Saturday, April 23, 2011

The NHL Stays in the NBC Family

The NHL and NBC announced that they will be staying together for the next ten years (Stu Hackel via  At first glance, I wasn't thrilled with this decision, but I felt that I should give it a few days to let it sink in.

Mike Reynolds on Multichannel News has more.

In the end, I think this is actually the best move the league could make.

Many, including me, thought that perhaps hockey should go back to the World Wide Leader, but the reality is, that with ESPN's desire to rule the world, they are oversaturated.  As such, hockey would have remained buried, with games showing up on ESPN 2 and highlights being an afterthought on SportsCenter.  Yet for NBC and Versus (soon to be rebranded) to make it work, they had to present a better product.  It appears that this deal will be good for the NHL in that regard.

NBC deserves a lot of credit for the creation of the Winter Classic, a ratings bonanza that has done very well.  Again, there's a fear that it will wear out its welcome, especially since outdoor hockey games are creeping up (including a second NHL game this past season).  Now it looks like NBC will push for more - including a November game on "Black Friday."  That's all well and la-dee-da, but the bottom line is that more games need to be on at a network level.  To that end, Versus is slated to add more games (though I'd still like to see the mother ship - NBC - do more).

For me, one of the biggest things I want to see is for NBC to put all of the Stanley Cup Final games on their air, as opposed to burying them on Versus (or whatever it is called).  Sadly, NBC will air Games 1, 2, and everything after Game 4.  Versus will show Games 3 and 4.  In fact, a large majority of the playoffs (the last three rounds specifically) will air on Versus (with some falling to NBC) - and that is a very good thing.  I'd like to see more of that in the first round, as it can be difficult to find a game outside of ones "home market."  For instance, my friend Phil Soto-Ortiz had to drive to find a place to watch the New York Rangers in action against Washington.  It certainly would never be like that with the NFL (who is currently on life support as far as I'm concerned).

Hopefully this is a positive step for the NHL, a move that brings more eyes to the TV and helps build interest.  It frankly infuriates me when I see people try to drop hockey to being the fifth (or lower) sport in this country.  That is a shame to me, but most people simply don't know what they're missing (and we've discussed that many times here on the ol' bloggo).  Hockey, simply put, has the best championship tournament (though the cost of that is a regular season that doesn't quite draw one in as much), the best, fan-friendly personnel (sometimes to the points of true cheese), and some of the most loyal, rabid fans.

For me, if there's a best reason that I'm happy about the continuation of the NHL/NBC marriage, it's that it means (hopefully) more of Doc Emrick and Ed Olczyk.  The duo has become, perhaps, the best one-two punch in play-by-play, certainly at the national level.  Doc is excitable and full of great stories and facts (he is hockey's Scully).  Edzo is straight forward and alaytical.  He has no desire to be a Dick Vitale, for instance.

Think about the top tandems in sports - Baseball on Fox has Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.  ESPN uses Dan Schulman, Orel Hersheiser, and Bobby Valentine.  The top football broadcast teams are Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (Fox), Jim Nantz ("mmm hello friends") and Phil Simms (CBS), Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth (NBC), and Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, and John Gruden (ESPN).  The NBA's top team is generally Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson (ESPN/ABC) and Marv Albert and Steve Kerr (TNT).  I could continue with college hoops (Nantz/Clark Kellogg/Kerr) and football (Brent Musberger/Kirk Herbstreit), but I think you get the point: Doc and Edzo are as good, if not better than any of these teams.

And thankfully, Gus Johnson doesn't call hockey.  Thankfully.

NBC would be well-served to find some other personalities though.  Things have improved even just in the past few months, but it can get better.  Mike Milbury doesn't work for all (I'm OK with him), but Pierre McGuire has lost me (I used to like him more).

Still the product isn't bad, so I think this is a good thing for the NHL.  Hopefully it only gets better.

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