Final NBC Winter Classic Release

NEW YORK – Dec. 28, 2009 – Fenway Park will host the 2010 NHL Winter Classic between the host Boston Bruins and visiting Philadelphia Flyers on New Year’s Day with broadcast coverage presented by NBC Sports beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

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

This year’s Winter Classic marks the third outdoor NHL game played in the United States. Last year’s event at Wrigley Field between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings was the most-viewed NHL regular season game in almost 34 years. An average of more than 4.4 million Americans watched the Red Wings defeat the Blackhawks, 6-4, from Wrigley, a 17-percent increase over the inaugural Winter Classic (3.75 million) and the biggest regular-season audience since Feb. 23, 1975 (5.4 million, Philadelphia-New York Rangers on NBC), according to Nielsen Media Research.

COSTAS ON THE BUZZ AROUND THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC: “The buzz for it is like nothing I’ve seen.”

MILBURY, A BOSTON NATIVE, ON THE BUZZ IN BOSTON: “The energy has been building since the announcement. It’s the toughest ticket to get that I have seen in all of my years in Boston, including Bruins playoffs, Red Sox playoffs, Patriots championships and Celtics championships. This is an event. It’s going to be a spectacular event and I’m proud to even be a little bit a part of it.”

COSTAS ON THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC AS AN EVENT: “This really is an event. It attracts a lot of people who don’t necessarily follow hockey closely throughout the course of the year.”

EMRICK ON HOW PAST PLAYERS FEEL ABOUT THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC: “I spoke with Ryan Miller, the goalie from Buffalo just this past fall almost two years after the first Winter Classic. He still has a big smile on his face when he talks about it. And his team didn’t win! Ryan Whitney and Colby Armstrong, now former Penguins, were walking in with the bagpipes and the fire salutes and one tapped the other on the shoulder and said ‘Lifetime memory right here. Take it in.’”

COSTAS ON THE HISTORY OF THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC: “The first one turned out even better than we thought it would. It snowed in Buffalo and was a tremendous atmosphere with that snow globe affect on camera; Sidney Crosby wins it with the winning goal in a shootout. And then we go to Wrigley field last year and the rivalry between the Blackhawks and the Red Wings. And now we take it to Fenway Park.”

FLOOD ON PRODUCING OUTDOORS: “We almost have twice as much equipment as we have for a regular-season NHL game. We have an airplane, which is not normal for a hockey game. For the first game, it was one of those ground breaking moments in TV — a replay from an airplane of a hockey game. It never happened before and can only be duplicated.”

MILBURY ON GROWING UP PLAYING OUTDOORS: “We lived on the ponds. The excitement was there because there was nobody to tell you where to go, where to line up. It was just mayhem. You played until you couldn’t play anymore and were frozen. You maybe brought an orange and broke it open and had that incredible smell of the fresh cold air.”

FLOOD ON THE WEATHER MAN: “It’s an event. It’s much more than a game. It’s the only hockey game in America or the world where you have a weather man working for you. Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel will be there. We’ve had a weather man at every game.”

MILBURY ON THE FREEDOM OF PLAYING OUTDOORS: “The players will be incredibly excited walking into that venue. The whole sense of playing outside is a sense of joy, pure freedom without any restrictions, no rules, no regulations. Just go beat around a puck and try to put it in between two old boots and have some fun.”

EMRICK ON THE PLAYERS: “You should’ve seen Brian Boucher this summer. He’s from Woonsocket, R.I. When he was at Fenway Park for the press conference, you could see in his eye he didn’t want to think anything ill of Ray Emory or anyone else. But he wants to play in this game for the Flyers. We were talking with Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, another New Englander who grew up spending a lot of summers at Fenway Park, and how he’s excited getting to coach a hockey game there. On skates and with this his stick raised to maximum heights, Zdeno Chara can get one third of the way up the Monster. Not bad.”

MILBURY ON FENWAY: “You walk into that place and it’s a museum.”

COSTAS ON FENWAY PARK’S HISTORY: “All the history. The idea that someone sat there and watched Babe Ruth pitch or Ted Williams bat or Lefty Grove or Jimmy Fox plus all the visiting players through the years and the specific games and events. Fisk and Dent and the Impossible Dream and Yaz. The only thing missing is that when the Red Sox won the World Series in ’04 and ’07, they clinched in St. Louis and then in Colorado so they never had the chance to put the finishing touches on it at Fenway Park.”

COSTAS’ MOST VIVID MEMORY OF FENWAY PARK: “One that stands out the most was Carl Yastrzemski hitting a home run. It wasn’t that important in terms of the context of the game, but it was his last season in the major leagues. It had to be his second- or third-to-last home run in the big leagues. There was something about him that was so timeless. I was doing the game with Tony Kubek and called that home run hit by a guy the first time you saw when you were only 10 or 11 years old. That was pretty cool.”

FLOOD ON CAMERA PLACEMENT: “The camera baskets are designed for a baseball game, not a hockey game, so we spent a lot of time figuring out what the right angles were and what the right places were to put all of our cameras to make the game shine. We also shoot this bigger and wider than a normal game because its about the place as much as the game.”

MILBURY ON THE BRUINS-FLYERS: “Ultimately this game should be a really good hockey game between two teams that should be among the elite of the conference.”

McGUIRE ON THE BRUINS-FLYERS: “This is going to be a ton of fun. It’s energy on both sides. It’s one team that is clearly desperate to get points in the standings, the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s another team that’s so proud, the Boston Bruins, and the internal leadership that they have with Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Mark Greci. There’s going to be villains on both sides. You’ve got Shawn Thorton with the Boston Bruins and you have Danny Carcillo on the Flyers. You are going to have Scott Hartnell and his wild hair flying all over the place. This game is going to be about energy.”

MILBURY ON THE RIVALRY BETWEEN BRUINS-FLYERS: “This rivalry goes back to the late 1960s, early 1970s and right through that decade in particular. It got its roots there. These were some of the nastiest battles that I’ve ever been involved with. Both teams, in their own way, have adapted to the new rules, but they listen to their fans and kept it constant. They want hard-nosed hockey. They want physical hockey. They want people to show up saying that we want to prove to you that we’re tough players and we’ve come to play every night.”

MCGUIRE ON THE PHYSICALITY OF BRUINS-FLYERS: “When you bring a player like Zdeno Chara into the mix, at 6-9 and a whole lot of nasty, and on the other team guys like Scotty Hartnell, Mike Richards and Danny Carcillo, who like to push back, that leads to a lot of physical altercations.”

EMRICK ON HIS HEALTH (HE MISSED LAST YEAR’S GAME WITH LARYNGITIS): “I started on the Vitamin C around Thanksgiving, as I was urged to do by a number of people. It’s worked out pretty well so far. It was quite disappointing to miss it last year.”

Tomorrow on Puck the Media…

We reveal the following…

Hockey Play-by-Play Man of the Decade
Hockey Color Commentator of the Decade
Hockey Studio Host of the Decade
Hockey Studio Analyst of the Decade
Hockey Network of the Decade

Enjoy!

Broadcast News: Finally, Some Hope For the Canadian Networks

(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.)

Matchups:

EAST:

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

WEST:

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

Canadian Networks’ Draft

#1 (CBC): Vancouver vs. San Jose
#2 (CBC): Montreal vs. New Jersey
#3 (TSN): Calgary vs. Chicago
#4 (CBC): Ottawa vs. Buffalo
#5 (TSN): Boston vs. Pittsburgh
#6 (CBC): Phoenix vs. Los Angeles
#7-8 (TSN): Nashville-Colorado and Atlanta-Washington

The CBC and TSN finally luck out by getting some Canadian series to pick from if the season ended today.  Out of the four potential Canadian markets left, Vancouver and Montreal are likely the best ratings bets, so CBC will jump at them with the first two picks.  Calgary’s a better bet than Ottawa, so TSN takes their series with Chicago, leaving CBC with Ottawa and then the likely ability to pick PHX-LA to pair with it for doubleheaders, as TSN likely prefers the star power of Ovechkin and Crosby.

American Networks

NBC: Boston-Pittsburgh is a bona fide NBC series.  Easy choice for the Peacock.  Honestly, out of the remaining series, Washington-Atlanta stands a better chance of being chosen than LA-Phoenix.  If only NBC went back to doing regional games, that would make a decent split telecast, you could even throw in the Nashville-Colorado series.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Coyotes made it to NBC, though?

VERSUS: VERSUS will also likely pal around with Crosby and Ovechkin for the 7PM timeslots, and likely fill them with New Jersey-Montreal and Buffalo-Ottawa when they are gone.  LA-Phoenix will likely be the one series out west VERSUS sends a consistent crew to.  Otherwise, expect simulcasts of Calgary-Chicago and Vancouver-San Jose.  Maybe a Nashville-Colorado game here or there.

VERSUS Announcer Availability:

The VERSUS folk who’d be rarin’ to go if the post-season began today:

Play by Play:

John Forslund
Rick Peckham
John Ahlers

Color:

Daryl Reaugh
Joe Micheletti
Billy Jaffe

Reporters:
Bob Harwood
Charissa Thompson
Lindsay Soto

Your Announcers and Open Thread for Wings-Jackets and WJC’s

Canada vs. Switzerland, 4PM, TSN/NHL Network
Play by Play:
Gord Miller
Color: Pierre McGuire
Reporter: Ryan Rishaug

Detroit vs. Columbus, 7PM, VERSUS
Play by Play:
Joe Beninati
Color: Eddie Olczyk
Reporter: Bob Harwood

Winter Classic Ratings: A Prediction From Your Blogger

Previous Winter Classic Ratings figures:

2008 (PIT vs. BUF): 2.6 overnight rating, 2.2 final rating, 3.7 million viewers
2009 (DET vs. CHI): 2.9 overnight rating, 2.5/5 final rating, 4.4 million viewers

I’ve discussed this with some fellow bloggers lately.  There’s an issue pertaining to this year’s Winter Classic at Fenway that hasn’t been a factor the last couple of seasons.  It’s a daunting question for the NHL, it’s fans and casual sports fans:  Do you care if a bad team is in the Winter Classic?

I’m sure the NHL will point out that the Flyers are only 2 points out of a playoff spot, and this is true, the Flyers could be a very good team at some point this year.  The point is, at the time the Winter Classic will be played at Fenway, they will not be a very good team.  Flyers fans will likely agree with me.

So will it matter?  Maybe, maybe not.  Often horrendous, 6-6 teams are in college football’s meaningless bowl games, and it rarely ever drops the ratings.  Usually, the local markets will tune in if they can be convinced it’s a significant event.  With Philly as the road market, you’d have to wager that a lot of the city’s fairly rabid hockey community will be interested in the event, maybe moreso than either Detroit or Chicago was in 2009.  Remember, in Detroit, the Winter Classic got thoroughly beaten by Michigan State football.

Nationally, is the interest for the Winter Classic going to improve?  Possibly.  ESPN is covering the event, VERSUS is doing a better job to keep it in people’s minds, and Mike Milbury appeared on Sunday Night Football last night.  Advertising on NBC has sold out, and merchandise is flying off the shelves.  So, we go back and forth on this, but our opinion is that Winter Classic ratings will just barely push up.  We’re calling 3.0 overnight rating, 2.6 final rating, and 4.6 million viewers.  That’s our fairly conservative call.  Looking forward to following the numbers.

VERSUS Rings in the New Year with Bob Harwood, Aaron Neville and Dr. John

NEW YORK, N.Y. (December 28, 2009)-VERSUS will drop the puck on 2010 with a 90-minute program on New Year’s Eve, titled NHL Winter Classic Eve Special on VERSUS Presented by Bridgestone.  The show, which begins at 11 p.m. ET, will be hosted by VERSUS’ Hockey Central studio team-Bill Patrick, Keith Jones and Brian Engblom-and will air live from a remote studio atop Fenway Park, the location for the third annual NHL Winter Classic game on New Year’s Day featuring an outdoor game between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.

The NHL Winter Classic Eve Special will provide viewers with a preview of this year’s NHL Winter Classic game, including predictions for the match-up and a behind-the-scenes look at how the historic Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, was transformed from dirt and grass into a hockey rink.  The show will also include a look back at the 2009/10 NHL regular season to date, including the top games this year, and will give a preview of the rest of the season to come.  The special will also feature an in-depth look at what’s in store for the potential U.S. and Canadian Olympic teams during the 2010 Winter Games.

The Hockey Central crew will also name their top 10 choices for “Player of the Decade” and during the live telecast the top player will be announced and host Bill Patrick will sit down with the player for an exclusive interview.  VERSUS reporter Bob Harwood will also be on-site in Boston to provide practice day interviews from players and coaches to not only get their thoughts on the New Year’s Day match-up, but to also find out what resolutions top their lists for 2010.

“What better way to kick off the new year for hockey and all sports fans than with a live special on New Year’s Eve, giving them a place they can call their own to ring in the start of another year,” said Marc Fein, Executive Vice President of Programming, Production and Business Operations for VERSUS. “The NHL’s Winter Classic game has become a highly anticipated annual event and we’re very excited to be a part of it this year with an in-depth preview of one of the league’s premier events. The live on-site studio show is a great way for VERSUS to super-serve fans with additional NHL programming.”

The special will also feature performances from musical guests, including Aaron Neville, Funky Meters and Dr. John, who will be performing at the NHL’s official Winter Classic New Year’s Eve Party at the House of Blues.  VERSUS reporter Charissa Thompson will be on-site at the House of Blues to serve as the remote host at the party as 2009 comes to an end and 2010 is ushered in.  In addition to VERSUS joining the House of Blues countdown, the network will also ring in the new year with an on-screen video countdown featuring all 30 NHL teams.

NHL Network Gets U.S. Coverage Right at World Juniors

I was pretty apprehensive about jumping in full throttle to the World Junior Championships this year.  Playing the stupid American card, I can’t say I’ve ever really watched the tournament before.  That said, I’ll give anything that throws live, marathon, televised hockey my way, so why not watch?

The TSN coverage feels very “Yeah, we’ve done this thing a million times.  We got this.”  if that makes any sense.  Dave Randorf’s voice gets on my nerves, but he does the job asked of him.  Dave Reid is nondescript, but inoffensive.  James Duthie and Bob McKenzie are always the most fun of any hockey studio duo this side of MacLean/Cherry.  Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire were pretty bearable in their coverage of Team Canada, honestly.  I say that because there are criticisms of the way they call these games.  I have to say, for a 16-0 rout of Latvia, they weren’t everything they were cracked up to be.  I’ll keep an eye on it throughout.

On to the NHL Network coverage, with “Voice of America” JP Dellacamera (based on all the U.S. soccer and now hockey he’s doing) replacing the unavailable Gary Thorne on play-by-play, Dave Starman as analyst and reporter Fred Pletsch.  Dellacamera’s more soccer-friendly style of calling hockey takes time getting used to, but he’s an enjoyable listen at all times.  Easygoing, funny and genuinely into the game, plus he didn’t use his “my cat just died” voice when the other team scored, as he was prone to when working as the play-by-play man for the Atlanta Thrashers.

Starman is returning for his second consecutive year calling WJC games on NHL Network.  He is a member of USA Hockey’s Coaching Education program, and you can tell, he breaks the game down very much like a coach does.  However, he does an okay job of explaining both strategy and the importance of this tourney.  In fact, kudos to NHL Net all around for doing a good job of showing off why the World Juniors are considered so important through graphics, as well as interviews with former World Junior participants.

Also, great job by NHL Network for making the essentially three-man show intermission reports infotaining.  On the other hand, a negative would be the awkward combination of NHL Network’s score display and what is essentially TSN’s graphics, it gets a little odd at times.  Also, Fred Pletsch mispronouncing U.S. forward Derek Stepan’s name is bothersome at times, but only shows up intermediately.  Overall, a great job so far by NHL Network taking on a tournament that most Americans are pretty foreign to.