Your Announcers and Open Thread for Bruins-Rangers

Boston vs. NY Rangers, 7PM, VERSUS
Play by Play:
Joe Beninati
Color: Andy Brickley
Reporter: Charissa Thompson

Remember, We’ll Literally Post ANY Versus News: Network Signs Deal with NBA D-League, Includes Archival NBA Footage

NEW YORK, N.Y. (January 4, 2010)—VERSUS today announced an agreement with the NBA Development League, the NBA’s official minor league, to air 10 regular season and six playoff games throughout 2010.

The NBA D-League regular season games will air on VERSUS on Saturday nights at 11 p.m. ET, beginning Jan. 16, when the Fort Wayne Mad Ants meet the Sioux Falls Skyforce. VERSUS will tip off NBA D-League playoff coverage on April 10.  All regular season and postseason games will be presented in HD.

“We are very excited to announce this new partnership with the NBA D-League and to have the opportunity to showcase the league’s future stars to a national audience,” said Marc Fein, Executive Vice President of Programming, Production and Business Operations for VERSUS.  “As we do with all of our partners, we also look forward to super-serving basketball fans by surrounding the high-paced NBA D-League game action with many hours of complementary NBA programming.”

“Teaming up with VERSUS provides us with another great outlet to showcase the incredible talent of the NBA D-League throughout the season,” said Dan Reed, President of the NBA D-League.  “Last season, 20 percent of NBA players had NBA D-League experience and, through this agreement with VERSUS, more fans than ever will have the opportunity to see many future NBA players in action.”

VERSUS’ NBA D-League coverage will provide fans with even more access to the game and the players including micing players and coaches during the games, in game interviews, airing locker room and pre-game, halftime and post-game speeches, and increased camera angles.

In addition to VERSUS’ 16 NBA D-League games in 2010, the network will air 25 hours of exciting NBA programming.  Some of the programming will include profiles of the league’s top players as well as former iconic players and coaches.   Other additional specials will highlight historic moments from recent regular seasons and playoffs.  The complete schedule for the additional programming will be made available on http://www.VERSUS.com.

VERSUS’ COMPLETE REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE OF NBA D-LEAGUE GAMES INCLUDES:

January 16:  Fort Wayne Mad Ants at Sioux Falls Skyforce
January 23:  Fort Wayne Mad Ants at Iowa Energy
January 30:  Bakersfield Jam at Idaho Stampede
February 6:  Reno Bighorns at Rio Grande Valley Vipers
February 20:  Dakota Wizards at Sioux Falls Skyforce
February 27:  Bakersfield Jam at Austin Toros
March 13:  Tulsa 66ers at Rio Grande Valley Vipers
March 20:  Dakota Wizards at Erie BayHawks
March 27:  LA D-Fenders at Rio Grande Valley Vipers
April 3:   Erie BayHawks at Maine Red Claws

BREAKING: NBC Winter Classic Ratings Down from ’09

From SportsBusinessDaily:

NBC earned a 2.6 overnight Nielsen rating for the Flyers-Bruins Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Friday, down 10.3% from a 2.9 for the Red Wings-Blackhawks matchup last year, and even with the inaugural Penguins-Sabres Winter Classic in ’08.

So I suppose we were right to have the premonition that the numbers would be off.

UPDATE: Boston is certainly not at fault, as the game drew a staggering 14.4/29 in the market.  By comparison, the Red Sox averaged a 9.4 rating in Boston for regular season games, with a 17.9 for the team’s home opener, while the Celtics a 4.1 in the regular season, and a 16.1 for their highest-rated post-season game.  One final comparison, the 14.4 is higher than the 14.2 NESN drew for Game 7 of Bruins-Hurricanes.

UPDATE: Game drew a 6.0/11 in Philadelphia, losing big time to the Penn St. Capital One Bowl telecast, which drew a 10.0/19.  Ladies and gentlemen, meet your Winter Classic weak link!

Winter Classic on NBC Review: Network Covers the Game and Sport Well, But Not the League

I’m an unabashed fan of the Winter Classic.  I think it’s consistently the best thing the NHL does nowadays, aside from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Not only is it a different feel from every other NHL game of the regular season, but it’s the mere vibe that it gives off.  It’s peaceful to see at times.  When the shadows come out, it’s as if an exciting new dimension of the game has shown up to play.  The Overtime was some of the best hockey I’ve seen this year.

Now, let’s point out that while the sport and the event are perfect, how the NHL plays both are not.  The game was pretty terrible for the first 55 minutes or so, buoyed only by physical play and a lone goal.  However, a fantastic finish that included a Marco Sturm OT winner and the enthralling announcement of Team USA’s roster for the Vancouver Olympics should keep the ratings where they were expected to be.

I watched the telecast on NBC.  First of all, let’s give kudos where kudos are due.  Mike Emrick is the perfect broadcaster to call this sort of thing.  An interesting note: Doc did his dissertation (before he was Doc) on baseball announcing.  This seemed like the perfect mix for him, and it turned out to be true.  The man simply has too much knowledge.  Minutes into the telecast, he was telling me a fun fact about Fenway Park (that you can get a Ground Rule Triple there, unlike any other ballpark) that I had never heard a baseball play-by-play man reveal, much less a hockey one.  He did a fine job in treating it lower than a playoff game, but higher than the average regular season game.

Eddie Olczyk’s role was diminished a tad this year, for obvious reasons.  First of all, Edzo wasn’t playing host to the rest of the announcers like he was when the game was in Chicago, his hometown, last season.  Also, Emrick and Olczyk were back together as the typical Winter Classic team this season, Dave Strader’s presence out of the blue last year when Emrick was sick may have given Olczyk license to take over a little bit.  That said, a subdued but clearly excited Eddie Olczyk is one we can watch any day of the week.

Darren Pang is always a great addition to NBC’s team for some reason.  I never enjoyed Panger all that much when ESPN ruled the hockey airwaves, however, here he does a great job as the inside the glass reporter while Pierre McGuire was unavailable.  He’s a solid interviewer, points out only things that are happening on the ice that you can get from his perspective.  Too many times, McGuire will simply take over as the color analyst.  Pang did not overstep his boundaries and did a fine job.

Bob Costas and Mike Milbury are necessary for this telecast.  Milbury, while a little overconcerned with potential nastiness during the game, was clearly enthused that his hometown was hosting this.  Also, it’s always cool to see Milbury skate over from playing with the little kids.  Whoever invented that tradition should probably have his salary increased.  Costas does an okay job moving things around.  He is, as usual, the gold standard of American sports hosts.

Where the telecast runs into big problems, unfortunately, is the segments with Milbury and Costas.  While they did a fine job selling the event as significant, and the sport itself as significant, they did little to nothing to tell the average viewer watching hockey for the first time this year that the NHL is significant.  Pointless segments filled their portion of the broadcast.  A nonsense feature on whether Philly or Boston was a better sports city, augmented by former pitcher Curt Schilling in an interview, who never said one word about the game.

An even more nonsensical segment on the Miracle on Ice team showed up during the second intermission.  Are you familiar with this having happened?  Gosh, there should be a movie.  I love the 1980 team, as every good American does, but this thing screamed “unnecessary”.  Everyone knows the Olympics are coming, we did not need a lame filmed piece with Al Michaels interviewing the team.  Sadly, I get the sneaking suspicion that parts of that interview will be aired up to 30,000 times during the two week Olympic coverage.

The post-game introduction of Team USA was a nice touch.  NBC’s graphics were clean and didn’t get in the way of the game.  The camera shots were all good, and the angle from a plane is breathtaking, and also a great way to watch hockey.  NBC should consider airing the game entirely from the plane camera on one of it’s digital channels, or even on one of it’s cable channels next year.

Overall, it’s hard for a Winter Classic optimist like myself to be down on anything around here, but NBC needs to do a better job next year of pointing out that this is an NHL game, and there are 1,259 more of them worth watching.  A short package of highlights from the first half of the season, more than one or two promos for the next NHL On NBC Game of the Week (Chicago vs. Detroit, January 17th, 12:30 PM ET).  NBC does a fine job as the Winter Classic broadcaster, yet they have not proven themselves to be the great NHL broadcaster everyone is hoping for.

A look at Canada’s World Junior Coverage

This was originally to be a post where we compared the TSN World Junior coverage with NHL Network’s American outfit.  But frankly, there isn’t much to say about NHL Net that we didn’t say a week ago.  It’s fairly professional, half-teaching, half-calling the game and overall fine to watch.  I want to hear how Canadians got to see the Classic.  So we called on our favorite American stuck in Canada: Mr. Scott Wasilewski, better known as Scotty Wazz from the Face Off Hockey Show, a broadcast I’ve been listening to since the age of 14.  Scotty’s one of our heroes, and also runs an entertaining blog.  Take it away after the jump, good sir:

Read more of this post

Schedule For Today

There likely won’t be a ratings post till Thursday.  We’re sorry.  But here’s what you can expect, starting at 11:

  • A comparison of the US and Canadian coverage of the US-Canada game at the World Juniors, featuring a special guest.
  • A review of NBC’s Winter Classic coverage.
  • A new Broadcast News
  • Open Thread for VERSUS tonight.

We’ll be reviewing VERSUS, NHL Network and CBC’s coverage of the Classic as the week goes on.  Thanks for joining us for a new year of Puck the Media.