Your Announcers and Open Thread for Sabres-Leafs

Buffalo vs. Toronto, 7PM, VERSUS
Play by Play:
Dave Strader
Color: Andy Brickley
Reporter: Bob Harwood

Broadcast News: A New Weekly Look at What the NHL’s TV Partners Would Do If the Playoffs Started Today

(NOTE: This will show up every Monday on Puck the Media.  It’s something we did a couple of times last season.  They were fairly popular, and people liked talking about them, so let’s try it on a more permanent basis this year, now that December starts tomorrow.)

Playoff Matchups (If Season Ended Today):

Eastern Conference:

#8 Tampa Bay vs. #1 Washington
#7 Atlanta vs. #2 Pittsburgh
#6 Ottawa vs. #3 Boston
#5 Buffalo vs. #4 New Jersey

Western Conference:

#8 Phoenix vs. #1 San Jose
#7 Dallas vs. #2 Chicago
#6 Nashville vs. #3 Calgary
#5 Los Angeles vs. #4 Colorado

U.S. Networks

NBC: NBC would likely jump on the Crosby bandwagon without reservation.  Atlanta’s been showcased in the playoffs against big markets before (As a regional split for a game against the Rangers in 2007) and NBC will likely be happy with a few extra American viewers to add to the Pittsburgh audience.  Wonder if we’ll have some more Pensblog controversy in April?

As for the other game, it’s hard to say.  One could see them taking Washington-Tampa (NBC took two Eastern series last year) but they still may be hesitant to bring Ovie back to the national airwaves.  Look for Dallas-Chicago or LA-Colorado to perhaps split the weekends and get a shot as that 2nd games.  Whether NBC likes it or not, they need to develop some national recognition for teams other than the Penguins, Red Wings, Rangers and Flyers.

VERSUS: Will also jump for Crosby vs. Kovalchuk as much as possible.  They’ll likely also take as much as they can get of San Jose-Phoenix and LA-Colorado, both series warranting 10PM starts for every game.  They’ll also likely take Tampa-Washington.  On the weekends, expect the New Jersey series and the Chicago series to get some play.

Canadian Networks:

CBC/TSN: The network must be seriously sweating out this season.  No Canadian teams have emerged as likely playoff teams (Does anyone think the Sens’ll be around in April?) and there’s a good shot we may have no teams from north of the border in the post-season (has this ever happened?).  That said, if the playoffs ended today, they’d get the first two picks, and Boston-Ottawa and Nashville-Calgary are the obvious choices.

TSN would then get the next shot, and likely take Atlanta-Pittsburgh, CBC in the 4-hole would probably choose Colorado-LA to have the ability to do doubleheaders.  TSN might then jump at Chicago-Dallas.  CBC would probably go San Jose-Phoenix to pair with Nashville-Calgary.  They’d likely air the games from Calgary at 8PM, and the San Jose-Phoenix games at 10:30PM.  TSN would scoop up Jersey-Buffalo and Washington-Tampa.

Liveblogging an Episode of Hockey Central

We figured this would be a good idea.  To prove a point about how dull the VERSUS NHL Post-game show is, we’ve decided to liveblog the proceedings of an episode last Wednesday.  We hope you enjoy reading as much as we enjoyed watching.  Which is very little.

11:04 PM Tonight’s episode begins especially late, because of a long-running, shootout affair in the game between St. Louis and Dallas, with St. Louis being victorious.  That said, there were 13 other games in the NHL tonight, therefore we should have a decent amount of time for Hockey Central.  Plus, the program coming up next is Caddyshack.  We think you’ve probably seen it before, and if you haven’t, you have no reason to watch a sanitized version.

Our participants tonight are Bill Patrick, Keith Jones, Brian Engblom and Darren McCarty.  Mac has been invited back after a stint during Monday night’s Detroit-Nashville game.  He isn’t great, but he fits on this show, so good for him.

11:05 PM Patrick promotes the show as featuring: WSH-BUF highlights, NYI-PHI highlights and PIT-MTL highlights.  It takes Patrick about 40 seconds to explain this.  Jeez.

11:06 PM Patrick comes back from break, promoting the fact that Caddyshack follows the game.  Not one quote from the movie.  Disappointing.

11:07 PM Here’s something I’m not a huge fan of: doing the highlights of the game we just watched before any other game.  Why not save that for later, to keep your local audiences tuned in.

11:08 PM Engblom messes up a highlight, thinking the shootout highlights were coming, when in fact they were showing another look at the game-tying goal.  The studio acts like this is the funniest thing that’s ever happened in that place.  I kind of believe it.

11:09 PM Charissa Thompson chats with Brad Boyes.  Nice.

11:10 PM They’ve apparently brought Darren McCarty to analyze the fights we saw tonight.  He does it pretty straight-faced, and brings a little bit of insight into the art.  Mentions Claude Lemieux as the one guy he wanted to pound.  Then they show the fight the two players had.  Great stuff.

11:12 PM The guys joke about Jonesy being the Don King of NHL fighting.  Okay?  Engblom at one point tells Jonesy to “bite [him]”.

11:16 PM The guys come back from the break with some schoolgirl giggling, and go into breaking down the various highlights of the games.  By the way, the entire post-game analysis of the telecast you just watched for the last 3 hours?  McCarty’s brief spiel on fighting.  Yay.

11:18 PM Mac isn’t terrible with narrating the highlights.  Not any terribler than the other two.

11:21 PM The commercials on Hockey Central always seem to last forever.  Am I the only person who notices this?

11:23 PM Two minutes of highlights and then back to commercials!

11:24 PM At least this was a short break…

11:25 PM After being subjected to this, I kinda don’t want them to ever do a nightly version of this.

11:26 PM Heh, Engblom: “Ryan O’Byrne gets O’Byrne-d big time”.  Well played.

11:26 PM Patrick just goes through some scores of games in progress with no highlights.  If only there were a nightly show that could show them at the end of the evening.  Yes, we’re flip-floppers.

11:27 PM And commercial!

11:29 PM We’re back, and we get a quick highlight of the OT victory for Preds over the Avs, and some more in-progress scores.

11:30 PM And we’re wrapping it up, and Mac seems to have had a great time.  We cut to a weird picture-in-picture of the VERSUS website, and head out previewing Monday night’s game.  Goodnight, VERSUS.  Let’s enjoy Caddyshack!

NHL, NBC Ready This Year’s Winter Classic Commercials

Last year’s Winter Classic promo pushed by NBC and the league was agreed almost unanimously to be a terrific combo of hockey with Wrigley Field’s legendary facade, along with Harry Caray’s iconic singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, to produce a near flawless combo of baseball lore with hockey’s potential draw.  I’d argue it helped a few people undecided about which bowl game to ignore to give hockey a shot on New Year’s Day.

Now, NBC and the league are working harder this year to draw viewers in.  Jeff Beer of AdAge has more:

This year’s spot, created by Y&R, New York, depicts Flyers and Bruins players walking towards the ice of Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden, as the arena fades away to reveal a frozen pond. “The idea this year is to look at how these NHLers grew up playing outdoors on ponds and in the neighborhoods,” said Y&R Creative Director Cliff Skeete. “When you talk to players, that’s what really makes the game special, they all get that nostalgic excitement so that’s what we’ve tried to capture.”

The NHL has also expanded the onsite event of the game for 2010 in Boston. Back in Buffalo in 2008, the game was in and out of Ralph Wilson Stadium in less than a week. In Chicago, events such as corporate skating and youth hockey kept hockey at Wrigley Field for two weeks around the game. This year at Fenway, the NHL is hosting almost a month of sponsored events, including a Bruins “Legends” game and a college hockey doubleheader after the Classic.

This sounds like a pretty good idea.  We’ll have to see how well the NHL executes it in the promo.  We’ll direct you to it/post it as soon as we see it, if it is coming out this week.  The NBC one seems destined to premiere during Sunday Night Football on Dec. 6.

Oh Hell’s Yes

Here’s one:

And here’s two:

Let’s All Say It Together: Hotstove Isn’t Any Fun to Watch Anymore

It was always an often pseudo-belief of mine that American hockey fans are oddly drawn to Hockey Night in Canada due to it’s fantastic presentation of the sport, legendary voices, and the idea that a 70-year old white man will rant about a sport played by 20-and 30-year olds in jingoistic, barely coherent fashion.  There is a natural curiosity in all of us about Canada’s weekly hockey showcase, and it’s driven by the variety the show gives you.  It’s not just idiots barking at a desk.

The closest Hockey Night used to get to guys talking at a desk was the Satellite Hotstove segment.  It used to be composed of three well-connected, occasionally controversial writers discussing trade rumors and finances of the game type stuff.  On the surface, it could seem like something to take a snack break on.  But I’ve often felt that many American viewers (and younger Canadian viewers) show up for Hockey Night for Don Cherry, but stay because of Hotstove.  It was a genuinely good natured, and occasionally highly informative segment.

However, things started to go bad last season, when Mike Milbury was hired to be a part of the regular panel.  Not only would Mad Mike’s status as a non-writer take away a spot from a more well-reasoned person like Scott Morrisonn or others of the ilk… c’mon, it’s Mike freaking Milbury!  What other reason do you need to dislike this move?

Milbury, instead of using his connections as a long-termed GM to try and bring a new perspective on Hotstove’s rumors and relocation talk format, has instead used it as his own personal bully pulpit.  However, it was always usually as defensable as harmless, jingoistic idiocy up until now (Remember how much of a non-story “pansification” ended up being?).

However, Hotstove has taken an extreme turn for the worse.  In the past two weeks, the third member of the panel (Besides Milbury and the typically levelheaded and intelligent Pierre LeBrun) has been Ian Pulver.  During the NHLPA’s Goodenow administration, Pulver was an associate council to the PA.  He also runs Pulver Sports Agency.  Oh, hey, an agent who worked under Goodenow, during the period in which players gave NHL GM’s migraines with their increased salary demands.  Hey, Mike Milbury was a GM during that period.  Oh, boy, I bet he sure doesn’t care for Ian Pulver.

By watching that video clip, you all know the rest.  The last two weeks of Hotstove have been akin to torture porn movies.  It’s been endless bickering.  Pulver, who I’m sure is a smart, savvy businessman – comes across as a bumbler and a comic foil to Milbury’s bullying, even more than Al Strachan did before he was fired.  While Pulver mostly let Mad Mike beat him up the week before, he was firing back this time.  Honestly, it was hard to tell what they were arguing about at a certain point.

Hotstove is clearly lost.  I hope other writers pick up this cause, because something needs to be done about this segment.  If you want to have Mike Milbury analyze hockey games and do studio work, that’s fine.  But if he’s being groomed into the Don Cherry role, do not give him a punching bag that will lead to more shrill, whiny, jingoistic yelling.  It’s ruining the classic allure of Hockey Night.  It’s supposed to be hockey coverage with something different thrown in at every break.  Now, it’s just old men yelling at me, and I don’t like it one bit.

Your Hockey Night in Canada Open Thread

Washington vs. Montreal, 7PM, CBC/NHL Net
Play by Play:
Bob Cole
Color: Guy Carbonneau
Inside the Glass: Glenn Healy
Reporter: Elliotte Friedman

Calgary vs. Columbus, 7PM, CBC
Play by Play:
Mark Lee
Color: Kevin Weekes
Reporter: Cassie Campbell

Ottawa vs. Boston, 7PM, CBC
Play by Play:
Dean Brown
Color: Gary Galley

Edmonton vs. Vancouver, 10PM, CBC Full Net
Play by Play:
Jim Hughson
Color: Craig Simpson
Reporter: Scott Oake

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