Your Announcers and Open Thread For Night Nine of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Boston vs. Montreal, Game 4, 7:00 p.m. ET 

National TV (Canada): CBC (HD)
Play by Play: Bob Cole
Color: Gary Galley
Inside the Glass: Glenn Healy
Reporter: Elliotte Friedman

National TV (US): VERSUS (HD)
Play by Play: Kenny Albert
Inside the Glass: Darren Pang

Chicago vs. Vancouver, Game 5, 10:00 p.m. ET 

National TV (Canada): CBC (HD)
Play by Play: Jim Hughson
Color: Craig Simpson
Reporter: Scott Oake

National TV (US): VERSUS (HD)

San Jose vs. Los Angeles, Game 4, 10:30 p.m. ET 

National TV (Canada): TSN (HD)
Play by Play: Gord Miller
Inside the Glass: Ray Ferraro

NBC/VERSUS Promote Crazy Weekend

NEW YORK – April 21, 2010 – The NBC Sports Group will present at least six, and as many as seven, NHL Conference Quarterfinal games this weekend on both NBC and VERSUS with a quadruple-header on Saturday.

Two Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series can be decided this weekend during NBC Sports’ second weekend of NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage. The Washington Capitals can advance to the Conference Semifinals if they beat the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their series on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET. Game 6 between the Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET could send one of those teams to the Conference Semifinals and one home.

Mike “Doc” Emrick (play-by-play) and Eddie Olczyk (analyst) will be in the booth for both NBC games this weekend with Pierre McGuire stationed inside-the-glass for Saturday’s game and Darren Pang manning the inside-the-glass position on Sunday. Liam McHugh will host NBC’s studio shows alongside analyst Mike Milbury.

VERSUS: VERSUS’ wall-to-wall postseason coverage continues tonight with Game 4 of the Boston-Montreal series at 7 p.m. ET, followed by Game 5 of the Chicago-Vancouver series at 10 p.m. ET. Despite an amazing comeback from the Blackhawks in Game 4, The Canucks still lead the series 3-1 and will look to finish the series tonight. Friday’s coverage will include Game 5 of the Buffalo-Philadelphia series at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed by Game 5 of the Nashville-Anaheim series at 10 p.m. ET.

Coverage on VERSUS continues this weekend with a triple-header on Saturday beginning with Game 5 of the Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh series at 12 p.m. ET. The Penguins are up 3- 1 and are looking to send the Lightning home for the summer. Later that night following Rangers-Capitals game on NBC, VERSUS will televise Game 5 of the Montreal-Boston series at 7 p.m. ET, followed by Los Angeles-San Jose Game 5 at 10:30 p.m. ET. Sunday’s coverage will include Game 6 of Anaheim-Nashville and possibly other series as determined by the outcome of Thursday and Friday night games.

NBC SPORTS QUARTERFINAL SCHEDULE (all times ET)

Date Time Games Conference

Saturday, April 23 3 p.m. N.Y. Rangers at Washington, Game 5 Eastern

Sunday, April 24 3 p.m. Philadelphia at Buffalo, Game 6 Eastern

VERSUS QUARTERFINAL SCHEDULE (all times ET)

Thursday, April 21 7 p.m. Boston at Montreal, Game 4 Eastern

10 p.m. Chicago at Vancouver, Game 5 Western

12:30 a.m. (JIP) San Jose at Los Angeles, Game 4 Western

Friday, April 22

7:30 p.m. Buffalo at Philadelphia, Game 5 Eastern

10 p.m. Nashville at Anaheim, Game 5 Western

Saturday, April 23 12 p.m. Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh, Game 5 Eastern

7 p.m. Montreal at Boston, Game 5 Eastern

10:30 p.m. Los Angeles at San Jose, Game 5 Western

Sunday, April 24 TBD Anaheim at Nashville, Game 6 Western

Monday, April 25 TBD

Tuesday, April 26 TBD

Wednesday, April 27 TBD

*Games subject to change as best-of-seven series may be over; (JIP) – joined in progress

SPORTSNETS: Comcast SportsNet California, Chicago, Mid-Atlantic and Philadelphia will televise all of their teams’ respective games in the Quarterfinal round, except for those airing on NBC. If their respective teams advance to the second round, the Comcast SportsNets will also present Semifinal coverage, except for games chosen to air exclusively on VERSUS or NBC.

DIGITAL: NBCSports.com and VERSUS.com have combined forces to create a single, robust destination for hockey fans beginning Wednesday for the NHL Playoffs. The NBC Sports Group consolidated NHL content from both the NBCSports.com and VERSUS.com’s hockey sections onto the rapidly-growing NBCSports.com site. One of the key content areas is ProHockeyTalk, one of NBCSports.com‘s popular “Sports Talk” platforms that also include ProFootballTalk, CollegeFootballTalk, HardBallTalk, ProBasketballTalk and ProGolfTalk.

During the playoffs on NBCSports.com, fans will be able to follow all the NHL Playoffs action with live streaming of NBC games, NHL videos, cross-platform promotions, social media and more. Some of the consolidated features on NBCSports.com include:

Online-only videos featuring VERSUS and NBC Sports hockey commentators previewing upcoming playoff games and wrapping-up all of the NHL action that day.

“Star-Cam,” which follows marquee players in NBC games, and “Net-Cam,” which provides a unique perspective from behind the goalie.

ProHockeyTalk, which recently had its most-trafficked month ever, will update NHL Playoff news around the clock.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Fans can also keep up with the NHL playoffs through a variety of NBC Sports and VERSUS social media platforms throughout the postseason. Content will include:

Behind the Scenes: Through the joint “NHL on NBC and VERSUS” Facebook page and @NHLonNBC_VS on Twitter, fans will receive exclusive behind-the-scenes photos, interviews and video.

Commentator Tweets: Various NBC and VERSUS commentators will provide Twitter content throughout the playoffs, including occasional in-game Tweets.

Fan Questions: Fans will have the opportunity to ask questions to NBC and VERSUS commentators via Facebook and Twitter.

Team Tabs: Fans who “Like” the joint NBC and VERSUS Facebook page will have the opportunity to play a variety of games and upload fan photos based around each of their favorite teams who made the playoffs. As teams advance in the playoffs, new and more difficult games will challenge fans.

News: Fans can follow NBC and VERSUS Facebook and Twitter accounts to receive the most up to date scores, reports and stories from around the NHL and ProHockeyTalk.

Five Ways To Make Black Friday on NBC Special

One of the more under-discussed parts of the new television deal is that NBC plans to add a game on the Friday after Thanksgiving, making it the earliest an NHL game has been broadcast on network television in it’s history. This is a perfect idea. There’s very little on television aside from some college football, and many NHL teams already play matinees on the date. It is also usually a day when men are hanging out at home with a day off, not necessarily participating in the madness of Black Friday, or at least doing so online. Since NBC’s key demo is young males, this makes perfect sense.

That said, how do you differentiate from the other broadcasts NBC does throughout the season? How do you get it to move the needle like the Winter Classic, or even slightly, like Hockey Day in America? Here’s a few suggestions.

1. If Possible, Have It Be a Rematch of the Stanley Cup Final. If the two teams in the prior year’s Stanley Cup Final are both American. Sorry, Canadian fans, but this is an early chance to connect with the American public, and we don’t need to run down all the reasons why Canadian NHL teams aren’t often on US national television. If there was a Canadian-American Stanley Cup Final, simply pick the all-American conference final, if there is one. Stanley Cup re-matches have proven very popular for the league’s TV partners over the past few years, and it wouldn’t be another way to cynically package Pittsburgh and Washington again.

2. If Not, Do an Original Six Day. Here’s how you get Canadian teams involved, do regional coverage of all six of the original NHL franchises going at it. You get the CBC involved too, they can air a Toronto game nationally and Montreal regionally or vice versa. TSN could air the all-American game. Something akin to this:

  • NY Rangers vs. Chicago
  • Boston vs. Montreal
  • Detroit vs. Toronto

While Canadian teams can often be a cancer on ratings, the original six teams – when packaged with the right US opponent – can score well, sort of like how the Green Bay Packers are a very popular team nationally, despite playing in a very small market.

3. Legends, Legends, Legends. If the game is Pittsburgh vs. Detroit, guarantee me that Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe and all the legendary players that have worn those two sweaters – certainly more on the Detroit side – will be involved. Invite one guest in for 10 minutes each in a period, and just get their perspective on the game. I imagine Mario might have something interesting to save if there’s a hit up high.

4. Retro Jerseys. Remember that were doing this game on the biggest shopping day of the year, so break out some “new old” jerseys and colors to be able to sell on Shop.NHL.com or in the catalogues and at the arenas. I know the Winter Classic is a separate entity and built on more than just merch sales, but this certainly could be a good platform for the NHL to get everyone in the mood to buy hockey for Christmas.

5. Special MVP Trophy. On FOX, CBS and NFL Network coverage of the Thanksgiving Day football game, the MVP of the game is given a quirky trophy – known has the “Galloping Gobbler” on FOX, the “All-Iron Award” on CBS, and “The Pudding Pie Award” on NFL Net – for his efforts. Do something like this for the NHL game. Give something quirky out that players will jokingly take a shot at, and then have the player interviewed at center ice after the game with his helmet off. It’d be a good showcase for a star player, and at least be less ridiculous than the All-Star Game MVP.

The NHL Has A Night Made For Next Year’s TV Deal, But Not This One

So wasn’t that a great hockey night? Aside from depressing possible end to the Phoenix Coyotes, there was some fantastic stuff last night. From the clip of Marian Gaborik clearing the puck into the stomach of an opposing player who tapped it in for a double overtime winner that will likely make the sports blooper reels for years, to James Neal’s equally chippy double overtime winner for Pittsburgh. To the very fact that we saw two overtimes. Teemu Selanne and Ryan Miller continued to amaze, and the Detroit Red Wings continued to be as sure a thing as Mike Keenan interrupting someone trying to make a point.

The only problem was, if you don’t own Center Ice or Game Center Live … you missed almost all of it. VERSUS aired the Rangers/Capitals game – which had every bit the intrigue that San Jose/Los Angeles had the night before – to it’s double overtime conclusion, then cut over to two and a half periods of the Detroit/Phoenix game. In fact, the best situation someone could hope to be in is a fan living in New York or Washington, who got the Buffalo/Philadelphia game on VERSUS on an alternate feed, and saw the opening of Phoenix/Detroit, too.

Not that VERSUS did anything wrong, at least regarding this. The Phoenix/Detroit broadcast was a bit of a mess that saw the network cut away from the Coyotes saluting their fans for what could be the last time. There wasn’t nearly enough done to inform people who might be casual viewers as to why Shane Doan was holding back tears, or why fans were so desperately cheering on their team. That said, this piece isn’t about that. When it came to scheduling, VERSUS did exactly what they were supposed to do, given the circumstances.

However, tonight was the night that the NHL, and every TV network that bid to win the rights to air it’s games, had in mind. Can you imagine it now? An NCAA Tournament-style set-up, with a host directing traffic to the various games. Possibly, in the NCAA vein, a constantly updating score-ticker in the upper corner to keep everyone updated on every game in the busy first round. It could have looked something like this, at least in a hypothetical world:

7:00 Washington vs. NY Rangers, VERSUS
7:00
Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay, CNBC
7:30
Philadelphia vs. Buffalo, USA
8:30
Anaheim vs. Nashville, G4
10:30
Detroit vs. Phoenix, Beginning on USA until the end of NYR/WSH on VERSUS

I mean, the networks might be different, and maybe the scheduling will be a bit more spread out to accommodate everything, though hopefully not like the NBA. Fact is, we could see something like this starting next year. It excites me, and it should excite you. This isn’t like the Olympics, where a hockey game is being demoted to cable for other programming. This is hockey being demoted for other hockey. NBCUniversal wants every hockey game on national television, and so does the NHL.

So get ready for it. Hockey fans who live outside their team’s home city will never have to be stuck waiting for an overtime game to end, or have to shell out money just to see them in the post-season. Hockey fans who just love to flip around will be in the same boat. I keep referencing the NCAA Tournament, but with all the exposure, and all the ability to flip back and forth and use picture-in-picture (in addition to streaming games on the web), the Stanley Cup Playoffs could finally bust out of the cult diehards and become a full-blown TV extravaganza. All while showing the diehards more games. What could be bad about that?