NBC Sports to Air NHL Doubleheader on Hockey Day in America

For the first time in recent memory, and perhaps ever, the NHL will have a chance to show off it’s sport with a doubleheader on national, broadcast TV.

NBC Sports announced it’s coverage today for Hockey Day in America, which will feature an NHL doubleheader, all hosted from McCormick Tribune Ice Rink at Chicago’s Millenium Park. From there, NBC will share stories about various displays for love of the game around the nation – from the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships in Minnesota, to celebrity hockey in Los Angeles, to inner-city hockey in Washingon – to celebrate the sport.

After a half an hour of pre-game coverage, NBC will then show three games regionally in the early window, with staggered start times. All viewers will begin the day at the same game at 12:35 PM ET before they get moved to their regional game at no later than 12:45 ET. The early games have not had an exact start time chosen, nor which commentators will call each game, but they’ll be Detroit/Minnesota, Philadelphia/NY Rangers, and Washington/Buffalo.

Later in the day, at 3:30 PM ET, NBC will air Pittsburgh/Chicago nationally, the latest start time for an NHL regular season game on NBC in two years or so. That game will be called by the NHL on NBC’s lead broadcast team of Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury.

In addition to that, VERSUS will be airing the Heritage Classic, live from Calgary, at 6:00 PM ET, giving hockey fans an unprecedented triple-header, broadcast nationally and with all the bells and whistles. It’s something that I don’t think has happened in my lifetime, and I can’t imagine happening any prior time in history. February 20th will be an exciting day, cheers to NBC and VERSUS for giving their all for puckheads.

The complete NBC/NHL press release is after the jump.

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McDonald’s Becomes Presenting Sponsor of Hockey Day in America

NEW YORK (JANUARY 19, 2011) ─ The National Hockey League® (NHL) today announced that McDonald’s USA has renewed as League partner in the United States. As part of this agreement, McDonald’s has secured the position of title sponsor for Hockey Day In America – a six-hour celebration of the sport of hockey on NBC, and will serve as sponsor of the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, NC amongst other unique brand extensions.


McDonald’s Re-Ups with the NHL

As the relationship between the NHL® and the world’s leading food service provider is extended, McDonald’s USA will continue to create meaningful integrations at the League’s major events through the conclusion of the 2010-11 NHL season. As part of the agreement, McDonald’s USA will support NHL media (NHL Network™ and NHL.com) and League rights-holders (NBC and VERSUS). A charitable component will also be included. The NHL’s monetary and in-kind contributions in support of Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®), McDonald’s “Charity of Choice,” and the Ronald McDonald House® Program will help improve the health and well being of children and their families.


“The quick service restaurant category is an important one to reach a broad audience, and as McDonald’s major sports League partner, the possibilities of what we are able to achieve together are limitless,” said Keith Wachtel, NHL Senior Vice President of Integrated Sales. “It’s a marriage between two great brands that will provide unique activations as well as community support.”


“The National Hockey League is a strong and relevant partner and offers our brand unique ways to connect with our customers,” said John Lewicki, Director of Sports Marketing, McDonald’s Corporation. “At McDonald’s, we strive to bring our customers some of the best sports properties around, and through this continued relationship, we’re excited to bring fun, new extensions to hockey fans.”


As part of its activation at the 2011 NHL® All-Star Game in Raleigh, McDonald’s will sponsor the “Kid Zone” at NHL Fan Fair™ and bring back its popular “In the Lineup” program where 12 lucky youth hockey players get the opportunity to meet and stand along side the NHL All-Stars on the ice before the game begins. McDonald’s also will be the presenting sponsor of the Accuracy Shooting contest at this year’s Honda NHL SuperSkills® Competition.


Hockey Day In America Presented By McDonald’s

The NHL and NBC Sports will celebrate America’s passion for hockey with the inaugural Hockey Day in America presented by McDonald’s on Sunday, February 20.


With six hours of coverage (Noon-6 p.m. ET) – which will include four NHL games – hosted from Millennium Park’s outdoor ice rink in Chicago, NBC Sports will tell the stories that demonstrate this country’s affinity for hockey – from hockey parents who chauffeur pee wees to practice before sunrise to the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships in Minnesota, played by amateurs amidst arctic temperatures, to ‘celebrity’ hockey played by actors and producers in Los Angeles to inner-city hockey in Washington, D.C. that has made a difference in the lives of countless children and young adults.


NBC Sports will broadcast four NHL games featuring eight teams from some of the most avid U.S. hockey markets. The first three games will be broadcast regionally with staggered starts. All viewers will begin the day with the same game before some viewers are taken to their regional game. The staggered starts allow for live look-ins of the other regionalized games during intermissions. The fourth game, Pittsburgh at Chicago, will be broadcast nationally. All games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com.


“Hockey Day in America” is part of “Hockey Weekend Across America.” Launched by USA Hockey in 2008, “Hockey Weekend Across America” is a nationwide initiative to celebrate the game and those involved at all levels and to expose hockey to new audiences.


Previously this NHL season, McDonald’s activated around the 2010 NHL Compuware Premiere games in Helsinki, Prague and Stockholm, and the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®.


About McDonald’s

McDonald’s USA, LLC is the leading foodservice provider in the United States serving a variety of wholesome foods made from quality ingredients to millions of customers every day. More than 80 percent of McDonald’s 13,700 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by local franchisees. For more information about McDonald’s visit http://www.mcdonalds.com


About Ronald McDonald House Charities

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) corporation, creates, finds and supports programs that directly improve the health and well being of children. Through its global network of local Chapters in 52 countries and regions, its three core programs, the Ronald McDonald House®, Ronald McDonald Family Room® and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile®, and millions of dollars in grants to support children’s programs worldwide, RMHC provides stability and resources to families so they can get and keep their children healthy and happy. All RMHC-supported programs provide a bridge to quality health care and give children and families the time they need together to heal faster and cope better. For more information, visit http://www.rmhc.org, follow us on Twitter (@RMHC), or like us on Facebook (Facebook.com/RMHC Global).


About the NHL

The National Hockey League, founded in 1917, is the second-oldest of the four major professional team sports leagues in North America. Today, the NHL consists of 30 Member Clubs, each reflecting the League’s international makeup, with players from more than 20 countries represented on team rosters. According to a Simmons Market Research study, NHL fans are younger, more educated, more affluent, and access content through digital means more than any other sport. The NHL entertains more than 250 million fans each season in-arena and through its partners in national television (VERSUS, NBC, TSN, CBC, RDS, RIS, NASN, ASN and NHL Network™) and radio (NHL Radio™, Sirius XM Radio and XM Canada). Through the NHL Foundation, the League’s charitable arm, the NHL raises money and awareness for Hockey Fights Cancer™ and NHL Youth Development, and supports the charitable efforts of NHL players. For more information on the NHL, log on to NHL.com.



Five Things That Will Happen and Six Things We Predict Will Happen as a Result of the Comcast-NBC Merger

As you all know, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve the merger between Comcast and NBC yesterday. What does that mean for hockey, and sports media in general? Well, there are some things that we know for almost certain, but much is left up in the air. So, I’ll give you the concrete information of what we can expect, and then guess a couple of other things. First, what’s basically set in stone:

1. NBC Sports Executive Producer Dick Ebersol will assume control of both VERSUS and all Comcast Sportsnet affiliates, as well as the Golf Channel. Ebersol, according to many reports, has long wanted his own sports network to tinker with, and will finally get his chance, rebranding VERSUS (more in a bit) and Comcast Sportsnet in his image of what a 24-hour sports network should be. Now, VERSUS has already begun taking steps at forming an identity in the past year alone. Note the 24/7 bottom line has made VERSUS look more up to snuff almost instantly. A hockey studio show was a long ago must. Also, one has to wonder if VERSUS and The Golf Channel might begin to share (again, more shortly) as NBC and TGC own much of the PGA season already.

2. VERSUS will get a name change and a makeover to fit the NBC Sports brand. Kind of curious to see what they come up with. NBC Sportsnet sounds a little messy but works off the Rogers Sportsnet template. NBCS? SNBC? Who knows for now. Also, likely say goodbye to VERSUS’ graphics package when all that goes down, as their production will look more like an NBC production.

3. VERSUS and NBC will begin sharing some events, and VERSUS will likely provide supplemental coverage for NBC events . Once again, this will likely mean some form of golf programming migrating to VERSUS, while it affects very little on the hockey side, as VERSUS has the same lead hockey announcers as NBC (plus McGuire) and other than McGuire, all of NBC’s hockey talent appears on VERSUS. What it may end up meaning is that VERSUS/NBC will work to beef up each other’s college football content. Will NBC end up getting a piece of the Mountain West? Will VERSUS score itself a Notre Dame telecast or two? How will the next NFL negotiations involve an NBC/VERSUS partnership? Many questions will need answering.

4. NBC/VERSUS will become an equal partnership, akin to ESPN/ABC. That all but certainly means …

5. NBC and VERSUS will likely make a joint bid for the new NHL TV rights. ESPN can offer so many different platforms for hockey, that VERSUS and NBC would almost certainly partner together to offer just as much for the NHL.

5 Predictions

1. VERSUS and NBC will attempt to outbid ESPN, TBS and FOX in the next baseball contracts. While NBC would likely want a piece of everything the next time it is available, baseball makes the most sense for VERSUS as it has the gaping hole in it’s schedule during the summertime. NBC hasn’t had baseball on it’s schedule since 2000, and would have to move around football for some World Series games (or vice versa) but it would be most important to have a second major league in VERSUS’ stable.

2. With VERSUS’ talent available already, NBC will return to regionalizing hockey in the new deal. I’m not convinced we won’t be seeing this sooner rather than later. Hockey Day in America is asking NBC to regionalize for the first time in three years, will it be VERSUS talent that gets drawn upon for that weekend? Anyway, I think this makes more sense than the Game of the Week format, to be honest. While, yes, NBC is garnering the same ratings for one game that they did for free, to truly grow the game and become a national sport, they have to get more of the southern and western teams involved, and regionalizing is the way to do that.

3. NBC will bid on a NFC or AFC conference package, and use VERSUS to bid for Sunday Night Football. This would be a true test of Comcast’s deep pockets, and give one corporation control of almost 50% of the NFL’s games. While I doubt the NFL would take both it’s primetime showcases to cable (admittedly, this becomes less likely now that ESPN secured MNF) it would work a lot better for NBC in general. Instead of having to come up with a completely new primetime schedule after football leaves in January, they would have new programming airing on Sundays in primetime, with powerful football as a lead-in. It’s something FOX and CBS have used to great success with The Simpsons, Family Guy and Amazing Race in past years. Then, VERSUS gets it’s big football showcase every week. Also, it doesn’t interrupt NBC’s World Series coverage if they were to bid on that.

Here’s why it might work. There have been rumors that ESPN may take a Wild Card round game in the new Monday Night Football deal, therefore leaving NBC with (potentially) only 1 Wild Card game leftover in the Sunday Night package. Why not make Wild Card Saturday an all cable affair, since ESPN at worst has proven itself capable of drawing incredible audiences for big name events, and give one to VERSUS and one to ESPN? Risky, but the NFL can do anything, anywhere that it wants.

4. VERSUS/NBC will either enter a joint partnership to create a conference TV network, or try to bid on the next BCS rights.

5. VERSUS/NBC will attempt to use the NHL to add a little prestige to one of it’s other cable networks, possibly Universal Sports, with a “Game of the Week” package, that’d be blacked out in home markets until Universal Sports reaches certain subscriber levels.

6. Comcast-NBC will take control of the NHL Network.

How do you think the Comcast-NBC merger will affect the NHL on TV? Leave some of your predictions in the comments thread. Regardless of what happens, we’re entering a bit of uncharted territory in the months ahead.

HockeyHighlightDome, Night 6: Overtime vs. On the Fly

Night 6, Tuesday, January 18

NHL Overtime, 11:00 PM ET, VERSUS

Host: Bill Pidto, the original host of NHL2Nite, long ago back in the mid-90’s. Now he hosts Rangers telecasts on MSG and occasionally works this show. Overall, I find him to be the most competent host of the ones they use, if not the biggest personality.

Analysts: The always friendly Ken Daneyko and the always insightful Eddie Olczyk. Daneyko called Mike Fisher “Mike Underwood.” Heh.

Lead Story: The multitude of moves made by the San Jose Sharks, who were a big story last night as well. Good to see that, even though they aren’t as even-handed in picking their games, VERSUS is using their studio show to cover the league coast-to-coast. If we introduce every team to a national audience, then we can get the national NHL audience to watch them when they actually play on VERSUS. At least that’s my theory, but why would you watch a team you know nothing about?

Lead Highlights: Of course, it is Detroit and Pittsburgh, as it should have been the VERSUS game tonight. If it isn’t for NHL Network, I’ll be shocked. I’d be surprised if this didn’t come in the Top 10 of all-time in ratings for FS Pittsburgh, as Penguins fans watch in droves for the big contests. As there are 10 games tonight, Overtime is surprisingly bare bones in the initial highlight package. Anyway, second consecutive night VERSUS isn’t leading with their night’s telecast.

Non-Highlight Footage: We were shown press conference footage from the Red Wings instead of the victorious Penguins, due to Detroit’s crippling injury bug. This was followed by a discussion of penalty shots (more later) and a breakdown of Brooks Orpik’s play. Leading into the second game of the night (Washington/Philadelphia), we saw the poor numbers of the Capitals top forwards in the prior 20 games. Caps/Flyers got the video board technology treatment as well. Boston/Carolina saw Olczyk standing at the telestrator screen.

An interview with Jason Pominville from VERSUS reporter Bob Harwood was shown after the network’s coverage of that game.

Interviews: None. Would have liked to have seen a hit with Eric Staal and/or Nicklas Lidstrom from their selection as captains of the All-Star teams.

Time Spent on Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin: The Pens record without Crosby was briefly mentioned during the highlights. Daneyko referred to the Penguins as overpowering Detroit “even without the great Sidney Crosby.” As I said before, we saw Alex Ovechkin’s statistics in the past 20 games, along with fellow Capital star Nicklas Backstrom.

Spreading the Love (West Coast Coverage): As noted above, talk about the San Jose Sharks led off the show. The latest game started at 9:30 PM ET tonight, so there was only one game that might not have had a chance to get discussed in it’s entirety by the VERSUS crew. The Kings problems were discussed in detail around the show’s mid-point.

Features: Ken Daneyko, whenever he is on the show, likes to break down the fights of the night, this time it’s been branded as a “Fight Club” segment. I like this idea, as it seems to be the one segment of the show that’s playing heavy to the folks who love the rougher side of hockey.

Also, we saw a brief retrospective of Willie O’Ree’s first game on the 53rd anniversary which was a good little touch. Mark Messier’s 50th birthday was not really worthy of an additional retrospective, comparatively.

Hmph, Stupid Guardian Project.

Controversial Material: “Dumb” and “awful” were the adjectives the two analysts assigned to the Scott Nichol hit, which cost the defenseman four games in a suspension. There was a brief discussion of how there should’ve been additional penalty shot calls during the Pittsburgh/Detroit game, and showed side-by-side footage comparing what happened on both plays.

Also, Max Pacioretty’s injury during the Canadiens/Sabres game was considered very serious, I was surprised it was merely grazed over in the highlight package.

NHL On the Fly, 1:00 AM ET, NHL Network

Host: David Amber is back for the second straight night.

Analysts: Kevin Weeks, whose first line in the show was “E-I-E-I-O”

Lead Story/Highlights: Penguins/Red Wings, the absolutely correct choice. Honestly though, the more I hear the NHL Network going with narrated highlights instead of unnarrated highlights, the less I enjoy it. I don’t know why, but I simply like having two different shows having two different formats. I know they keep it for some of the highlights but it just doesn’t really work for me. Interestingly enough, Boston/Carolina and Buffalo/Montreal were 2nd and 3rd, while Flyers/Caps went 4th.

Non-Highlight Footage: They went straight into the rest of the show after the highlights, kind of strangely. They went directly to the All-Star captains stuff, and also showed the Fantasy Draft rules, as they continue to try and get everyone on board with this sort of thing. With 10 games on the slate and a big story to cover, it was a lot of just strictly highlights on this show. Also, cool that NHL Network is going to do their own Mock Draft the night before the actual draft.

Interviews: Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal almost immediately appeared for hits with their comments about their new role as captains for the game. It’ll be interesting to see who they pic, and this will be a real risk for the NHL to try, but it could pay off wonderfully though. NHL Network also showed a lot of the players around the league’s opinions. VERSUS merely went with the analysts’ opinion. I think NHL Network definitely got the victory in this one. Just to top it off, they showed their full interview with Staal and Lidstrom side-by-side later in the show. VERSUS should’ve done something like this.

Also, sigh, a birthday interview with Mark Messier.

Time Spent on Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin: After the first commercial break, they showed Sidney Crosby’s comments on his potential to appear in the All-Star game. It was good to get an update on Sid the Kid’s condition, something we haven’t gotten since the week it was supposed to take him to get back has gone by.

Spreading the Love (West Coast Coverage): The first Western game wasn’t in the show until 26 minutes in, with Los Angeles/St. Louis, and the Nichol suspension wasn’t discussed until shortly before that moment. They went on through the Western Conference for the rest of the show, however, I’d rather see them mix it up just a little bit more, especially with Vancouver/Colorado being a legitimate, marquee match-up in the West this year.

Features: Darren Dreger came in to talk about the controversy with regards to Sidney Crosby potentially boycotting the All-Star Game, which was proved to be, essentially, an opinion. They also discussed Crosby’s “longshot” potential for an appearance at the All-Star Game.

Another big coupe for NHL Network was having local Philadelphia columnist (and a Comcast employee) Tim Panaccio to talk about Paul Holmgren’s contract extension and potential moves for the Flyers as the trade deadline draws near. I don’t recall VERSUS even mentioning Holmgren’s new contract.

Also, how did the NHL’s own network get out of doing this Guardian Project nonsense?

Controversial Material: The Pacioretty injury was focused on by On the Fly a little bit more than VERSUS, another advantage for them on this night. VERSUS also ignored the Crosby controversy, while NHL Network hit on it bright and fairly early in the show, and they had the NHL’s best “insider” in Dreger at the studio to talk about it.