Your Announcers and Open Thread For Caps-Pens

Washington vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30 PM ET, VERSUS (HD)
Play by Play:
Dave Strader
Color: Darren Eliot
Inside the Glass: Pierre McGuire

Hockey Day in America Does Consistent, Season-High Business For NBC

Hockey Day in America turned out to be a relative success for NBC and the NHL, ratings-wise.

An NBC Sports spokesmen tells Puck the Media this afternoon that both the 12:30 PM ET regional window (Philadelphia/NY Rangers, Minnesota/Detroit and Washington/Buffalo) and the 3:30 PM ET national Game of the Week featuring Pittsburgh vs. Chicago drew a 1.2 in the overnights, both season highs for NBC’s coverage of hockey, aside from the Winter Classic. The windows are up 25% from last week’s 12:30 PM ET broadcast of Boston/Detroit, which drew an 0.9 overnight.

There is no comparable date for the NHL on NBC last year, as the network was airing the Olympics that week in 2010. However, two years ago the network aired Penguins/Capitals on the comparable date and drew a 1.1, marking an 8.3% improvement for this year’s broadcast. While it may be a small bump, the fact is that the regional games, doubleheader, later timeslot and general curiosity led to a decent start for the league and network’s new hockey tradition.

Through six telecasts (on five dates) The NHL On NBC is averaging a 1.3 overnight rating.

NHL On NBC Overnights This Season
January 1 – Washington vs. Pittsburgh:
January 23 – Philadelphia vs. Chicago: 1.1
February 6 – Pittsburgh vs. Washington: 1.0
February 13 – Boston vs. Detroit: 0.9
February 20 – Regional Coverage*: 1.2
February 20 – Pittsburgh vs. Chicago*: 1.2
Season-to-Date Average: 1.3

Don Cherry to Return for 2011-12

Don Cherry’s not going anywhere, at least not for another season of Hockey Night in Canada.

The outspoken commentator renewed his contract with HNIC through the 2011-2012 season, CBC announced on Saturday.

“Don has been a part of the CBC Hockey Night in Canada family since 1980, generating passion and debate among hockey fans everywhere,” said Kirstine Stewart, executive vice-president of CBC English Services.

“Hockey Night in Canada, with Don at the desk for its 59th season, will continue to bring the very best of hockey programming on all of its platforms to Canadians everywhere.”

Cherry will continue to co-host his hugely popular first intermission Coach’s Corner segment with Ron MacLean every Saturday night and through the duration of the Stanley Cup playoffs next season.

“We join millions of fans in congratulating Don on his new contract and wishing him continued success as the declarative voice of CBC’s definitive hockey broadcast,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

“Don’s knowledge of the sport is exceeded only by his love for it and we are proud of his enduring connection with the game and the National Hockey League. He truly is one of a kind, and it is an honour to consider him a friend.”

The 77-year-old Canadian icon joined Hockey Night in Canada in 1980 after a successful coaching career with the Boston Bruins and Colorado Rockies from 1974-80, winning the Jack Adams coach of the year award in 1976 during his time with Boston.

Jeremy Roenick Joins NHL Overtime

The NHL’s Heritage Classic on Sunday won’t be the only time you’ll see personable former NHL star Jeremy Roenick on the VERSUS airwaves.

The entertaining, popular, TV-friendly Roenick – who has been plying his new trade with NBC, TSN and NHL Network since he retired – will appear on VERSUS’ nightly program NHL Overtime every night this week along with Billy Jaffe and hosts Bill Pidto and Liam McHugh. This will be the first time Roenick has appeared in the network’s Stamford, CT studios. The show will air at 11:00 PM ET Monday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, and 11:30 PM ET on Tuesday night.

No word on whether or not this is a permanent move, but it’ll be good to see if Roenick can hack it at the nightly hockey show, and maybe make a few headlines. Can’t question NHL Overtime’s ability to get the bigger names in US hockey broadcasting, as Mike Milbury, Eddie Olczyk and many others have been a part of the rotating cast of the studio show. If anything, it keeps JR in the VERSUS/NBC stable until the Peacock net can use him during the post-season.

Hockey Day in America Takes the Simple Route to a Lovely Tribute to Hockey

NHL Executive Vice President of Events Charles Coplin pitched Hockey Day in America to this writer last week as a “love letter to hockey fans” and it is hard not to feel smitten the morning after. While there were a few things that could stand fixing, and I’ll talk about them in this space tomorrow, I found the first ever Hockey Day to be watchable (key when you’re pitching six and a half hours of hockey to a viewer), enjoyable, and a loving tribute to the game I’ve spent 15 years appreciating so much. It was also a sign that NBC, unlike any other network that has televised hockey in the past 17 years, is making an effort to show hockey fans that they “get” the sport. While nothing is perfect about The NHL On NBC (we still have to put up with 12:30 ET starts and the same teams over and over) the people at the network running the coverage seems to get what makes hockey great, and why hockey fans think hockey is great, not what the “general sports columnist” at your local paper thinks makes hockey great.

Starting at Noon, and with the hockey not ending until 6:30 PM ET (pre-empting the local news in the Eastern and Central time zones) there was very little filler to be had throughout the day. The pre-game show was well done with a solid, understated hosting job by Liam McHugh, who did what so many analysts posing as hosts on NBC have not been able to do – get us from one thing to another. If you looked hard enough, you could slowly picture him aging into Ron MacLean. Mike Milbury did a solid job of kind of toning his act down, and Eddie Olczyk was his usual enthusiastic self, and in a way kind of more perfect for this sort of thing than he is for game analysis. It might go unnoticed sometimes, but Olczyk is always a proper ambassador for USA Hockey during NHL On NBC telecasts, and on Sunday that shone through.

The features were all fairly charming in their own way. The story on Jerry Bruckheimer’s celebrity hockey game was cool if only for that picture of himself, Mike Myers, Marty McSorely and Wayne Gretzky. Neal Henderson, head of the inner-city Fort Dupont hockey program, was a fantastic voice for a program that’s doing good works beyond just teaching hockey. I was not aware of the Boston Blades at all before Hockey Day’s spotlight on the lone American team in the Canadian Women’s league, and I hope more people come to notice them. Even the McDonald’s branded features didn’t border on cheesy. I’m sure dad took me to the Golden Arches once or twice after a game.

Once we got to the actual games, there were a few issues that, again, I’ll pick up tomorrow, but it was just fun to have hockey on and available. I had the Rangers/Flyers game on my TV with the stream of Red Wings/Flyers on my laptop. I think it would serve NBC well to do two or three more of these NFL-style doubleheaders, with two or three regional games in the early slot leading into a national game of the week. Sometimes it’s great just to have hockey on for hours and hours and just enjoy this magnificent sport.

Everything seemed to click for NBC on Sunday. The 12:30 games had their low moments, but the final game to end in the slot had an exciting overtime and a shootout to lead-in to the late game, which also had an exciting overtime and shootout, between two of America’s most fervent hockey markets to boot. The interviews with players were fun and informative about the road to the NHL, even Scott Gomez’s piece from Calgary’s Heritage Classic was worth the time. Though I gotta’ imagine that when Gomer makes fun of his teammates for not being tough, they snap back by saying he’s a $7 million man with a minus-18.

In the end, Hockey Day in America (which needs to return bigger and better next year) did two things. For starters, it explained the sometimes confusing path players take to the NHL. From Mike Emrick to Olczyk, to McGuire to McHugh, not a step or league or team was skipped out on that a player would take on the road to making the National Hockey League as an American player. Most importantly, however, they made six hours of hockey (nine if you count VERSUS) seem like the only logical thing to spend your Sunday afternoon doing. It certainly seemed that way to me.