Your Open Thread For Caps/Sabres (Or Flyers/Panthers)

Hockey Central, 6:30 PM
Host:
Bill Patrick
Analysts: Brian Engblom and Darren McCarty

Washington vs. Buffalo, 7:00 PM
Use of Local Broadcasts
Blackout in DC/Buffalo Markets

Philadelphia vs. Florida, 7:30 PM
Use of Local Broadcasts
Only Airing in DC/Buffalo Markets

Guest Chair: Real Winners From the Olympics

Here’s a guesting opinion from Blake Rosekrans on VERSUS’ coverage this week.  Would you like to sit in the guest chair?  E-mail Steve at SMLepore@comcast.net

Growing up in Michigan I admit to having a skewed perception of hockey nationwide. What a great place for a hockey fan to live: the Red Wings, the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry, and the US Development program along with a slew of outstanding amateur hockey.

Stepping outside of one of the “hockey hotbeds” of the country offers a gloomier perspective on the game, even if you stay above the Mason-Dixon Line. It shocks me that people don’t watch and it’s hard to buy the reasoning why.

Hockey is a simple game and it’s enhanced beautifully by HDTV. Those of us that know and love the game, can’t peel our eyes off the TV for a minute – even for a quick press of the channel return button, in the face of a great football or basketball game. In the post-lockout era hockey fans have been given new hope with offensively focused games and very marketable young stars (damn you, Crosby). However, no hope has been greater than the TV ratings of Sunday’s gold medal game. Maybe, just maybe, the average fan WILL catch on to our sport.

The game capped off a great 2010 Vancouver Olympics – surely some of the best hockey I have ever seen: USA’s upset of Canada, Slovakia’s farewell tour run through Sweden, Canada’s OT win against the Swiss and Finland’s run to the Bronze. All of these events culminated in 1-in-3 American TV’s tuned to the gold medal game, where ultimately Canada got its revenge. With hockey on the world’s biggest sporting stage there are several winners coming out of Vancouver:

North America

Yep, we’ve got the best professional league in the world and two hockey powers: Canada and the United States.  You shouldn’t need more proof than Canada and USA dismantling Russia and Finland, respectively.

NHL

On a world stage, the league basically received two weeks of free advertising of the best product they can offer. The youngest and most marketable stars shined (again, damn you, Crosby). Most importantly, as Bettman, the owners and the player’s association debate going to Sochi for the 2014 games, there were no major injuries that will affect clubs as they compete for playoff position.

It’s a great jump off point for fans as the NHL gears up for a playoff run. Fans who pick up the NHL from the Olympics, will track down players they followed in Vancouver, while more seasoned fans can’t wait to see who will drop the gloves with Olli Jokinen first.

NBC

Let’s not forget: one of the best games this year was a Sunday Game of the Week featuring the Blackhawks and Red Wings a few months back, and there’s a rematch this coming Sunday! So, NBC should have the best sports TV story of the day for the third consecutive Sunday and with Washington/Chicago and Buffalo/Carolina on deck, there’s no reason to believe that will slow down.

Versus

If there’s one thing Versus does well it is TV spots (see: herehere and here ). They never fail to give me chills and I’m sure you took note during the Olympic Games. What a great move by the channel to get hockey in front of the country every night this week to build on the Olympic momentum. Every morning for the next week I’ll be patiently waiting (and hoping) to hear that the Versus/NBC ratings blow expectations out of the water.

Me, you and hockey fans in the United States

Thanks to Versus, NBC, NHL Network and NHL Center Ice (for under $80 through the end of the season – a steal from Comcast, I might add) I’ll be sitting on my couch, clutching my remote with the option to watch every game, until Lord Stanley’s Cup is hoisted in late June.

I guess the only losers here are those with DirecTV, who are unable to see the games on Versus due to the ongoing carriage dispute. Ah! Just thinking about the NHL Playoffs without Versus – I can feel my blood pressure going up as we speak.

Happy watching, hockey fans. Hopefully Steve will let me write for the site again; until then follow me on Twitter @brosekrans .

ESPN: NHL Deal Would Need “Financial Sense” and “High-Quality Telecasts”

Paulsen at Sports Media Watch has had himself an awesome couple of weeks getting interviews with the real power players in sports.  He continues an interview with ESPN’s VP of Communications Mike Soltys and NHL rights, up in 2011, get brought up:

SMW: Does ESPN have an interest in maybe reacquiring NHL rights down the line? Those are going to be up in 2011.

Soltys: We have been big fans of hockey going way back. As I mentioned earlier, we have agreements with them around the world. It’s got to be a deal that’s going to make financial sense for us, and it has to be something that we can get some of the high-quality telecasts. But we certainly have an interest. And any of those kind of rights that we don’t have, it’s hard to speculate. It depends on many circumstances, when they becomes available, but largely economically, if it makes sense for us, and makes sense for our viewer.

SMW: Would that be a situation where you would want to air the entire Stanley Cup Finals, or would you have that on ABC?

Soltys: A real hypothetical. It’s difficult to say. I think you’ve seen the direction, as you talked about with George [Bodenheimer], with more things being on ESPN than ABC. But we do look on each deal that we’re looking at where there’s an ABC component.

Look, VERSUS, We Don’t Want to Sound Ungrateful…

I’m loving what the NHL on VERSUS has done this week.  The fact is, it’s great to have wall-to-wall hockey.  I’m loving the coverage, the studio show seems a little snappier, the graphics are a little better, and the games have been pretty terrific.  I don’t want to sound like a jerk by complaining about something comparatively insignificant.

However, isn’t there anyway VERSUS can impose it’s own graphics on a telecast, especially when Comcast owns both VERSUS and the network that’s televising the game in question (In last night’s New Jersey-San Jose case, Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area) too?

NBATV uses a similar practice.  Whenever that network televises a game, they use local announcers, but they use graphics completely produced by the network.  I’m sure it has something to do with the NBA owning that network, but I’m sure it couldn’t be too difficult for VERSUS to make happen.

I’m sure it’d provide some confusion for viewers, and maybe make some complain that the VERSUS announcers are being to biased towards the team their local network covers (in this case, Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda), but it’s something that should be looked into for professionalism’s sake.  Like I said, it’s not something that bothers me all that much.  Still, it’d be nice to see more of a VERSUS imprint upon the game.

NBC Hypes Hawks-Wings on Sunday

NEW YORK – Mar. 2, 2010 – On Sunday, February 28, Olympic stars Patrick Kane of the USA and Jonathan Toews of Canada were opponents when Canada defeated the USA, 3-2, in overtime to win the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. This Sunday, Mar. 7, Kane and Toews are reunited as teammates on the Chicago Blackhawks, who host the Detroit Red Wings, including Team USA’s Brian Rafalski and Canada’s gold medal winning head coach Mike Babcock, at United Center at 12:30 pm ET on NBC Sports.

Mike “Doc” Emrick (play-by-play), Eddie Olczyk (analyst) and Pierre McGuire (inside-the-glass reporter) call the action. McGuire will pull double duty, hosting NBC’s studio show alongside analyst Mike Milbury on site at United Center.

EMRICK: “Detroit has been Chicago’s nemesis. The Blackhawks have challenged the Red Wings but have never been able to overtake them. But this year, Chicago leads the Central. The United Center will be filled with 20,000-plus fans screaming their lungs out. It will be raucous.”

With 87 points, Chicago is in first in the Central and second in the Western Conference. Detroit, the two-time defending Western Conference champions who have suffered through a string of injuries, are third in the Central with 70 points, good for eighth in the conference. No two NHL teams have played more regular-season games against each other than Chicago and Detroit.

EMRICK: “Detroit is starting to get healthy and you wouldn’t want to run into them in the first round. They will be one of the foremost interesting teams to watch down the homestretch.”

CLOSE GAMES: All five of NBC Sports’ NHL games this season have been decided by one goal and four needed extra time to determine a winner. Prior to the Olympics on Feb. 7, the Capitals defeated the Penguins, 5-4, in overtime on Mike Knuble’s goal. In the game, Sidney Crosby scored twice for Pittsburgh and Alexander Ovechkin registered a hat trick for Washington.

The week prior, on Jan. 31, the Penguins were on the winning end when they defeated the Red Wings in a Stanley Cup Final rematch, 2-1, via an overtime shootout. On Jan. 24, the Penguins defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, on a power-play goal by Matt Cooke with 1:47 remaining. In NBC’s inaugural “Game of the Week” on Jan. 17, the Chicago Blackhawks needed a shootout to beat the Red Wings, 4-3, in Detroit. The Boston Bruins needed overtime to defeat the Flyers, 2-1, at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

NBCSPORTS.COM: NBCSports.com will again offer “Star-cam” this season, tracking a player from both teams throughout each of their shifts. Following the game, NBCSports.com will present bonus material, including “Star-cam” and “Net-cam” and bonus analysis from NBC Sports commentators.

FLEX SCHEDULING & CONSISTENT 12:30 PM ET START TIME: Again this year, “Game of the Week” broadcasts will consistently start at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sundays (except for Feb. 7 and Apr. 11, Noon ET start times). For the third straight season, the NHL and NBC Sports will utilize flex scheduling and will be able to select from up to four games on Sunday afternoons. At least 13 days prior to the scheduled games, the NHL and NBC Sports will announce one of those games as the “Game of the Week” to be broadcast during the NBC Sports window. The other games will remain available to the teams’ regional carrier but will not be televised during NBC Sports’ broadcast window.

2010 NHL GAME OF THE WEEK REGULAR-SEASON FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE
(All Games Announced At Least 13 Days Prior)

Sunday, Mar. 14, 12:30 p.m. ET
Washington @ Chicago (Flexed)

Sunday, Mar. 21, 12:30 p.m. ET
New York Rangers @ Boston
Buffalo @ Carolina

Sunday, Apr. 4, 12:30 p.m. ET
Detroit @ Philadelphia

Sunday, Apr. 11, 12:00 p.m. ET
Boston @ Washington
New York Rangers @ Philadelphia
Detroit @ Chicago

Morning Music Breakdown

I’ve decided to bring this back.  Why?  It’s my blog, that’s why.  And I think it’s a nice way to set up the day, and hear some music I like.  Because our time here is short, friends.

Anyway, today we’ll have some press releases, opinion stuff on VERSUS, and perhaps a guest post.  Should be a good day.  Let’s not waste words on lower cases and capitals.