Your Announcers and Open Thread for Wild-Stars

Minnesota vs. Dallas, 8PM, VERSUS
Play by Play:
Joe Beninati
Color: Eddie Olczyk
Reporter: Charissa Thompson

Full Press Release on Broad Street Bullies

NEW YORK, Jan. 14, 2010 — HBO Sports has begun production on BROAD STREET BULLIES, a documentary about one of pro sport’s most polarizing teams, the legendary Philadelphia Flyers Stanley Cup championship squads of the 1970s, it was announced by Ross Greenburg, president, HBO Sports. This exclusive presentation will tell the backstories of these engaging and colorful athletes, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and ’1975 with a bold, aggressive style that sparked controversy and criticism. BROAD STREET BULLIES debuts during the Stanley Cup Playoffs in May.
“This film will explore how a group of characters, who also happened to be an extraordinarily talented collection of hockey players that enjoyed contact on the ice, formed one of the most prominent and controversial teams in pro sports history,” said Greenburg. “We are going to re-trace the steps that led to the love affair between the city and the team, and show how to this day these players are revered in Philadelphia and despised elsewhere.”
Playing before adoring fans at the Spectrum, the Philadelphia Flyers rose to prominence in the 1970s under the guidance of shrewd coach Freddie Shero.  With larger-than-life figures like Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Ed Van Impe, Bill Clement, Rick MacLeish, “Moose” Dupont, Bob Kelly, Joe Watson and Gary Dornhoefer, the team won many games, fought in just about all of them and made numerous enemies. The club’s popularity soared as their physically imposing and sometimes bloody style generated headlines across North America.
Although the franchise did not exist until 1967, the team rose to national prominence in just a few short years, and some NHL teams would see their home attendance double when the Flyers came to town. The club became a favorite of other hardscrabble cities and towns where blue-collar communities were taking an economic beating.
In a bizarre twist, singer Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” became the Flyers’ good luck charm. Eventually, the team that showcased players with gap-toothed grins, funny hair and goofy nicknames evolved into one of the NHL’s elite franchise. In 1976, the Flyers engaged the vaunted Soviet Central Red Army team in the finale of an exhibition series that would do little to ease the cold war tension between the two nations.

The executive producers of BROAD STREET BULLIES are Ross Greenburg and Rick Bernstein; produced by George Roy.

Hey, Big Shock, Blackhawks Set Another Ratings High

From Blackhawks.com:

Comcast SportsNet, the television home for the most games and most comprehensive coverage of the NHL Western Conference/Central Division first place Chicago Blackhawks, delivered its highest Blackhawks regular season rating ever last night (Thu, January 14) — a 4.15 household rating for its live coverage of the Blackhawks home ice battle against the division rival Columbus Blue Jackets. NOTE: This is the fifth time this season the Blackhawks have set a new all-time regular season single game ratings record on Comcast SportsNet.

For last night’s 3-0 shutout victory by the Blackhawks, Comcast SportsNet attracted approx. 145,292 households for the entire game and posted a 4.69 peak rating during the 9:30 PM quarter-hour (164,197 households). The 4.15 single game regular season ratings record on Comcast SportsNet shatters the previous record set just last week on January 7 at Boston (3.43). Source for all ratings information is provided by Nielsen Media Research overnights.

Comcast SportsNet was also the #1-highest rated television network in the Chicago market last night in the male demo of Men 18-49 for the entire length of the game (7:30-10:00 PM). Comcast SportsNet was also #2 overall in the market in the key advertiser demo of Adults 18-49 for the entire length of the game.

So far this season, the Blackhawks on Comcast SportsNet are currently averaging a 2.19 household rating, a year-to-date increase of 111% compared to last season through 29 telecasts. In addition, Chevy Blackhawks Pre-Game Live ratings are up 172% year-to-date, while Smirnoff Vodka Blackhawks Post Game Live ratings have increased 69%. Comcast SportsNet’s next Blackhawks telecast airs tomorrow afternoon (Sat, January 16) as the Blackhawks visit the Columbus Blue Jackets (live coverage begins at 12:30 PM with Chevy Blackhawks Pre-Game Live, face-off at 1:00 PM). Viewers can also visit CSNChicago.com for the very latest Blackhawks news, highlights, game previews/recaps & blogs from Blackhawks “Insider” Brett Ballantini, along with exclusive videos and much more.

NBC Red Wings-Pens PR

NEW YORK – January 15, 2010 – The Sunday, Jan. 31, Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins game has been flexed as NBC Sports’ “Game of the Week” and will be played at Mellon Arena at 12:30 p.m. ET, the National Hockey League and NBC Sports announced today.

The teams have met to decide the past two Stanley Cup Finals, with the Penguins winning Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena last spring to dethrone the Red Wings, who had won in six games the previous season. Jan. 31 marks this the first meeting between Pittsburgh and Detroit this season. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury continue to lead the defending champion Penguins, who again are among the top contenders in the Eastern Conference, just 5 points out of the conference lead. Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk pace Detroit, who will look to continue the team’s climb up the Western Conference standings as more players return to the lineup from injury.

ADDITIONAL “GAME OF THE WEEK” MATCHUPS

This Sunday, NBC Sports’ “Game of the Week” features a rematch of last season’s Western Conference final when the Chicago Blackhawks face the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena at 12:30 p.m. ET. No two NHL teams have played more regular-season games against each other than the Red Wings and Blackhawks.

On Sunday, Jan. 24, the Penguins will travel to Philadelphia to face the Flyers at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. This Keystone State rivalry reached the boiling point after the Penguins eliminated the Flyers from the playoffs in two hard-fought series the past two seasons.

FLEXIBLE SCHEDULING

At least 13 days prior to the scheduled game, one game is selected for broadcast on NBC. Games selected to appear on NBC move to 12:30 p.m. ET. All NBC games will be broadcast on Sundays and all games will be presented in High Definition. Games not flexed to NBC will be available to the teams’ regional carriers and remain at the originally announced start time.

The matchup for the Feb. 7 “Game of the Week” on NBC Sports will be announced on the Thursday, Jan. 21, edition of “NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman” on NHL.com and SIRIUS XM Radio airing from 6-7 p.m. ET.

2009-10 NBC Game of the Week Regular-Season Flexible Schedule

Jan. 17 CHICAGO AT DETROIT 12:30 p.m. ET
Jan. 24 PITTSBURGH AT PHILADELPHIA 12:30 p.m. ET
Jan. 31 DETROIT AT PITTSBURGH 12:30 p.m. ET
Feb. 7 Pittsburgh at Washington OR
Boston at Montreal 12:30 p.m. ET
Mar. 7 Boston at Pittsburgh OR
Detroit at Chicago OR
Carolina at Atlanta 12:30 p.m. ET
Mar. 14 Philadelphia at NY Rangers OR
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay OR
Washington at Chicago OR
Colorado at Dallas 12:30 p.m. ET
Mar. 21 NY Rangers at Boston OR
Buffalo at Carolina 12:30 p.m. ET
Apr. 4 Detroit at Philadelphia 12:30 p.m. ET
Apr. 11 Boston at Washington OR
NY Rangers at Philadelphia OR
Detroit at Chicago TBD

The Case For Kevin Weekes

When I appeared on Kurtenblog Radio a couple of months ago, I told them I enjoyed Kevin Weekes’ performance on Hockey Night in Canada.  They thought I was nuts, however, I defended him.  I stated that he could get better, and that he was a fresh shot in the arm for hockey players-turned-analysts.

I still believe this, but feel the need to reiterate the point after Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun took a lazy, needless shot at Weekes in his Sunday column:

What seemed like a very good idea at the time isn’t: Kevin Weekes on Hockey Night In Canada.

Other examples of fantastic prose in the column: “Dep’t of tiresome: Mike Tyson Cameos”.  Simply astonishing.  Well, regardless of what Simmons says, Weekes is doing just fine on Hockey Night in Canada, and Mike Tyson cameos in TV and movies have yet to cease to be very funny.

Why is Weekes getting this criticism in his first season?  Give him a chance to develop as an analyst.  The guy essentially passed on a chance to play in Europe and work his way back to the NHL so he could join the ranks of TV.  Usually, the NHL has such problems keeping it’s analysts from returning to the game.

Sometimes, especially in his appearances on the NHL Network, Weekes can borderline on cheesey, overly wordy nicknames.  Then again, with all nicknames, they’re hit or miss.  I’m just thankful that someone on that show has decided it’s not their job to inject you with Xanax, but instead have the gall to attempt to entertain you.

Another mild criticism of Weekes is that he tends to repeat what his play-by-play man just set him up with.  This also tends to happen when he’s reading a graphic.  But all analysts have this problem.  Kevin Weekes is a long, long way from the bottom of the HNIC totem pole.  What about Guy Carbonneau?  Greg Millen?  PJ Stock?  There’s three less essential people to the entire shebang right there.  Why isn’t Simmons filling out column space taking potshots at them?

Look, you won’t find any color analyst who exudes charm like Weekes.  He is engaged, affable and at times very funny.  He still hasn’t gotten to a point where he’s saying insightful, innovative things week in and week out, but you can’t listen to him and see no way of him becoming a top-flight analyst.  In fact, I’d argue if he improves over the next few years, he’d have an American network job immediately.  I’m shocked he wasn’t given a shot by one this year, however, it’s clear Weekes was savvy enough to know that HNIC and NHL Net were where he could learn.

The simple fact is that Weekes needs more time to develop his skills as a color commentator.  Give him over the summer to work on it.  I know from taking courses in TV and calling basketball games for the past three years, it takes time to develop a facade where you’re being natural and comfortable doing the job, both in studio and on site.  I feel that criticism like Simmons – of the yawnworthy and “Hey, I’ll get someone to talk about this if I just write it in passing!” nature – do no good to anyone.

Broadcast News: 3 New York Teams in Would Cause Epic NHL Screwup, Again

Only three times since the Devils have come to New Jersey in 1982 have all three New York-area teams been in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  In 1990 and 1994, the Rangers and Islanders faced off while the Devils battled the Caps.  In 2007, however, all three teams were playing in separate series.  For some reason, the NHL decided they’d play almost all of their games on the same night.  Game 1 of all three series started at the same time!  What kind of logic is that?

I say this because if the season ended today, all three teams would be in again, with the Devils and Rangers going at it, and the Isles against the Caps.  Would the NHL make the same mistake again?

Current Matchups

East

#8 NY Islanders vs. #1 Washington
#7 Ottawa vs. #2 New Jersey
#6 NY Rangers vs. #3 Buffalo
#5 Boston vs. #4 Pittsburgh

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

Canadian Networks Draft

#1 (CBC): VAN-COL
#2 (CBC): CGY-SJ
#3 (TSN): OTT-NJ
#4 (CBC): BOS-PIT
#5 (TSN): LA-CHI
#6 (CBC): NYI-WSH
#7-8 (TSN): NYR-BUF and PHX-NSH

Could Phoenix-Nashville be the most ignored Stanley Cup Playoff series in the history of the league?  Or the most hyped for it’s feel good stories?  Anyway, my reasoning for the two western series?  They’ll get better ratings at 10PM than an Ottawa series at 7PM, and Crosby/Ovechkin night after night will be good lead-ins.

American Networks

NBC:

Boston-Pittsburgh remains the cream of the crop, series-wise, and that will get a ton of play.  Sabres-Rangers and Washington-Islanders might not be strong enough to keep LA-Chicago off network TV, provided the games take place in Chi-town.  Sorry, Phoenix-Nashville.

VERSUS:

Boston-Pittsburgh and Washington-Islanders will likely get most of the 7PM timeslots, with Calgary-San Jose/Vancouver-Colorado being the VERSUS produced western series when they’re in American markets, with Chicago-LA getting play on VERSUS when out in Hockeywood.  Sabres-Rangers and Ottawa-Devils will likely substitute on weekends.  Sorry, Phoenix-Nashville.

VERSUS Available Announcers

Play by Play:

John Forslund
Rick Peckham
John Ahlers

Color:

Darren Eliot
Daryl Reaugh
Brian Engblom

Reporters:

Charissa Thompson
Bob Harwood
Lindsay Soto


NBC Shows Positive Signs with Roenick, Regresses with Missed Goal

Midway through the third period of NBC’s Detroit Red Wings-Chicago Blackhawks broadcast, I was quite satisfied.  I was all ready to write a nice, optimistic review about the network’s coverage of the sport.  The audio (i.e. being able to hear the guys who talk over all the action) was much improved.  In the third period, I could actually hear Mike Emrick calling the game!

In addition to that, NBC decided to give me a late Christmas gift… with Jeremy Roenick in the studio!  In a role an NBC spokesman termed to us as “a guest analyst” for now, Roenick was everything the media buffs among us hoped he’d be, funny, engaging, and with interesting things to say, especially when it got to talking tough about the U.S. Olympic team, where Roenick was able to argue against Chris Drury’s presence on the team.  MEMO TO NBC: MAKE ROENICK A PERMANENT PART OF YOUR NHL AND OLYMPIC COVERAGE.  NOW.

The audio, Roenick making Milbury and McGuire more tolerable (and funnier: Nice crack on the ’98 U.S. Olympic team, Pierre) as well as the cleaned up graphics (NBC has better graphic presentation than any other network) made for what was a good day for the Peacock, after what had been days and days of me thinking negative things about the network…

…And then they completely missed a game-tying goal because they were showing replays.  Completely missed it.  Not even close.  Emrick had to describe what had happened as the goal horn sounded… and the replay was still playing!  Yes, the timeout coordinator in the penalty box is to blame here, but NBC does not escape much of it.  They get ripped to shreds on Twitter and the blogs and the mainstream columnists as it is, and stuff like this justifies it.

The fact that it was inexcusable and it happened was one thing.  The reality that no one apologized to Red Wing fans and Blackhawk fans on behalf of the network just signifies ignorance on their part.  Emrick himself should’ve realized what had happened and said something.  Because the fact is, this network’s duty is to serve whatever fans saw the options of an NFC Divisional Playoff game on FOX, a college hoops game on CBS (featuring a Michigan team) and still chose to watch hockey on NBC.

They failed at this, and that’s a shame.

I won’t harp on much more.  NBC, for all the shots they took for scheduling things so that these teams would play twice in different arenas in two days, they got a fantastic game, something NBC’s had trouble getting lately.  Emrick and Olczyk are still a decent duo, though it’d be better if they just went with the one-up, one-down system TSN.  A controversial decision to go with the center ice camera in front of the penalty box for a potential game-winning chance for Henrik Zetterberg created great tension.  The overtime in itself showcased why Emrick is still one of the best.  Olczyk and McGuire barely talked Emrick, clearly suffering from being a little hoarse, just brought it.

And of course, there is Roenick, who could be a really great TV attraction for the NHL.  But, as usual with NBC, sometimes there are signs of life, and sometimes there are signs that, 5 years in, they still don’t get it.

I imagine we’ll find out how many tuned in at midday.  Stay tuned.

Well, If You’re Going to Replace Randy Moller…

The great Eric Hornick reported to us last night that Hall of Famer Jiggs McDonald will be filling in for Randy Moller for the next game or two on Florida Panthers broadcasts.  I’d definitely suggest tuning in if you’ve got the ability.

Note to readers, this is just the beginning.  You’ll read something new on Puck the Media every hour on the hour until 3PM.  We don’t take no holiday.  Enjoy.