Will NBC Air Canucks/Bruins Re-Match on Wild Card Saturday?

When I looked at the 2011-12 National Hockey League schedule in June (that was two months ago, you guys! Where did summer go?) there were a few things that struck me as odd. Ending the season on a Saturday, for one. The Winter Classic being in daytime once again was another (oh, believe me, you’ll be hearing about this on PTM soon). Yet, the one thing that struck me as most peculiar on the NHL docket for the next fall, winter and spring were this: the lone re-match of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins was dumped on a lowly Saturday afternoon amongst a few other matinees. I was so curious as to why they would bump that game – which would probably draw 1.5-2 million in the 7 p.m. slot on CBC if they chose it, and likely around 500,000 on NBCSN (it’s after the name change!) – on that Saturday afternoon.

I let it go for a while, but now that we’re faced with a national television schedule tomorrow (with the added games from NBC Sports Group and the Jets throwing everything up north into flux, possibly the most exciting since the lockout), I’ve thought about it again. Then I remembered that January 7th, the date the game was scheduled to happen, was Wild Card Saturday. The day of the year when every eyeball is tuned to NBC (one of two this year, with NBC getting the Super Bowl) because they own Wild Card Saturday, and the 4:30/8 p.m. gold mine of a doubleheader becomes one of the highest-rated nights of programming of the year.

Is Canucks/Bruins in NBC’s plans for this year? Well, it’d make some sense. NBC would be capitalizing off of what will likely be another popular Winter Classic by not waiting three weeks to televise your next NHL game as they have in the past, which has got to be a bit of a momentum-killer. A 1 p.m. start time (based on NBC scheduling, more likely closer to 1:15/1:20) would most definitely roll close to the 4 p.m. pre-game start the Peacock typically takes. Plus, it’s just another chance to hype up NBC Sports Network as the new home for everything. While hockey’s airing on NBC, why not show a supplemental pre-game show for football on NBCSN?

There is one remaining flaw in my schedule handicapping: the presence of other games in the timeslot, which NBC never allows. Two match-ups (Ottawa/Philadelphia at 1 p.m. ET and Edmonton/Dallas at 2 p.m. ET) remain untouched, even after the NHL has made dozens of time changes to it’s schedule over the past week. Seems unlikely that NBC would air a Vancouver/Boston and Ottawa/Philadelphia split regional, and even less likely that an Edmonton/Dallas game would be thrown in.

Still, it’d be great for the league and for the network’s coverage of the league in this first year of a new deal. A re-match of a fairly well-received Stanley Cup Final giving exposure to the league on network television twice in five days (I’m pretty sure an unprecedented regular season occurrence) and a chance to let it lead-in to what will be a huge day for NBC. Plus, it’d show dedication to the league cross-country, and some variety. NBC has been (at times fairly) criticized for not showing enough teams, well, here’s Vancouver on our third broadcast of the year.

We will all have to wait and see until tomorrow. Though it’d be a great idea, guys.

Win a Copy of Ted Starkey’s Transition Game By Predicting How Many VERSUS Games Puck the Media Correctly Predicts!

I thought I’d have a little fun with our fourth contest. Here’s your chance for a free copy of Ted Starkey’s Transition Game. Read the excerpt here. This is how it’ll go.

1. Enter your name and e-mail address in the comments, all folks who have never commented before will be approved.

2. Guess how many of the 72 games you see below that I am predicting will make the VERSUS schedule of 90 for various reasons (timeslot hint, big game, etc.) actually do show up when the slates are released on Thursday. Closest guess wins, you can go over, this isn’t The Price is Right. An additional trivia question would settle any tie.

Deadline is 8 p.m. ET tonight. Good luck!

The games that I am predicting will make the VERSUS schedule are after the jump.

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