Five Ways To Make Black Friday on NBC Special

One of the more under-discussed parts of the new television deal is that NBC plans to add a game on the Friday after Thanksgiving, making it the earliest an NHL game has been broadcast on network television in it’s history. This is a perfect idea. There’s very little on television aside from some college football, and many NHL teams already play matinees on the date. It is also usually a day when men are hanging out at home with a day off, not necessarily participating in the madness of Black Friday, or at least doing so online. Since NBC’s key demo is young males, this makes perfect sense.

That said, how do you differentiate from the other broadcasts NBC does throughout the season? How do you get it to move the needle like the Winter Classic, or even slightly, like Hockey Day in America? Here’s a few suggestions.

1. If Possible, Have It Be a Rematch of the Stanley Cup Final. If the two teams in the prior year’s Stanley Cup Final are both American. Sorry, Canadian fans, but this is an early chance to connect with the American public, and we don’t need to run down all the reasons why Canadian NHL teams aren’t often on US national television. If there was a Canadian-American Stanley Cup Final, simply pick the all-American conference final, if there is one. Stanley Cup re-matches have proven very popular for the league’s TV partners over the past few years, and it wouldn’t be another way to cynically package Pittsburgh and Washington again.

2. If Not, Do an Original Six Day. Here’s how you get Canadian teams involved, do regional coverage of all six of the original NHL franchises going at it. You get the CBC involved too, they can air a Toronto game nationally and Montreal regionally or vice versa. TSN could air the all-American game. Something akin to this:

  • NY Rangers vs. Chicago
  • Boston vs. Montreal
  • Detroit vs. Toronto

While Canadian teams can often be a cancer on ratings, the original six teams – when packaged with the right US opponent – can score well, sort of like how the Green Bay Packers are a very popular team nationally, despite playing in a very small market.

3. Legends, Legends, Legends. If the game is Pittsburgh vs. Detroit, guarantee me that Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe and all the legendary players that have worn those two sweaters – certainly more on the Detroit side – will be involved. Invite one guest in for 10 minutes each in a period, and just get their perspective on the game. I imagine Mario might have something interesting to save if there’s a hit up high.

4. Retro Jerseys. Remember that were doing this game on the biggest shopping day of the year, so break out some “new old” jerseys and colors to be able to sell on Shop.NHL.com or in the catalogues and at the arenas. I know the Winter Classic is a separate entity and built on more than just merch sales, but this certainly could be a good platform for the NHL to get everyone in the mood to buy hockey for Christmas.

5. Special MVP Trophy. On FOX, CBS and NFL Network coverage of the Thanksgiving Day football game, the MVP of the game is given a quirky trophy – known has the “Galloping Gobbler” on FOX, the “All-Iron Award” on CBS, and “The Pudding Pie Award” on NFL Net – for his efforts. Do something like this for the NHL game. Give something quirky out that players will jokingly take a shot at, and then have the player interviewed at center ice after the game with his helmet off. It’d be a good showcase for a star player, and at least be less ridiculous than the All-Star Game MVP.

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About Steve Lepore
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13 Responses to Five Ways To Make Black Friday on NBC Special

  1. Stu Dolgon says:

    I agree with most of what you are suggesting, except for #2. It would be great to have an Original Six Day (and I’m old enough to remember that era). However, that would be a hardship on Canadian teams and viewers since while most Americans are off from work or school that Friday, for the vast majority of Canadians that is just a regular weekday.

  2. Dave says:

    Stanley Cup Champions vs. European League champion? They should coincide this with Hockey Day in America – make it a big event that goes from NHL to grassroots.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Don’t forget that the day is NOT a holiday in Canada – so the Canadiens and Maple Leafs are not going to be playing on a Friday afternoon on CBC.

  4. E says:

    I would like to see an original six day, but, do not regionalize it.
    The schedule could be something like this…
    1pm Boston-Detroit (Versus, TSN)
    3:30pm NY Rangers-Chicago (NBC, TSN)
    7pm Toronto-Montreal (Versus, CBC)

    I would like to see this where no other games were played on this day. This would celebrate the history.
    Bring out the

  5. leafsfan1967 says:

    >>Sorry, Canadian fans, but this is an early chance to connect with the American public, and we don’t need to >>run down all the reasons why Canadian NHL teams aren’t often on US national television.

    Oh Steve…. Surely you wouldn’t mind having a Montreal Vancouver final and repeat on Black Friday would you?
    :-)

  6. Mike in Idaho says:

    These are good ideas, but you should have your Stanley Cup rematch idea even if one of the teams is Canadian, you could make a U-S-A type campaign for it if this happens. I don’t think all Canadian teams are terrible for ratings, most people would recognize Toronto or Montreal at least.

  7. NJNHLFan42 says:

    I’m doubtful that the logistics of this would work, but how about since it’s Black Friday, have the game in a mall or shopping center. Crowd-wise, you’d be doing the opposite of the Winter Classic by going “small”, but I think it would be very intriguing to the American public.

  8. Mike says:

    #1 makes a whole lot of sense, but I don’t think it’d be possible. The NHL releases the next season’s schedule in late June/early July so the slate of Black Friday games should be pretty solidified at that point. I think we’re most likely going to see 2 of the NBC 6 featured in that game.

  9. Bill says:

    Don’t fret over Canadians not being able to catch a weekday hockey game. We have ways.

  10. James Bray says:

    Steve, I’ve been coming to this site for a couple of years; keep up the great work.

    I thought I’d add that it would be a great idea if the NHL, NBCU and HBO used 24/7 to promote both the Black Friday game and use the Winter Classic as a rematch. It’d make for a terrific in-season miniseries.

  11. CBC wouldn’t want to waste a Montreal-Toronto game on a Friday night when nobody is home. Nor would any Canadian team particularly enjoy playing on a Friday afternoon, although 1-2 usually do as road games anyway.

    I wonder when the NBC game will start. I’d think they’d want to avoid going head-to-head with the 3:30pm ET NCAA football game, which I think is Iowa-Nebraska now. 1 ET would make the most sense I suppose.

  12. Sean says:

    I would start a tradition, a la Detroit & Dallas always hosting home games on Thanksgiving.

    The Bruins have been playing a Black Friday matinee for at least a decade i think. They’re in a huge market and a huge market that doesn’t care about college football. And really, the northeast in general doesn’t care about college football (save for Notre Dame). Have the Bruins host the game every year, and rotate in a big name opponent.

    Done & done. What’s next to figure out?

  13. Branden says:

    Sean great idea!!

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