It’s NBC Schedule Day! Usually this is where the broadcast company showcases the power of leaning on traditionally older more established teams to promote their nationally televised games. But this season it appears to be a different story. Let’s take a look and see what NBC has decided to alter, shall we?
From Sean Leahy of NBC Sports:
NBC Sports is scheduled to present 109 NHL regular-season games during the 2018-19 season – its most since acquiring NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season. Coverage begins Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, when Alex Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals raise their championship banner to the rafters and host the Boston Bruins. All games will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated users via TV Everywhere.
NBC Sports’ 2018-19 NHL schedule is highlighted by the debut of “Wednesday Night Hockey” on NBCSN, which will showcase the network’s most diverse schedule since it acquired NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season, as well as NHL’s current and rising stars.
So, gone is the “Wednesday Night Rivalry” gimmick the NHL had been using for the last few seasons, and in comes “Wednesday Night Hockey”. The name is a bit bland, but hey, if it brings in different teams other than the Original Six 90% of the time, then I’m down for it.
Highlights of NBC’s Wednesday night strategy include multiple doubleheader games with 17 of the 25 scheduled games being doubleheaders. More hockey is never a bad thing. NBC is also focusing more on promoting star power with multiple appearances from some of the league’s established stars as well as the younger ones. Here’s the list NBC provided about this point.
Established stars and young phenoms will take center stage on “Wednesday Night Hockey,” highlighted by multiple appearances from the likes of Alex Ovechkin (WSH), Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK), Sidney Crosby (PIT), Patrick Kane(CHI), P.K. Subban (NSH), Patrice Bergeron (BOS), Steven Stamkos (TBL), Claude Giroux (PHI) Connor McDavid (EDM), Patrik Laine (WPG), Auston Matthews (TOR), Henrik Lundqvist, (NYR), Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), Joe Pavelski (SJS), Jonathan Quick (LAK), and Nathan MacKinnon (COL)
Additionally, NBC plans to have earlier start times for Wednesday night games. In previous seasons, Wednesday night games started at 8pm EST, but this season they are starting at 7 or 7:30pm EST. This includes doubleheaders as well. Also, there are other games that are scheduled to start at 9:30pm EST (mostly Western teams), which is earlier than in previous years as well.
NBC will also cover the NHL Winter Classic, which gives us a match-up between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins. Joy, two teams that already have multiple Winter Classic appearances—how wonderful (this will be Chicago’s fourth appearance and Boston’s third). The day NBC chooses teams that aren’t Original Six franchises will be the day I tune in.
There have been 11 Winter Classics scheduled and only two did not feature an Original Six franchise; the first one in 2008 between Pittsburgh and Buffalo and 2011 when Pittsburgh faced Washington (these are Pittsburgh’s only appearances in the Winter Classic). Additionally, this year’s Winter Classic will mark the fourth time two Original Six franchises have faced each other in the NHL’s premier outdoor game. Hopefully, the ratings from this season’s altered schedule will promote the idea that other teams should have a chance at the Winter Classic.
Now, on to the good stuff—the Lightning. For Wednesday Night Hockey, the Tampa Bay Lightning will appear four times, all on the road. The games are October 24th against the Colorado Avalanche, January 30th against the Pittsburgh Penguins, February 27th against the New York Rangers, and March 20th against the Washington Capitals. No complaints here, all of these games should be good ones.
As for the rest of the season? Well, here is a list of every Lightning game that will be televised nationally through NBC or NBCSN (Wednesday’s are not included here).
Tues., Nov. 6 Edmonton @ Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Nov. 13 Tampa Bay @ Buffalo NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 23 Chicago @ Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Thur., Dec. 27 Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 2 Tampa Bay @ N.Y. Rangers NBC 8 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 18 Tampa Bay @ Columbus NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Mon., Feb. 25 Los Angeles @ Tampa Bay NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
Thur., Feb. 28 Tampa Bay @ Boston NBCSN 7:30 p.m.
In all, the Lightning will appear 12 times on national television this season. That’s six more than last season, and a marked improvement for a team that has been to the Eastern Conference Final three times in four years.
In case you’re interested, here is every team in the NHL and how many times they will appear on NBC or NBCSN.
NBC is diversifying their NHL coverage this season. You'll be able to catch both Washington at Chicago *and* Chicago at Washington. pic.twitter.com/ycnevhUkOC— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) August 13, 2018
So, is this really a more diverse approach that NBC is taking? Let us know what you all think in the comments, because I have some words about this.