Two Years In, NBC Has Much of Hockey Day Down to a Science

The first Hockey Day in America was fine. It isn’t as if the entire thing is starting from scratch, a totally new concept. They had Hockey Day in Canada, and it’s almost decade-long time spent reinforcing the most positive of Canadian stereotypes once a year. They weren’t going into this cold, there was at least a loose outline – if not a script – to do this. The plan for Hockey Day in America seemed simple. While being much smaller in scale (i.e. very little remote reporting outside of the games, the American version’s most significant difference from it’s Canadian counterpart), the message is the same: use storytelling to explain why everyone who loves this sport loves it with an uncontrollable passion.

Safe to say, last year, with fairly meager promotion, it was pretty successful. The best part of the show was easily the 30-minute pre-game that ran before the regional action that showcased various aspects of living a life dedicated to hockey around the nation. The games were a tad secondary, though NBC made sure to lead up well to the showcase game, Penguins/Blackhawks, later in the day. All that said, it was still that 30-minute special (which re-ran numerous times on VERSUS) that caught my attention.

Much of what NBC did for year two was merely updating, or beefing up, what was good and what needed a little work from year one. I thought, overall, that the remote segments from St. Paul were much better than last year. The interview with Rob McClanahan was a good time-waster, and overall, Minnesota seemed to provide a more picture-esque setting for the event that rainy Chicago didn’t have in 2011.

As far as the pre-game goes, it was bigger and better, and NBC and the league should find a way to expand it. Perhaps three or four ‘Hockey Across America’ specials throughout the year that would bring out different hockey programs throughout the United States. There are limitless hockey stories to tell around America that don’t involve the NHL or the Olympics, why let all the others be limited to just 30 minutes a year? NBC, USA Hockey and the NHL should partner up to expand to more shows like this. Perhaps HBO could do something.

The segments were all not only entertaining, but informative about certain segments of the hockey culture that I was not familiar with. I had vaguely heard of things like the Roseau-Warroad high school battles, sled hockey, and the U.S. National Team Development Program, but I had never seen any coverage of those teams in real detail. The segment about the Tampa-bred sled hockey player aimed right for the heartstrings, and tore at them effectively. It made me want to see Paralympic sled hockey coverage on NBCSN at some point in 2014. The segment on ‘The Program’ was also interesting, and took folks into the life of Seth Jones, who will likely be a name to know in the future.

Getting prospects like Jones, and featuring others throughout the telecasts is fantastic. Other than Pierre McGuire rattling off junior teams, there is almost no national exposure for prospects aside from their brief moment in the spotlight at the NHL Draft, and it would be good for casual and diehard hockey fans to know more about the kids that are on the way.

As far as the game coverage, it could be a little better in ways that don’t involve out-of-market streaming. I still think the games should be staggered a little further apart. Say, 1:35/1:45/1:55 instead of 1:35/1:40/1:45. Folks will see more action, and central time zone teams hosting games can star closer to Noon locally. I’d like to see a southern team and one of the other California teams involved next season. If the Kings make any sort of run in the playoffs, have the late game held in Los Angeles next year and do a ton a Gretzky-building-hockey-in-the-sun-belt retrospectives.

Also, not to overstate the obvious, but the NBC Sports Network game should probably take place in America. I love watching the Devils, but having their game in Montreal be a part of Hockey Day in America was more than a little awkward. I also would have liked to have seen the NBCSN game promoted more as a part of the whole weekend, rather than as a separate entity.

What would I add next year? How about this: At 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN, or at 9 p.m. ET after everything’s done, add a college game. NBC Sports Network has been airing college hockey, and will air college hockey for the next few years, including a big deal with Notre Dame. Why not air a Notre Dame home game against a Boston school or a Minnesota school to kick things off or finish things up? I like the idea of getting all forms of hockey involved, and college seemed like the only level really left out of things.

On a whole, though, Hockey Day in America is great. It really is. It was nine hours of blissful hockey action. Please, bring us more doubleheaders and triple-headers in the future. I just want to watch lots and lots of hockey. If it’s surrounded with lovingly done, emotional, insightful features searching the nooks and crannies of the hockey universe, all the better. Keep this going, and build and make it better.

About Steve Lepore
Contact me at stevemlepore@gmail.com

One Response to Two Years In, NBC Has Much of Hockey Day Down to a Science

  1. Kevin says:

    Even though I had to watch the whole thing on DVR on Monday, I loved it again. The NBC and NHL did a great job again with Hockey Day In America. Here are some things I would do next year:

    To start, the whole day should be Hockey Day In America. Don’t have the extra games on at night (I know there was a Rangers game and I think a Ducks game at night)… Also, NO Canadian teams. Since it is technically Hockey Weekend Across America, every team that isn’t playing on Sunday, can play on Saturday night. Have 2 games on NBCSN on Saturday Night (One @ 7 and one @ 10).. Put some big match-ups together.

    Then on Sunday, you have the Pre-Game lead in at 12 (Which is great BTW).. Have an EST game @ 12:30, another EST @ 12:45, and a CST game @ 1. It separates the time a little bit so we can see more acton. Have the National Game on at 3:30 (I’m guessing the host will either be Detroit or Boston next year. Possibly NY if they win the Cup this year).. That game should end around 6, possibly a few minutes after like this year did. Put a 1 hour HDIA special on NBCSN starting @ 6. Show different stories, interviews. Like you said, it’s limitless. @ 7, you can feature a USHL game (The top Junior league in the U.S).. It could be a game with Team USA or not, it’s up to them. Then @ 9:30 (or 10) you could have a College game (As you suggested) or a game between Western Conference teams (Maybe the Avalanche @ the Kings)

    I love it, another great idea, even if it’s not original, from NBC and the NHL. Even if it stays the same, I’ll be fine with that. But I feel like it could be even bigger. I also believe they will include NBCSN a little more next year.

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