the NHL ran for 2 years, with a network option to renew for 2 more. NBC's NHL coverage was delayed a year because of the 2004–05 NHL lockout, which cancelled the entire season. NBC instead, decided to replace 5 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 slot back to local affiliates.
2004–05 schedule (all would have been regional games) Edit
|Date||Teams||Start times (All times Eastern)|
|1/22/05||Philadelphia vs. New York Rangers|
Chicago vs. St. Louis
San Jose vs. Colorado
|1/29/05||Tampa Bay vs. Boston|
Colorado vs. Detroit
Anaheim vs. Minnesota
|2/5/05||Chicago vs. Boston|
New Jersey vs. Philadelphia
Dallas vs. St. Louis
|2/19/05||Philadelphia vs. New York Rangers|
Detroit vs. Tampa Bay
Dallas vs. St. Louis
|2/26/05||New York Islanders vs. New Jersey|
Colorado vs. Philadelphia
San Jose vs. Detroit
|4/9/05||New York Rangers vs. Boston|
Chicago vs. St. Louis
Anaheim vs. San Jose
5 p.m. (would have been seen only in the Pacific Time Zone, Alaska and Hawaii)
2005–06 NHL seasonEdit
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
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, and 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 8 dates of the season. NBC's nine weeks of games amounted to the league's most extensive U.S. broadcast television coverage since 1998, when 11 weeks of games during FOX's tenure.
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 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 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 Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes on the same day as the Preakness Stakes. 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 Buffalo Sabres won the game in regulation.
NHL on NBC FaceoffEdit
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 beyondEdit
On March 27, 2007, NBC Sports and NHL agreed to a 1 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 3 potential games at the start of the season for most of NBC's regular-season coverage dates.
13 days prior to the game, NBC selects 1 to air as its Game of the Week. The other 2 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 1 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 AMP 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. 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 Games 1, 2 and 5-7) 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 Field on January 1, 2009.
In 2010, NBC would retain the rights to the NHL. They continued to broadcast the Winter Classic, Sunday-afternoon games at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, six weekends of playoff action, and Games 1, 2, and 5-7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
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 10 year extension to its television contract with the NHL (through the 2020–21 season) worth nearly $2 billion over the tenure of the contract. The contract would cover games on both NBC and sister cable channel Versus, 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; the channel rebranded as NBC Sports Network on January 2, 2012 (it would later be abbreviated on-air and then officially shortened to NBCSN); NHL coverage on Versus would begin to be produced identically to NBC's NHL coverage beginning in the 2011–12 season, leading up to the brand change.
The terms of the deal included:
- A rights fee of roughly US$200 million per year for the combined cable and broadcast rights, nearly triple that of the previous contract;
- Increased weekly regular season coverage on Versus/NBCSN (as many as 90 games per season on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights), with Sunday night games also being added by the channel later in the season. Play-by-play for Sunday Night Hockey on NBCSN.
- Rights to an annual "Thanksgiving Showdown" game airing on NBC the day after Thanksgiving ("Black Friday" afternoon) (the 2012 edition was cancelled due to the 2012–13 NHL lockout). The November broadcast is the earliest an NHL regular season game has aired on a broadcast television network in the U.S. since the 1950s, when the league still only had 6 teams. The 2013 "Thanksgiving Showdown" game featured the Boston Bruins hosting the New York Rangers; it was widely 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; however, NBC decided to end this tradition for the 2014–15 season, with a Black Friday matinee between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers being aired instead, while Boston held a locally televised game on the evening of Black Friday in 2014. Boston resumed hosting the game in 2015, with a second Black Friday game (Chicago at Anaheim) airing later in the afternoon on NBCSN.
- 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 (despite the open time slot on Sunday afternoons, NBC is effectively forbidden via a gentleman's agreement with the NFL which prevents any form of strong counter programming against NFL games televised on CBS and Fox). Initially the Classic was expected to be played in primetime, however to date every game has been scheduled for a 1 PM ET start, and due to new competition from the College Football Playoff the game is now expected to remain a daytime game for the foreseeable future. NBC has instead opted to air one prime time game each year, later in the season, since 2014.
- 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 and all 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, with all playoff games airing nationally on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, USA and NHL Network. Local sports networks can carry their teams' first-round games, but any games on NBC, and all NBC cable games from the second round onward, will be exclusive to NBC.
- Continued sharing of the Stanley Cup Final on NBC (which will air Games 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7) and NBCSN (Games 3 and 4). The deal gives NBC the option of moving Games 3 and 4 to the broadcast network. During the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals and since 2017, NBC aired Games 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 while NBCSN aired Games 2 and 3, so that all potential Cup clinching games will be on broadcast television.
Currently, NHL regular season games on NBC are exclusive to the network. While most NHL games on NBCSN are exclusive (such as Wednesday Night Rivalry), other games carried by the network may be blacked out regionally in favor of television stations or regional sports networks which hold the local broadcast rights to an NHL franchise.
As mentioned earlier, CSN broadcasts are occasionally simulcast on the NBC networks. This also applies during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Games featuring Canadian teams sometimes use a simulcast of either CBC or Sportsnet (and previously TSN).
In the 2012–13 season, Wednesday night games on NBCSN were rebranded as Wednesday Night Rivalry, primarily featuring rivalry games. For the 2013–14 season, NBC Sports introduced the series NHL Rivals, which looks back at the participating teams' historic rivalry leading up to the featured Wednesday Night Rivalry game.
Beginning in the 2014–15 season, TSN Hockey personalities Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Chris Cuthbert joined the NHL on NBC team. This was the result of Rogers Media's – the owners of Sportsnet – exclusive 12-year deal with the NHL in Canada replacing both TSN and CBC Sports as the rightsholders to the NHL.
In 2014, NBC Sports partnered with Electronic Arts to integrate NHL on NBC presentation into its NHL video game series, beginning with NHL 15. Complimenting the change, Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk also voiced commentary and other appearances in the game.
In 2015, NBC Sports partnered with the league to expand Kraft Hockeyville into the United States. The annual contest, in which communities compete to demonstrate their commitment to ice hockey, with the winning community being awarded the opportunity to host a nationally televised NHL preseason game, was first held across Canada in 2006. Similar to what CBC Sports had done in covering Kraft Hockeyville in Canada, NBC Sports began airing regular segments on the separate Hockeyville USA competition for communities in the U.S. On September 29, 2015, NBCSN aired the inaugural Kraft Hockeyville USA game at Cambria County War Memorial Arena, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, marking the first time that the NHL on NBC televised a preseason game since it acquired the American rights in 2005.
During the 2015–16 season, exclusive Sunday night games on NBCSN were rebranded as Sunday Night Hockey, with the first game under the new brand taking place on January 10, 2016 between the New Jersey Devils and the Minnesota Wild. A weekly recap show, NHL Sunday Shootout, premiered on the same day. The package was renamed Star Sunday during the 2016–17 season before reverting back to the Sunday Night Hockey name for the 2017–18 season.
Since the 2016–17 season, NBC Sports began to use the NBC Sports Regional feed dubbed with national commentators for games involving the Blackhawks, Capitals, Flyers and Sharks. This was done to save production costs.
Stanley Cup Finals coverage Edit
In 2014, NBCSN broadcast Games 3 and 4, while NBC televised the remaining games. NBC Sports originally planned to repeat its coverage pattern from the last few seasons: NBCSN would televise Game 2 and 3, while NBC would broadcast Game 1, and then Games 4 to 7. After the League scheduled Game 2 on the day of the Belmont Stakes, coverage of Games 2 and 4 were switched so NBC's telecast of the horse race would serve as lead-in programming to game two. Due to the death of a family member, NBC lead play-by-play announcer Mike Emrick missed Game 1. Kenny Albert, who was also the New York Rangers radio announcer for WEPN and announced several national games (including the Western Conference Finals) for NBC/NBCSN, filled in for Emrick in the first game.
It was originally announced that Games 2 and 3 of the 2015 Finals were to be broadcast by NBCSN, with the remainder on NBC. Game 2 was moved to NBC to serve as a lead-out for its coverage of the 2015 Belmont Stakes in favor of Game 4 on NBCSN. As Eddie Olczyk was also a contributor to NBC's Belmont coverage, he was absent during Game 2.
On May 27, 2016, NBC Sports announced that if the Finals was tied at 1-1 entering Game 3, then it would have aired on NBC and Game 4 televised on NBCSN. However, if one team led 2-0 (as this eventually happened), Game 3 moved to NBCSN and then Game 4 on NBC.
NBC Sports Radio Edit
On Tuesday, May 3, 2016, NBC Sports Radio was granted rights to broadcast and syndicate the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals. Kenny Albert would provide the play-by-play while Joe Micheletti would serve as analyst. This was the first neutral national broadcast since the 2008 NHL Radio broadcast.
Telemundo Deportes Edit
Through the Telemundo Deportes branch of NBC Sports Group, which superseded Telemundo's sports division Deportes Telemundo upon the current unit's creation within NBC Sports Group in May 2015, NBC Universo holds the Spanish play-by-by rights to the NHL by way of NBC Sports' broadcasting agreements with the National Hockey League.
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 Vegas' Marc-André Fleury may wear cameras inside their masks, much like Major League Baseball on Fox asks catchers to do. Finally, NBC also puts Pierre McGuire or Brian Boucher in-between the two teams' benches, for what it calls "Inside the Glass" reporting, which was later emulated by sister network NBC Sports Regional Networks, Sportsnet, CBC, and TSN. In addition to providing color commentary, this allows the "Inside the Glass" reporter to observe and report on the benches, interviewing the coaches periodically, and provide the HONDA starting goalies before the game begins.
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