NBC Sets Up Early Schedule

Courtesy NBC Listings

January 1, 1:00 PM ET – Washington vs. Pittsburgh
January 23, 12:30 PM ET – Philadelphia vs. Chicago
February 6, 12:30 PM ET – Pittsburgh vs. Washington

No surprises here.

NBC Previews the Winter Classic

NEW YORK – Dec. 29, 2010 – Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins host Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in the 2011 NHL Winter Classic from Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, on New Year’s Day airing live at 1 p.m. ET on NBC. The game will also be live streamed on NBCSports.com, a first for the Winter Classic.


Bob Costas will host NBC Sports’ coverage from Heinz Field and will be joined on site 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 (meteorologist). Sam Flood, NBC Sports’ executive producer and the former captain of the Williams College hockey team, produces NBC Sports’ NHL coverage.


CableCam, a regular for NBC Sports’ “Sunday Night Football” coverage, will make its Winter Classic debut at Heinz Field. NBC Sports will have six more cameras at this game than it did for the Stanley Cup Final, including iso cameras on Crosby and Ovechkin. An airplane will again be used for aerial shots.


RECORD VIEWERSHIP: The three previous Winter Classics have averaged 4.0 million viewers. The 2009 game at Wrigley Field between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings was the most-watched NHL regular season game in almost 35 years. An average of 4.4 million Americans watched the Red Wings defeat the Blackhawks, 6-4, from Wrigley, the biggest regular-season NHL audience since Feb. 23, 1975 (5.4 million, Philadelphia-New York Rangers on NBC), according to Nielsen Media Research.


STREAMING: This year’s Winter Classic will be streamed live on NBCSports.com, a first for the event. The streaming will employ an HD player with full DVR controls that allows the user to pause, rewind and slow-mo Winter Classic action. The player will also feature four additional live online-only camera angles, including two “Star Cams” that will follow Crosby and Ovechkin wherever they are during the game. Also available for viewers will be CableCam and Goalie Cam, which originates from inside the net. Fans can access highlight clips, stats and a live chat with experts from NBCSports.com’s Pro Hockey Talk.


CONFERENCE CALL: NBC Sports conducted a media conference call on December 21 with Costas, Emrick, Olczyk, Milbury, and Flood. Following are highlights:


Costas on NBC Sports’ coverage approach: “The way we approach this at NBC Sports is that we want it to be a broadcast that appeals to knowledgeable, hard core hockey fans, but at the same time recognizes that this an event which draws in a lot of casual fans, who probably won’t watch much hockey outside of this game, maybe the Stanley Cup Final and Olympic hockey.


“You have to capture the atmospherics of it, some of the back-stories, something that will draw in the person that isn’t necessarily watching the NHL night in and night out, which is not unlike how we cover the Kentucky Derby. Those who know how to read a racing form enjoy our coverage. Those who don’t follow horseracing outside of the Triple Crown events enjoy it as well. That’s how we approach this event.”


Flood on the Winter Classic as an event: “The key word that Bob said right off the bat is ‘event.’ We cover it like an event. It’s much more than a hockey game and we want to celebrate it, celebrate the sport, celebrate the two stars in the game as well as both teams and the city of Pittsburgh.”


Emrick on the buzz around the game: “I can’t run into anybody around our sport that doesn’t tell me what they’re going to be doing on the afternoon of this game. Invariably, it’s watching it. Even players who are going to be playing in other games on New Year’s Day say that they’re going to be watching it, too.”


Olczyk on being a part of the Winter Classic: “It’s a great day for hockey…for the city of Pittsburgh and a great rivalry between Ovechkin and Crosby and the Capitals and the Penguins. To be a part of it is certainly a privilege.”


Milbury on the host cities: “I think they get incredibly excited. Each of the towns where these events have been held gets incredibly buzzed about it. I’ve been to the last three of these things and each one of them had their own qualities, but each one of them a ton of fun for everybody that is involved. There are a lot of games in the NHL season, some of them I don’t get too wired up about, but this one is well marked on my calendar.”


Costas on history of the event: “This has become an anticipated New Year’s Day event. At the first one, in Buffalo with Pittsburgh and the Sabres going at it, we benefited from the snow, that snow globe affect that people found so compelling, and also the overtime goal from Sidney Crosby to win it. Then we took it to the iconic baseball stadiums: first Wrigley and then Fenway. Now, although we are in a new stadium and a football stadium, Heinz Field, we have the matchup of Crosby and Ovechkin. Each of these games has had … something different to make it stand out.”


Emrick on the uniqueness of the Winter Classic: “We don’t normally do games that have low-flying aircrafts, meteorologists and the threat of rain or snow that might affect the outcome of the game.”


Costas on the first Winter Classic setting the stage: “It more than got us off on the right foot, it sent us off flying. Even though we got a surprisingly high rating for a regular-season hockey game, the buzz was beyond the rating. People were talking about it for a long time afterward and that’s hard to measure. You can’t measure precisely, but you can definitely feel it and sense it. Within one year, it wasn’t building towards something that had standing as a yearly event, it became that in the space of one day.”


Emrick on playing outdoors: “It’s also the joy of playing outdoors and any player you run into whether European or North American recounts tales about playing outdoors on frozen ponds. I know that sort of becomes a redundant poetry that we have every time at this time of year, but I think it’s also necessary to convey what this event is like in the lives of players and also those of us who are able to watch them on a regular basis when they play indoors.”


Milbury on playing outdoors: “There is a quote from Bobby Orr about this day being a celebration of hockey and that’s really what it is. For some of those who are old enough to remember skating on the ponds, it is a throwback kind of a game, but for many of the present players, they never played outdoors. This is almost old timers day for young people.”


Costas on competing against bowl games: “The landscape has changed. Because the Winter Classic has worked out so well the first three years, it can more than hold it’s own.”


Emrick on the rivalry: “The one thing that we do have are two teams that really care about winning the game from one another. It’s about winning the contest. It’s about not really caring a lot about each other because there is quite a rivalry that goes back 20-25 years into the Mario Lemieux era between Washington and Pittsburgh.”


Flood on producing this year’s game: “We’re going to line up a lot like a normal football game. Doc and Eddie will be in the stands at the back of the lower section of seats so that they’ll be in the elements and experience the game as the players are, except they’re not going to be hit. Then we’ve got iso cameras, one for Sidney and one for Ovechkin, as well as a high camera in one of the end zone’s up on top of the scoreboard, which gets an incredible shot of downtown Pittsburgh that can then turn into the stadium and show the game.


“The important thing here is to show the game from a much wider perspective. It’s not a hockey game, it’s an event. Our goal is to capture how big it is and how different it is to have a multitude of people sitting in these stands and cheering for these two teams and, I’d imagine, a towel of a certain color waving in the stands. Things like that will make it different. There will be an extra six cameras than what we had for the Stanley Cup Final games. We really go all out to have as many cameras and machines to capture the total day.


“We’ve added a CableCam for the first time ever, which will capture some of the speed and also some of the scene. That’s the important thing, to let people know that there is something about this that is much more than a hockey game.


“CableCam is a camera used in football games that flies over the play so we can move it up and down, along the boards, move it up in the stands. Wherever we want to be to capture the event and capture some of the speed of hockey, which will be one of the fun things we get to do with it. We can follow a rush up ice and see what Ovechkin is doing as he brings the puck into the zone from an angle you haven’t seen before. We’ll do the same thing with Crosby. That should add something in addition to our normal iso cam.


“Once again we’ll have an airplane. That was a thrill in Buffalo doing the first replay in history of a goal from an airplane angle.”




The Best and Worst of Hockey Media in 2010

It has been quite the interesting year for hockey fans across North America. I don’t know how Canadians view it (probably differently), but to me, the fun and sheer glee that came from the Olympics seems like it happened in a different year, a different era. But we all have shorter attention spans now, and it was only 10 months ago. I miss it. Let’s find a way to bring the World Cup back so we can have some of that non-stop, all day hockey again?

Anyway, this year saw a ton of craziness beyond the Olympics, from another record-breaking Stanley Cup Playoff on VERSUS, to the Kovalchuk madness, to whatever Don Cherry was wearing and saying, to the continued worry and banter over where the NHL’s next television deal will take it. It was loaded with a lot of great and not-so-great moments. Enough of that, however, let’s hand out some fairly meaningless awards after the jump!

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