Sharks-Rangers Draws Low Numbers with No New Yorkers Watching

This year’s experiment with using certain NHL teams so much that some of their games have to blacked out in local markets has proved again to be a bit of a stumbling block for VERSUS, as that continued with last week’s Sharks/Rangers game.

The Monday night game between San Jose and New York drew just 169,000 viewers, the second-lowest for a primetime game on the network this season. There was no comparable telecast from last season. The game aired on MSG Network in the New York/Metropolitan area.

VERSUS Numbers for Monday, October 31

6:00 p.m. ET – NBC Sports Talk, 17,000
6:30 p.m. ET –
NHL Live, 45,000
7:00 p.m. ET –
San Jose vs. NY Rangers, 169,000
9:37 p.m. ET –
NHL Live, 62,000
10:00 p.m. ET –
NHL Overtime, 18,000

(Source: Son of the Bronx)

Your NHL National TV Schedule For the Week of November 7

Monday, November 7

NY Islanders vs. Boston, 7 p.m. ET, VERSUS
Play by Play:
Dave Strader
Color: Mike Milbury
Inside the Glass: Pierre McGuire

Los Angeles vs. San Jose, 10:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network (Canada)

Tuesday, November 8

New Jersey vs. Carolina, 7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS/TSN2
Play by Play:
John Forslund
Inside the Glass: Keith Jones

Wednesday, November 9

NY Rangers vs. Ottawa, 7:00 p.m. ET, TSN
Play by Play:
Chris Cuthbert
Inside the Glass: Ray Ferraro

Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS/TSN2
Play by Play:
Dave Strader
Color: Eddie Olczyk
Inside the Glass: Pierre McGuire

Nashville vs. Anaheim, 10:00 p.m. ET, NHL Network (Canada)

Thursday, November 10

Toronto vs. St. Louis, 8:00 p.m. ET, TSN
Play by Play:
Gord Miller
Inside the Glass: Ray Ferraro

Friday, November 11

Washington vs. New Jersey, 7:00 p.m. ET, NHL Network (US)

Saturday, November 12

New Jersey vs. Washington, 7:00 p.m. ET, NHL Network (US)

Ottawa vs. Toronto, 7:00 p.m. ET, CBC (Airing in most of Ontario, Atlantic Canada, Alberta and BC)
Play by Play:
Jim Hughson
Color: Craig Simpson
Inside the Glass: Glenn Healy
Reporter: David Amber

Winnipeg vs. Columbus, 7:00 p.m. ET, CBC (Airing in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Northwestern Ontario)
Play by Play:
Bruce Rainnie
Color: Greg Millen

Montreal vs. Nashville, 7:00 p.m. ET, CBC (Airing in Quebec)
Play by Play:
Bob Cole
Color: Gary Galley
Reporter: Cassie Campbell

Calgary vs. Colorado, 10:00 p.m. ET, CBC
Play by Play:
Mark Lee
Color: Kevin Weekes
Reporter: Scott Oake

Random Cities: Pete Weber

Puck the Media’s bi-weekly feature, Random Cities, takes you inside the world of broadcasting from an angle you might not have seen before. We take each personality through various cities that have impacted their life and/or career, and let them elaborate with stories and memories about each. Enjoy.

This Week’s Subject: Pete Weber, the play-by-play voice of the Nashville Predators since, as he says, the first day of training camp in September of 1998. He’s also been a broadcaster for the Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres, and outside of hockey, the Buffalo Bills and Seattle SuperSonics. Weber generously took some time from his day his day off to speak to me from his hotel in San Jose.

City #1: Nashville, TN

Puck the Media: What did you know about Nashville before you got there?

Pete Weber: In a way I cheated, Steve, because I was doing Triple-A baseball for 16-17 years. Nashville and Buffalo were in the same the league. From 1985-95, I was going there three or four times a year, and my in-laws were in Knoxville. We had great familiarity with it, so we had a little bit.

My last year doing Buffalo Bison games coming in there, they had a referendum in June of ’95, when it was still looking like maybe the Devils would move there. This was critical – you understand the cultural differences – that they were going to decide whether or not, since the new building was within 300 feet of a church’s front door, whether they would be allowed to sell certain spirituous beverages within it’s confines, and when that passed, it was pretty well taken care of. It was two more years before the league announced the four new franchises provisionally.

PTM: Here’s what I remember about Nashville when they started out: the crowds were energetic, and they really tried to connect themselves with the community, inviting country acts – which they still do – to play during the intermissions. How do you remember them sort of getting into the community from the start?

PW: I officially joined the club the first day of the first training camp, so that would be September 12, 1998. Some of those initiatives had already begun. There were the huge billboards around town with blacked-out teeth for Laurie Morgan and Vince Gill, and just had the slug-line: “Got Tickets?”

I think there’d been maybe two or three days of practices, and we were given this blanket invitation – everybody in the front office, all the team members – to go out to a certain hockey mom’s house … Barbara Mandrell. Her two boys – at that point in time there was only one sheet of ice in the town other than the arena – so she had been trundling them up at four or five o’clock in the morning to get their precious practice time, if not later. She has been a booster of the team from the very outset, so yeah, it has been ingrained.

Vince Gill sits by my wife’s tickets. In the wintertime, The Grand Ole Opry is back downtown at Ryman Auditorium, which is catacorner from the building. Vince, being a member of The Grand Ole Opry has some obligations to appear so many times. Since the show is in half-hour increments, he will go over and host and come back for the game, during those November through February months. It’s very funny to watch, which I’m able to do more when we have a radio game as opposed to a TV game.

PTM: Country music in Nashville is much like going down Broadway and seeing all the musicals. When you get to the playoffs, what sort of atmosphere do you see there? How has it grown since the Predators first made the playoffs in 2004 to last year, when it got as probably as big as it’s ever gotten?

PW: It’s always a question of “when a tree falls in a forest, do you hear it?” I don’t think anybody really heard it until the descent of Vancouver and Canadian media for the second round of the playoffs last year. They actually were able to report on it and were overwhelmed by it. Prior to that, I’d have to say that Nashville was a hockey secret, maintained within the confines of the Sutter family. They would always bring whatever team – be it San Jose in the early years, Calgary now – into town as early as they possibly could, would hold team meetings in Tootsies, and leave some indentations on the walls there as a result of some of their team meetings and get after it.

The music industry has been a tremendous partner for the Predators, it really has, and it’s fun to see how that interaction has worked. Now, for me, I’m a Crosby, Stills, Nash guy, okay? So, we come to town, and my wife and I are in a store and my phone rings. It’s one of my radio broadcast buddies who’s in town for CRS, the Country Radio Seminar, which takes up about a week every fall. He said, “Hey, you wanna come? We got a private concert tonight at the Hard Rock.” I did not recognize the name, I said, “I don’t think so, thank you Nick” and I hung up. My wife said, “Who’d he want us to see?” and I said, “I don’t know, some … Dunn and Brad Street?” It was Brooks & Dunn. It just didn’t register with me. So we called him back quickly and went downtown to that little get together, which was interesting. Somebody I met at the bar, it turned out, I worked on my first job in radio with in my hometown, Galesburg, Illinois in 1973, now had become Nashville’s Radio & Records correspondent.

PTM: You and Terry Crisp have been there since day one. Do you necessarily feel your role is as ambassadors to the rest of the city? How important is it for broadcasters to make that connection between the fans and the players?

PW: I don’t want to overstate self-importance or the role, but I think that, yeah, Terry and I have had to do that. Particularly, when you consider the turnover in players especially in the early years. I’m thinking about this a lot now, because [this Saturday] the franchise celebrates it’s 1,000th regular season game when Montreal comes to town. This has been an absolute blur going after it.

For the most part, speaking engagements, pure speaking engagements, or the variety of Hockey 101 classes that we have taught over the years. I knew, and perfectly accepted it going in, that not only was there going to be a teaching component, but coaches and players can’t spend all that time out in the community. We did and did so gladly. I have regular radio hits that I do throughout the course of the week but I am ready, willing and able to do the local TV news shows and all of that. It’s been a fun time. I’ve gotten a chance to meet a lot of people that I normally would not have.

PTM: Now that the Predators have been in the playoffs multiple times since ’04, they’ve made it to the second round, you see the attendance figures are pretty great just on regular nights. Are we getting to the point where the questions are starting to die about whether or not Nashville is a hockey market or not?

PW: Well, I don’t know if they have from the outside, but they have from the inside. What’s now, after the signing [Thursday] of Pekka Rinne, I think that’s changed a lot of outlook from the outside. Some people said “Woah, you’ve got that money and you’ve still got money for more?” Yeah, that’s the story. That’s the commitment ownership is more than willing to make to bring back Ryan Suter and Shea Weber as well. I think that will change that perception.

PTM: I think especially compared to the struggles the league has had in other markets, people have sort of forgotten to worry about Nashville, and while they’ve forgotten to worry, Nashville has gotten better and better to the point where you don’t need to worry about it at all at this point.

PW: Yeah, Crispy and I were just talking this morning, as we were still in Glendale, and thinking what a gorgeous set-up that is, and how lonely we felt last night. [The Coyotes] have Edmonton coming in [last Saturday night] and they have their ‘Buck Bash’ – $1 concession items including beers – so it’s gonna’ be interesting to see. I hope they can make it there, but I can understand the reluctance of the fans to sign on and pour out their hearts and money for the team, not knowing if it’s going to be there after this season. Three years of that. I thought we had it bad in the summer of 2007 but that’s just been very tough, to be a fan there.

PTM: They also have to get people in there because Hockey Night in Canada will be there.

PW: That’s right, and I think most of those cut off people Monty Hall used in Let’s Make a Deal in the later years, I think most of them have been bought up from other places.

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