Best time of year: NBC platforms superserve NHL fans during first round of playoffs

Tonight begins what might be the best two weeks of the year for NHL fans. It is hard to beat the quantity and quality of NBC’s coverage of the first round of the playoffs.

All games will air on its various platforms again. Tonight features Montreal-Tampa Bay on CNBC at 7 p.m. ET; Columbus-Pittsburgh on NBCSN at 7:30 ET; and Dallas-Anaheim on NBCSN at 10 p.m. ET.

There will be four games Thursday, including Chicago-St. Louis on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The multi-platform presentation has been huge for the NHL. Play-by-play man extraordinaire Mike Emrick recalled the old days of limited coverage and the contrast to what fans get today.

“I remember there were times when I was with other networks and I’d go into a city and fans say, ‘why aren’t you guys covering more of our series, … Continue Reading

Blackhawks, press box colleagues remember Tim Sassone, a true pro on the beat

This is a sad, sad day for sports media in Chicago. Tim Sassone, the long-time Blackhawks writer for the Daily Herald, passed away this morning at the age of 58.

Damn.

In an era where it seems to be all about calling attention to yourself, Sassone quietly, but earnestly went about the business of covering hockey. Mark Lazerus of the Sun-Times noted he started on the Hawks beat in 1988, the year Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were born. Quite a run and legacy.

The outpouring of tributes to Sassone underscore the respect and admiration people had for him in the press box. I compiled a collection via Twitter and Facebook:

Toews via Lazerus of Sun-Times: “It’s not an easy thing to see. Obviously, there’s the Blackhawks family — the players. the people that work in the office, the people … Continue Reading

Going out in cold again: NBC, NHL seek to capitalize on Olympic momentum with primetime game at Soldier Field

My latest Chicago Tribune column is on tonight’s Chicago-Pittsburgh game at Soldier Field. With wind chills in the single digits, I am more than happy to watch from the comforts of home. Alas, the NBC announce team won’t be as lucky.

You also can access the entire column via my Twitter feed at Sherman_Report.

Here is an excerpt.

*******

If there were a watch-dog group that monitors abuse against sports announcers, surely it would look into what NBC is doing to Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire.

For the fourth time this year, NBC is sending its lead NHL team outdoors for the call of Saturday night’s Blackhawks-Penguins game at Soldier Field. With the game-time temperature in the teens, the trio will be subjected to another brutal blast of winter.

When asked if this constituted unfair treatment to announcers, … Continue Reading

DVR alert: Special NHL Revealed on behind-the-scenes with players at Olympics

The hockey games were a big winner for NBCSN and the NHL at the Olympics. Now both hope to cash in again with NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other Thursday night on NBCSN.

The two-hour film is a behind-the-scenes, all-access look at what occurred in Sochi.

On NHL.com, producer Ross Greenburg talked about the film.

It’s been a frantic few days for the producers of the NHL’s latest reality show.

The Olympic hockey tournament only wrapped up when Canada beat Sweden for gold on Sunday and a two-hour special episode of “NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other” is scheduled to air Thursday night on CBC (and NBC in the U.S.).

That didn’t leave much time to put finishing touches on the behind-the-scenes look at the Sochi Games.

“We’re under the gun,” executive producer Ross Greenburg said in an

Continue Reading

Olczyk: How about hockey in Summer Olympics? Might be a better scenario for NHL

It seems ridiculous for the NHL to even have a second-thought about whether it will participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The ratings were huge again in Sochi. Even more importantly, so was the buzz about hockey.

People interrupted their work during the day to watch the big games. Hockey led sports reports. It was No. 1 on the sports agenda for the past week.

When does that happen in February? Heck, it doesn’t even occur in June during the Stanley Cup Final.

The Olympics are an unparalleled promotion opportunity to expand hockey beyond the die-hards in the U.S. and beyond. It is worth the high price of shutting down the NHL once every four years.

NBC obviously wants to see NHL players in South Korea in 2018. However, it isn’t that easy.

During a conference call … Continue Reading

Outdoor hockey games: Brilliant move by NHL, NBC to fill NFL void

I am a bit concerned that having so many outdoor NHL games will wear down the novelty of these events. However, it is brilliant marketing by the league and NBC to schedule two of these games this weekend.

With no real football to speak of–the Pro Bowl doesn’t count as real football–the NHL and NBC should gain many non-hockey viewers looking for alternatives with their remotes. There will be appeal to see how you can pull off an outdoor game at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night. Then the outdoor game on Sunday at Yankee Stadium will provide a sneak preview for how cold Roger Goodell and his pals will be in watching the Super Bowl the following week.

The NHL and NBC wouldn’t generate nearly the buzz or ratings with two regular-season indoor games this weekend. So a tip of … Continue Reading

Strong comments from Milbury, Jones on illegal hits in NHL

Maybe because it is hockey, but Mike Milbury and Keith Jones don’t get enough credit for their studio work for NBC and NBC SN.

Both are extremely candid and passionate about the game. When they talk, hockey fans should listen. Such as last night, when they came down hard on illegal hits in hockey, and how some players, coaches and league executives still don’t get it.

Continue Reading

HBO’s 24/7 on Winter Classic: Will anyone from Detroit-Toronto rival Bruce Boudreau?

After a year’s absence due to the player’s strike last year, HBO is back with its all-access series, 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the NHL Winter Classic. It debuts Saturday at 10 p.m. ET.

The series has been extremely popular, thanks largely to former Washington coach Bruce Boudreau’s affinity for the F-word. Here’s a reminder of vintage Boudreau.

Sean McIndoe of Grantland previewed this year’s cast.

(Pavel) Datsyuk appears to be the current odds-on favorite to emerge as the star. While he has never seemed like an especially outgoing character, teammates say he’s funny and engaging once you get to know him. He’s already one of the league’s most popular players — or at least one of its least-hated — so 24/7 could take him to another level.

And there’s a good chance it will; Datsyuk is the perfect

Continue Reading

Pucks and turkey: NHL hopes to create new tradition with national holiday weekend game

I imagine Thanksgiving was very festive for NHL executives and owners.

On Tuesday, the league shocked our neighbors up North by signing a 12-year, $5.2 billion deal with Rogers Sportsnet for the NHL’s TV rights in Canada. Here’s the link to Steve Lepore’s interview with NHL COO John Collins in Awful Announcing about the new package.

Also, Fang’s Bites did a podcast analyzing  the deal with Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports, Howard Bloom of Sports Business News and Lepore.

Earlier this week, NBC SN reported favorable rating news for the young season:

NBCSN has averaged 595,000 viewers over its first nine exclusive NHL telecasts (mostly Wednesday Night Rivalry), up 31% compared to the exclusive game average to this point in the 2011-12 season (455,000). No November games last year because of the strike.

Also, our Nov. 13 PHI-PIT Wednesday

Continue Reading