Canadiens and Coyotes Game Seven Wins Could Equal Several Problems For NHL, TV Partners

Let’s give credit to the Montreal Canadiens.  I’m not going to tell you anything someone else can’t tell you when I say this, but that was a masterfully played Game 6 against the Capitals last night.  The greatest stage the sport has – Montreal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs – and a Habs team that needed to beat Ovechkin’s mighty Capitals one more time to force Game 7 in The District on Wednesday, and man, did they ever rise to the occasion.  Jaroslav Halak put on one of the greatest goaltending displays I’ve ever seen, stopping over 50 shots en route to victory.

Similarly, longtime play-by-play man Sam Rosen and analyst Billy Jaffe were up to the occasion.  Rosen acted as more spectator than announcer, simply marveling and reveling in every save Halak made.  Jaffe tread lightly, but effectively pointed out that Halak could be writing his own Montreal goaltending legend right before our very eyes.  If the Canadiens were to come back and win this series, it would be a marvelous achievement by a team no one truly gave a shot in Round 1, left for dead after Game 4.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix Coyotes are riding Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage to a very good chance at taking down the team with the most fans in this country, the two-time defending Western Conference champion Red Wings.  They’ve created interest out in the long playoff hockey-barren desert in Arizona, though the ratings dipped a bit for Game 6, they figure to be potentially record-setting for Game 7.  VERSUS is televising that game tonight, and even going with a half-hour Hockey Central lead-in show beforehand.  The Coyotes winning would also be huge for NHL parity, and give the second round some new blood.

It would also be a total public relations nightmare for the National Hockey League, and for two reasons.

Let’s control the Habs side first.  Aside from preventing a potential Sid/Ovie Conference Final, one is that it would prevent the NHL from being able to hawk Ovechkin and the Caps, becoming ever-so much more TV friendly, on national TV during this post-season.  They were relegated to all-VERSUS during the Quarterfinals, but it’d just seem wrong to keep Washington off NBC for an entire post-season, and one would think their potential 2nd-round date with Philadelphia would be awesomely TV friendly.

The second reason is that it would cause a Pittsburgh-Montreal 2nd round series.  Believe me, I have to suspect NBC wants Crosby and his television tested Penguins on for what little coverage they do of the Conference Semifinals (Only airing games this Saturday & Sunday and then off next week for golf) and they want people hooking onto the team early.  They also want to be evil and keep Pens fans from watching the games outside Mellon Arena.

That said, CBC could end up the huge winner in round two if the Canadiens are in it, as they’d have two massive television draws in Canucks-Hawks and Pens-Habs, combining two series with devoutly followed Canadian teams and American squads with massive amounts of firepower.  A seven-game series for either could potentially draw up to four million viewers in Canada, as Game 6 of the Canucks-Kings first round set drew 2.9 million.  It also keeps a 1-in-4 shot that a Canadian team makes the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since Ottawa in 2007.

Herein lies the problem.  If were stuck with a 2nd round of Phoenix-San Jose, Vancouver-Chicago in the West and Philadelphia-Boston, Montreal-Pittsburgh in the East, where does NBC go?  Certainly, Flyers-Bruins in a rematch of the Winter Classic would be an easy call, but what other game?  Does NBC have the stones to go all the way out to San Jose?  The Game of the Week has only aired one game West of Chicago since the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, and that was in Dallas.  Will they take their entire production out to Arizona or Northern California?  They certainly haven’t shown a desire to do that in the past.

Which leaves us the two series featuring Canadian teams… hmmmm.  Anyone happen to remember a certain conflict we all dealt with back in the 2007 playoffs?  NBC wanted Senators-Penguins in the first round, to show Sidney Crosby’s first playoff series on national TV.  CBC was… less than enthused about that, and a media war that sort of made everyone look bad ensued.  NBC won, and the network aired exactly one game from that series, and it got no higher rating than any other NHL game at the time.

But now, Crosby’s Pens hold a clear effect in getting the needle up there that perhaps NBC can’t afford not to show Penguins-Canadiens Saturday or Sunday.  With only one game for sure needed for the afternoon, and it being a likely Pens home game anyway, would CBC be more willing to accomodate?  Or would we all have to go over this annoying debate for the second time in four seasons?  Will each network fire shots at one another?  Will NBC try to bargain and get Vancouver-Chicago?

Regardless, there will be a ton of talk about it towards the end of the week, and it won’t make the NHL, NBC or CBC look good.


12 Responses to Canadiens and Coyotes Game Seven Wins Could Equal Several Problems For NHL, TV Partners

  1. Josh says:

    Can I just say how tired I am of hearing these kinds of things? Look, I know this is a blog about hockey and the media, and you do a fine job Steve, and I don’t mean to take this out on you specifically, but… the teams that win move on. If the NHL doesn’t want certain kinds of teams moving on, they should relocate or contract the franchises in Canada and certain places in the US like Phoenix, Buffalo, Nashville… all the franchises NBC isn’t interested in airing.

    Really. Just have Boston, Pittsburgh, the Rangers, the Wings, Caps and Blackhawks play amongst themselves 80 times a year. Maybe that will finally make the precious, precious American TV partners happy. Maybe call them the Original Six and hold a lottery to see which one gets claims on the Canadiens Stanley Cups while we’re at it.

    • Matthew says:

      Bravo, bravo, Josh! This post is absolute rubbish.

      • nosferatu says:

        I don’t know that the post is rubbish–it’s more that the fact that these are real issues for the NHL and its broadcast partners is rubbish.

        Plus I love when Sam Rosen and Billy Jaffe get props. If only we could have these guys calling games for Versus all through the playoffs (there is at least one clear reason to root for the Caps to advance to the 2nd round!).

      • stevelepore says:

        How is it rubbish? These are legitimate issues that the NHL has to face. There was a reason to write it.

  2. kevin says:

    On the flip side if Wash/Det win its a TV bonanza….Pitt vs Bos…..Wash vs Phil for this round and the next on NBC. Honestly, if Montreal wins its great for ratings in Canada. The NHL has to serve two masters remember……If this is such a huge problem just have a Canadian division and go back to a divisional playoff format. I can’t imagine that the NHL is too stupid to think of that. Most likely their position is that they will have great ratings in Canada or in the USA…they can live with either

    • Josh says:

      After I posted my first comment, I had that thought too Kevin, about the Canadian division. You could probably lump Buffalo in with the Canadian teams if you needed a bigger number than six. But that’s pie in the sky talk – we know it’s not happening, at least not anytime soon.

      And I mean, really, no matter what happens, they’re going to have the following desirable markets through to the second round: Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Vancouver. A case can be made that both Montreal and Washington are good to have through, and San Jose is a star-powered team whose fanbase has been waiting the better part of the last decade for a real playoff run. And then, you’ve still got half a chance that the Red Wings go through as well.

      Excuse me if I don’t shed any tears for the league!

    • Chris S says:

      “The NHL has to serve two masters remember……If this is such a huge problem just have a Canadian division and go back to a divisional playoff format.”

      Agree 100%. This was a well-written article Steve, but if the Habs win, that’s the playoffs. It’s all about the upsets this year. Sure, it’d be bad for NBC, but what if a Philly/Boston (2 random teams I thought of) series happened next year, Conference final (I know, crazy, huh?) NBC gladly has no conflict w/Canadian teams and schedules Game 1 on a Saturday at 1pm ET, leaving nothing for CBC later on that night. It wouldn’t make them too happy either.

      Either way, GO HABS GO! 😀

  3. Colton says:

    Who cares about NBC! They’ll get two series with just American teams. Live with it.

  4. Josh says:

    stevelepore :How is it rubbish? These are legitimate issues that the NHL has to face. There was a reason to write it.

    That’s absolutely true, Steve, but you do allude to one of the reasons that this is perhaps a *good* thing, right there in your post: NBC is only doing one weekend of coverage for this round. Better this happen now than a round where they’re in for four games, right?

    If NBC wants to broadcast NHL games, then they need to accept that one risk of doing so is that they’re going to wind up with Canadian teams (or undesirable American teams) sometimes going to the second round of the playoffs or *gasp* even deeper. If they aren’t willing to deal with that, maybe they should revive the Arena Football League.

  5. Sean says:

    I think Canadiens/Pens is a great game for NBC. If there’s any Canadian team that will translate to good ratings, it’s Montreal. They are like the Yankees of hockey…you don’t know hockey, you know the Canadiens. Sure, the ratings won’t have a local market boost but that game is far superior to the San Jose/Phoenix, which is total drek.

    In terms of the NHL & their ratings, Detroit winning is more important than Washington. Detroit is a million times more compelling than a bankrupt Phoenix team…Montreal is the league’s standard bearer. If NBC can’t make a storyline out of Canadian hero Sidney Crosby facing his country’s biggest hockey team…then I don’t know what to say.

  6. Sean says:

    Listening to Sam Rosen makes me miss John Davidson….anyone who ever watched a Rangers game will understand.

  7. kevin says:

    Now that Arena Football and the WNBA are dead I don’t think the NHL has to worry about getting TV time on the major networks. You can only show so many card games you know…..

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