NHL on SportsChannel America was the presentation of National Hockey League broadcasts on the now defunct SportsChannel America cable television network.

Terms of the dealEdit

Taking over for ESPN, SportsChannel's contract paid $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.

SportsChannel's availabilityEdit

Unfortunately, SportsChannel America was only available in a few major markets,[1][2] and reached only a 1/3 of the households that ESPN did at the time.[3] SportsChannel America was seen in fewer than 10 million households[4]. 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 $80 million over 5 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. SportsChannel America also did not broadcast 24 hours a day at first, usually on by 6 p.m., off by 1 or 2 a.m., then a sportsticker for the next 16 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.

See also: 1988–89 Philadelphia Flyers season and 1989–90 Philadelphia Flyers 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.

Coverage overviewEdit

Regular season coverageEdit

SportsChannel America would televise about 80–100 games a season (whereas ESPN aired about 33 in from 1985–88). Whereas the previous deal with ESPN called for only one nationally televised game per week, SportsChannel America televised hockey two nights/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.

Special programmingEdit

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 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. 5 of 8 contests were televised by SportsChannel America.

All-Star Game coverageEdit

SportsChannel America was the exclusive 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 continued 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 3rd period in favor of Gulf War coverage.

Playoff broadcast anomalies Edit

Taped delayed playoff broadcasts Edit

Main article: Broadcast delay

Year Round Teams Games Play-by-play Color commentators
1989 Divisional semifinals Montreal-Hartford Games 1–4 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
Boston-Buffalo Game 5 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
Divisional finals Pittsburgh-Philadelphia Games 1–5 Mike Emrick Bill Clement
1990 Divisional semifinals Boston-Hartford Games 1, 3, 5 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
New York Rangers-New York Islanders Games 2, 4 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall
Divisional finals Boston-Montreal Games 1–2 Mike Emrick Bill Clement
New York Rangers-Washington Games 3–5 Rick Peckham Dave Maloney
1991 Divisional semifinals Boston-Hartford Games 1–6 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
Divisional finals Pittsburgh-Washington Games 1–5 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
1992 Divisional semifinals Montreal-Hartford Games 1–7 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
Divisional finals Montreal-Boston Games 2–4 (CBC's feed) Bob Cole John Garrett and Dick Irvin, Jr.

Playoff broadcasts that were joined in progress Edit

Year Round Teams Games Play-by-play Color commentators Ice level reporters
1990 Divisional semifinals Calgary-Los Angeles Games 5–6 Mike Emrick Bill Clement
Divisional finals Edmonton-Los Angeles Games 1–4 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall
1991 Divisional semifinals Los Angeles-Vancouver Games 1–2, 5–6 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall
Calgary-Edmonton Game 7 (CBC's feed) Chris Cuthbert Jim Peplinski
Divisional finals Los Angeles-Edmonton Games 1–6 Pat Foley Dale Tallon
1992 Divisional semifinals Los Angeles-Edmonton Games 3–4, 6 (CBC's feed) Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall
Divisional finals New York Rangers-Pittsburgh Game 1 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall
Montreal-Boston Game 1 (CBC's feed) Bob Cole John Garrett and Dick Irvin, Jr.
Vancouver-Edmonton Games 3–4 (CBC's feed) Chris Cuthbert Harry Neale Steve Armitage

Production Edit

A fair amount 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 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 the Stanley Cup Finals, 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.

Announcers Edit

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 in the Stanley Cup Finals, Mike Emrick served as the studio host while John Davidson served as the rinkside reporter and studio analyst (Herb Brooks filled that role in 1989).

Play-by-play Edit

Color commentators Edit

Ice level personalities Edit

Studio personalities Edit

Commentating crews Edit

See alsoEdit

Chicago Blackhawks seasonsEdit

Hartford Whalers seasonsEdit

New York Islanders seasonsEdit

New Jersey Devils seasonsEdit

San Jose Sharks seasonsEdit

Conference Finals broadcasters Edit

Prince of Wales Conference Edit

Year Teams Play-by-play Color commentators
1989 Montreal-Philadelphia Mike Emrick Bill Clement
1990 Boston-Washington Jiggs McDonald Bill Clement
1991 Boston-Pittsburgh Jiggs McDonald John Davidson
1992 Pittsburgh-Boston Jiggs McDonald Bill Clement

Western Conference Edit

Year Teams Play-by-play Color commentators
1989 Calgary-Chicago Jiggs McDonald Herb Brooks
1990 Edmonton-Chicago Pat Foley Dale Tallon
1991 Edmonton-Minnesota Mike Emrick Bill Clement
1992 Chicago-Edmonton Pat Foley Dale Tallon

See also Edit

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