Two Bald Men to Stand Between Benches at Hockey Game on Baseball Field (Plus Actual “Winter Classic” Conference Call Coverage)








No, this isn’t a “Tournament of Announcers” post.  Nor is it a “This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs” t-shirt.  Now, can you honestly tell me that the average hockey fan knows which one is Pierre McGuire and which one is Darren Pang?

Well, NBC is going to give America that challenge this New Year’s Day when they televise “Winter Classic 2: Chicago Bugaloo” live from Wrigley Field at 1PM.  I have nothing against either analyst (though I’m not crazy about Panger and his insistence on not turning his mic off when he has nothing to say) but seriously, NBC, can we please mix it up with someone who’s got a little hair going on?  How about forcing one of them to wear a toupee at the game?  The possibilities are endless.

That said, here are the highlights of NBC’s Winter Classic conference call:

NEW YORK – December 15, 2008 – NBC Sports will present broadcast coverage of NHL Winter Classic 2009 between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, New Year’s Day beginning at 1 p.m. ET from historic Wrigley Field in Chicago. This marks the second outdoor NHL game played in the United States; last year’s inaugural event was the most-viewed NHL regular season game in more than a decade. 

Bob Costas will host NBC’s coverage from Buffalo, joined by Mike “Doc” Emrick (play-by-play), Eddie Olczyk (analyst), Mike Milbury (studio analyst), Pierre McGuire (inside-the-glass reporter) and Darren Pang (inside-the glass-reporter). NBC’s NHL coverage is produced by Sam Flood, the former captain of the Williams College hockey team. 

NBC Sports today conducted a media conference call with Costas, Olczyk, Milbury, McGuire and Flood. For a complete replay, dial 719-457-0820 and enter passcode 6179423. Highlights follow: 

COSTAS ON LAST YEAR’S CLASSIC: “It really was fun last year no question about it. It would have been fun just because of the atmosphere with that whole snow globe look on television and then the game goes to overtime and Sydney Crosby ends up winning it. You couldn’t ask for anything more perfect than that.” 

COSTAS ON THE BUZZ FACTOR: “The rating is one thing and that is measurable and a very, very good number for hockey, but buzz is a different thing. And for the week after that, everywhere I went it seemed people were remarking about the game. How different it seemed, and how it kind of jumped out from the sports landscape. Wrigley Field gives us a setting and a chance to do some historical stuff there, which is pretty much my job — not to be a hockey expert but to set the scene.” 

MILBURY ON THE BUILDING EXCITEMENT: “People are starting to talk about the outdoor game: ‘Are you going to be at Wrigley, are you going to do the outdoor game?'” 

MILBURY ON THE ORIGINAL SIX MATCH-UP: “The Chicago Blackhawks have a great group of young players and have created the kind of buzz about hockey in Chicago that hasn’t been there for more than a decade, against the defending Stanley Cup champions, who are always entertaining and always fun to watch. Not only is the setting great but the two teams couldn’t be better. It’s two Original Six franchises that have a long tradition of a fierce rivalry and should be a tremendous hockey game as well as a tremendous event.” 

CHICAGO NATIVE OLCZYK ON BEING PART OF THE EVENT: “Being a Chicago native my whole life and growing up a diehard Cubs fan, to be a part of this on New Year’s Day is going to be one of those moments in my lifetime that will be very special. The buzz has been at a fever pitch since the announcement. With the way the team has played and transformed over the last year, going up against the template in any sports franchise in the Detroit Red Wings. 

“To be able to be at the game at Wrigley Field…I’m so envious and jealous of the guys that get that opportunity to play in that game in arguably the greatest sports venue there has ever been.” 

OLCZYK ON THE EXCITEMENT IN CHICAGO: “The people of Chicago are really, really excited. It’s such a small venue and people are going to be right on top of the rink. If you can’t get there you better be watching on television. This event could be the toughest ticket ever for a regular season event when it comes to sports in the city of Chicago. That’s saying a whole heck of a lot when it comes to some of the teams and games that they’ve had in that city.” 

FLOOD ON PRODUCING THE GAME: “This is a very exciting event for all of NBC in particular. To think that I’ve done 10 Olympics, been involved with NBA Finals, World Series’, Daytona 500s, — this is the one that is closest to my heart. I love hockey, I love playing outdoors. I grew up on an outdoor rink outside Boston and there was no cover on the rink until I was a sophomore in high school, so playing under the stars and playing under the lights is the greatest form of hockey.” 

“While I didn’t have the privilege of working on the crew last year I’m unbelievably excited to have a chance and the opportunity to work with the crew this year especially in Eddie Olczyk’s hometown in Chicago in Wrigley field which is an unbelievable place.” 

FLOOD ON BUFFALO AND WRIGLEY: “It was a special event to be around. The players were so into it during the entire game. It’s unique to get an event outdoors and now we’re in a venue that is the perfect place for a hockey game, Wrigley Field. It’s a baseball field of dreams and now the hockey guys get to take it over.” 

FLOOD ON BEING UP AGAINST THE MICHIGAN STATE BOWL GAME: “Last time I checked Detroit is called Hockeytown. You can’t see the Red Wings play outdoors every day.” 

FLOOD ON PRODUCTION ELEMENTS: “The most important ‘cool tool’ we have is the airplane again – you never see a hockey game from that perspective. But this isn’t about toys it’s about the event. We have a ton of cameras, we have cameras everywhere from high up in the right field bleachers to a camera in the scoreboard to rink level cameras to a roving camera that can go to some of the great parties on the roof tops across the street. We’re covered everywhere. We’re going to blanket this thing with camera work. This is a game you want to shoot wide so you see the whole spectacle.” 

OLCZYK ON WHAT THIS GAME MEANS FOR THE BLACKHAWKS FRANCHISE: “I think it helps reestablish and reconnect with the strong fan base that has been there, and then reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people who maybe have never seen a game before to let them know the team has moved up the sports totem pole in the city of Chicago.” 

COSTAS & HOCKEY: Costas, who hosted the inaugural Winter Classic in Buffalo, has a history broadcasting hockey, serving as the play-by-play commentator for minor league hockey’s Syracuse Blazers in 1973-74 and also occasionally filling in for the late, great Dan Kelly on KMOX’s St. Louis Blues radiocasts in the last 70s and early 80s. 

MOST VIEWED GAME IN MORE THAN A DECADE: Last year’s Winter Classic, broadcast, New Year’s Day on NBC, drew 3.7 million viewers making the it the most viewed NHL regular season game in more than a decade (Jan. 27, 1996 on Fox, regional broadcast, 3.8 million). The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in the first U.S. outdoor game in NHL history with Sidney Crosby scoring the game-winning goal in a shootout. 

NBC NHL GAME OF THE WEEK TO FEATURE CONSISTENT START TIME/FLEX SCHEDULING: Following the outdoor game, the NBC NHL “Game of the Week” drops the puck on its fourth season, Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 with the New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins. For the first time, “Game of the Week” broadcasts have a consistent start time – 12:30 p.m. ET on Sundays (except for April 12, 2 p.m. start time). For the second season, the NHL and NBC will utilize flex scheduling and will be able to select from up to three games on Sunday afternoons. Thirteen days prior to the scheduled games (on Mondays), NBC, in conjunction with the NHL, will select one of those games as the “Game of the Week” to be broadcast during the NBC window. The other games will remain available to the teams’ regional carrier but will not be televised during NBC’s broadcast window. 


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