Pens/Stars Tops the Week on NBCSN

After a bit of a slump, all it took was the Pittsburgh Penguins to get the NHL on NBC Sports Network out of it’s recent funk.

The Penguins wild tilt with the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night drew 456,000 viewers, the best number for the network since February 12. The network also continued to do reasonably well on Sundays, as their Chicago/Anaheim broadcast drew 370,000 viewers. The Devils/Rangers Monday showdown, as I’ve mentioned previously, disappointed a bit with 287,000.

The network continues to, unsurprisingly, struggle with airing games from teams outside of the eastern time zone before 7 p.m. local time. Tuesday’s Los Angeles/Minnesota game drew just 156,000 viewers, the fifth least-watched NBCSN game of the season. Eight of the 10 least-watched games on NBC Sports Network feature a central, mountain, or pacific time zone team playing before 7 p.m. local time. Four of the 10 least-watched games have featured the Kings, and five of the bottom 10 have happened in February.

(Sources: @TVSportsratings, John Ourand) 

October 6
7:00 
Boston vs. Philadelphia – 874,000
10:00 
Pittsburgh vs. Vancouver – 342,000

October 7
1:00 
NY Rangers vs. Los Angeles – 101,000

October 8
1:00 
NY Rangers vs. Anaheim – 124,000

October 10
7:00 
Tampa Bay vs. Washington – 162,000

October 11
7:30 
Florida vs. Pittsburgh – 216,000

October 12
7:30 
Boston vs. Carolina – 312,000

October 17
7:30 
Colorado vs. Toronto – 218,000

October 18
7:30 
Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota – 286,000

October 25
7:30 
Tampa Bay vs. Buffalo – 338,000

October 31
7:00 
San Jose vs. NY Rangers – 169,000

November 1
7:30 
Anaheim vs. Washington – 258,000

November 2
7:30 
Philadelphia vs. Buffalo – 558,000

November 7
7:30 NY Islanders vs. Boston – 195,000

November 8
7:30 Carolina vs. New Jersey – 241,000

November 9
7:30 Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay – 411,000

November 14
7:00 
Buffalo vs. Montreal – 323,000

November 15
7:30 
Colorado vs. Pittsburgh – 392,000

November 16
7:30 New Jersey vs. Buffalo – 285,000

November 21
7:30 
NY Islanders vs. Pittsburgh – 198,000

November 22
7:30 
Los Angeles vs. St. Louis – 245,000

November 28
7:30 
Tampa Bay vs. Minnesota – 232,000

November 29
7:30 
Pittsburgh vs. NY Rangers – 394,000

November 30
7:30 
Tampa Bay vs. Detroit – 393,000

December 5
8:00 
Phoenix vs. Chicago – 302,000 viewers

December 6
7:30 
Detroit vs. St. Louis – 259,000

December 7
7:30 
Philadelphia vs. Buffalo – 585,000

December 12
7:30 
New Jersey vs. Tampa Bay – 201,000

December 13
9:00 
San Jose vs. Colorado – 193,000

December 14
7:30 
Chicago vs. Minnesota – 540,000

December 19
7:30 Anaheim vs. Dallas – 149,000

December 20
7:30 Chicago vs. Pittsburgh – 634,000

December 21
7:30 Philadelphia vs. Dallas – 462,000

December 26
7:30 Dallas vs. St. Louis – 270,000

December 27
7:30 St. Louis vs. Detroit – 195,000

December 28
7:30 NY Rangers vs. Washington – 327,000

January 2
8:00 
San Jose vs. Vancouver – 267,000

January 3
8:00 
Detroit vs. Dallas – 188,000

January 4
7:30 
Boston vs. New Jersey – 435,000

January 8
7:30 
Detroit vs. Chicago – 587,000 

January 10
7:30 
San Jose vs. Minnesota – 237,000 

January 11
7:30 
Pittsburgh vs. Washington – 526,000

January 15
7:30 
NY Rangers vs. Montreal – 202,000

January 16
7:30 
Dallas vs. St. Louis – 238,000

January 17
7:30 
Nashville vs. NY Rangers – 224,000

January 18
7:30 Buffalo vs. Chicago – 466,000 

January 23
7:30 
St. Louis vs. Detroit – 429,000 

January 24
9:00 Minnesota vs. Colorado – 190,000

January 25
7:30 Detroit vs. Montreal – 241,000

January 28
7:00 Super-Skills Competition – 1.1 million

January 29
4:00 All-Star Game – 1.3 million

January 31
7:30 Washington vs. Tampa Bay – 264,000

February 1
7:30 NY Rangers vs. Buffalo – 478,000

February 5
12:30 Boston vs. Washington – 455,000

February 6
8:00 Detroit vs. Phoenix – 263,000

February 7
7:30 Los Angeles vs. Tampa Bay – 155,000

February 8
7:30 Boston vs. Buffalo – 455,000

February 12
7:30 Philadelphia vs. Detroit – 600,000

February 13
7:30 San Jose vs. Washington – 351,000

February 14
7:30 Anaheim vs. Minnesota – 173,000

February 15
7:30 Boston vs. Montreal – 417,000 

February 19
6:00 New Jersey vs. Montreal – 203,000

February 20
7:30 Washington vs. Carolina – 171,000

February 21
8:00 Detroit vs. Chicago – 228,000 

February 22
9:00 Los Angeles vs. Colorado – 166,000 

February 26
7:00 Chicago vs. Anaheim – 370,000 

February 27
7:30 New Jersey vs. NY Rangers – 287,000

February 28
7:30 Los Angeles vs. Minnesota – 156,000 

February 29
7:30 Pittsburgh vs. Dallas – 456,000 

10 Most-watched Games on NBCSN This Season
1. Boston vs. Philadelphia (10/6/11) – 874,000
2. Chicago vs. Pittsburgh (12/20/11) – 634,000
3. Philadelphia vs. Detroit (2/12/12) – 600,000
4. Detroit vs. Chicago (1/8/12) – 587,000
5. Philadelphia vs. Buffalo (12/7/11) – 585,000
6. Philadelphia vs. Buffalo (11/2/11) – 558,000
7. Chicago vs. Minnesota (12/14/11) – 540,000
8. Pittsburgh vs. Washington (1/11/12) – 526,000
9. NY Rangers vs. Buffalo (2/1/12) – 478,000
10. Buffalo vs. Chicago (1/18/12) – 466,000 

10 Least-watched Games on NBCSN this Season
1. NY Rangers vs. Los Angeles (10/7/11)* – 101,000
2. NY Rangers vs. Anaheim (10/8/11)* – 124,000
3. Anaheim vs. Dallas (12/19/11) – 149,000 
4. Los Angeles vs. Tampa Bay (2/7/12) – 155,000
5. Los Angeles vs. Minnesota (2/28/12) – 156,000 
6. Tampa Bay vs. Washington* (10/10/11) – 162,000
7. Los Angeles vs. Colorado (2/22/12) – 166,000
8. San Jose vs. NY Rangers* (10/31/11) – 
169,000
9. Washington vs. Carolina* (2/20/12) – 171,000
10. Anaheim vs. Minnesota (2/14/12) – 
173,000

*-was blacked out in one or both of the home markets.

No. 1 Boston College Double Dips on CBS This Weekend

College Hockey on CBS Sports Network this weekend features two games between *No. 1-ranked Boston College and Vermont. The puck drops on Friday, March 2 (7:30 PM, ET) at Kelley Rink in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The teams meet again on Saturday, March 3 (7:00 PM, ET). Eric Frede, analyst Dave Starman and rinkside reporter Shireen Saski announce.

The Network provides live pre-game coverage prior to both games. Frede, Starman and Saski preview the night’s action and discuss college hockey news from around the country. Friday’s coverage includes an interview with Nate Ewell, the executive director of College Hockey Inc. On Saturday, Starman announces winners of The Starzies, his college hockey awards for 2012.

For more information, including a full programming schedule and how to get CBS Sports Network, go to http://www.cbssportsnetwork.com.

Goon Gives You Hockey, Take it Or Leave It

“It might as well say security on the back of your sweater.”

This line, spoken by Eugene Levy in the middle of the Michael Dowse-directed, Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg-written hockey comedy Goon, speaks more to how this film quite simply gets hockey. It may just be a throw-away line about how Levy’s character – a doctor, from a family of doctors – doesn’t respect his son, Doug “the Thug” Glatt (Seann William Scott) in his new job as the titular goon of the film any more than he did his old job as a bouncer at a bar. But it also acts as another in the vast array of references which it uses to, as writer/star Baruchel put it at a press event in the city a week ago, send “a love letter” to the oft-misunderstood, always controversial, but never ignored hockey enforcer.

Now, before we go any further, I will tell you that there’s a way to look at this movie without having any interest or knowledge about hockey. I had a friend watch the film (available now on demand and in theaters in Canada, and in select theaters in the U.S. March 30th) and she was able to enjoy it, despite the fact that hockey makes her yawn as much as it does any of the 292 million Americans that did not watch Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, the most-watched NHL game in three decades. Her interest, and of many men and women I know that aren’t hockey fans who enjoyed Goon, saw it as a funny, often hilarious, but oddly poignant film with a likable cast and great jokes.

The point being that this is a good movie, and not just a good hockey movie, which was the worst fear I had about Goon: that like my love for this game itself, it will often have my friends rolling their eyes and asking me to move to Canada. With this film, that was not the case. You should see it if you’re a fan of popular modern comedies (the Apatow movies, any of the other films Goldberg co-wrote with Seth Rogen, Role Models) and, oh hell, if you like a little bit of gratuitous (and I mean that in a good way) violence thrown at you.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about this like hockey fans. This is an awesome hockey film, the most exceptional scripted movie involving the sport since Miracle. Hockey’s become a particularly good subject for documentaries (Baruchel mentioned the excellent Le Chiefs as an inspiration), but it’s been a while since we’ve seen a scripted movie, and that’s if we forget The Love Guru, which thank goodness, is really easy to do. The fact is that Goon not only gets hockey and presents it to you in a way that is familiar and completely radical to regular viewers onscreen, but it has something to say about the roles of various players, the enforcers in particular. I don’t know if anyone was looking for or needed a modern meditation on the role of goons, but now that it’s here, it is a fantastic gift to it’s fans.

Liev Schriber’s character, the not-quite-villanous Ross “the Boss” Rhea, anchors the film in a really subtle, beautiful way. He’s on the periphery for much of the flick, but never quite leaves your consciousness entirely. He’s built up as what’s going to be the antagonist, the bad guy of Goon. To the point where, when we finally see Glatt meet with Rhea in a diner after a game, we expect fireworks and Rhea to make threats. Glatt is “the new me”, as the character puts it, as Rhea is about to retire. However, while Rhea does promise to beat up Glatt should they meet, he bears no ill will toward him. Along with scenes with Georges Laraque, the movie pokes fun at, as well as reveres, the way this group of players goes about their business.

It helps that both Scott and Schriber, especially Schriber, give extremely solid, nuanced performances in making these men understand both the simplistic and complicated nature of their lot in life. Schriber mentioned at the press event that Bob Probert – whose biography he’d read to prepare for Goon, in addition to conversations with Laraque – was on his mind often while performing. It’s weird to see, but also kind of an “aha” feeling when revisiting the film, as I did this week. It’s another way in which the film, as I’ve said so often, just gets this sport and this particular aspect of this sport.

The role of the team as a support system and surrogate family is another fun costume the film tries on. The locker room scenes have an almost workplace-comedy feel to them. It features a bunch of fantastic archetypes (the drunk captain in the middle of a divorce, the rookie looking to suck up to the captain, the coach at the end of his rope) that all get their chances to have a little more depth than they might have in a weaker movie, where they’d be reduced to stereotypes. Well, maybe not the foulmouthed Russian twins that constantly torment the team’s mommy-worshiping goaltender, but that’s funny enough to forgive in it’s own right.

Not to be overly glowing, because I did think there were some flaws in the film. Alison Pill’s character holds up better than I thought on a rewatch, but I still think that character needed a little more depth if she was going to anchor the entire off-ice story of the film. I’ve refrained from comparing this movie to Slap Shot throughout the piece, but one aspect that that film has this one over a barrel on is how well the female characters were drawn in that movie, compared to the one who gets any substantial screentime in Goon. I felt that needed to be stronger, but overall, it was a great experience as a hockey fan.

Which brings me back to Baruchel, who plays Pat – the crude best friend and public access hockey show host. Watch his performance. He looks like the happiest person to ever be doing anything. He co-wrote this film, and spent five years trying to get it made. He appears to be doing what he was meant to do, with a backdrop of the thing he loves the most. He’s as good an audience surrogate for the hockey diehards as you can possibly have, and his enthusiasm – for the film, for the sport, for the goons of the world, and for Doug Glatt – will make you fall in love with it.