It’s almost that time of year again – someone grab Brian a Flowbee.
The American TV broadcast schedules were released yesterday for the NHL, and there’s not anything groundbreaking for either Versus or NBC. NBC’s coverage looks like it came from the Department of Redundancy Department, with the usual suspects all over the list of possible games to be broadcast. They do throw out a few bones by listing teams usually not featured as possibilities, but who thinks that the Sabres versus the Wild will actually get on television? The big market teams (NY Rangers, Flyers, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Penguins, and Capitals) are featured on the schedule as possibilities in a total of 18 games. Also, the big marquee games (Pittsburgh at Washington on February 6th) are shoe-ins for broadcast. Why bother to put the Blues (!) at the Bolts up there as a possibility for the televised game? Unless a meteor falls out of the sky or a sinkhole opens up underneath the Verizon Center, the Pens/Caps game is going to be on the air.
It is understandable. NBC only has 13 games broadcast on a national network, and NBC would want to make sure as many people as possible are watching those games. They’re not going to put up New Jersey at Columbus when they can get ten times the ratings for the Rangers at Penguins game the same day. It’s a business, and you have to sell your product. Small market teams don’t work. Teams with HUGE markets and large fanbases across the country are where the money’s at. Out of the multitude of things I can find wrong with their hockey broadcasts, I can’t fault NBC for their selection of teams. And hey, that last game broadcast might feature the Penguins at Atlanta, and the Pens can usually make it on TV, so there’s a glimmer of hope – or there would be if the other game wasn’t the Blackhawks v. the Red Wings.
So, there’s a possibility that the Blues and Thrashers might crack NBC. At least there’s a certainty that they’ll both be on Versus. The Thrashers make it once, which is better than the scheduled none from last season (they did pick up a ATL/WSH game at the end of the year though). This year it’ll be the Thrashers at the Rangers on April 7th, which should be fun since we can actually beat the Rangers and beat them regularly – except when it counts, like in the playoffs.
The Blues make it five times. The first is a November 15th matchup against Colorado, followed by November 24th in Nashville, November 30th at Chicago (apparently they really want to feature us in November for some reason), December 31st in St. Louis against Phoenix, and April 6th against the Hawks. Odd that there are no Blues/Red Wings matchups on the schedule, though I do appreciate them highlighting the tradition of the Blues’ New Year’s Eve game.
Versus’ schedule gives them a chance to be more equitable to teams than NBC’s does just due to the sheer number of games broadcast – unless you’re the Oilers, Panthers, or Senators, then you get none. The American NHL Network’s schedule has yet to be published, so there’s always a chance that ATL or STL could wind up on there. They were pretty good about picking up Thrashers games last year.