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Lightning Round: The NHL’s new TV deal gives the league a chance to change the way it markets the league

The NHL doesn’t seem to like change, but with two new broadcast partners things could be different

2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

On Tuesday it was officially announced that Turner Sports would be the NHL’s second broadcast partner in the United States. They will join ESPN/Disney as the visual presentation of the sport for the next seven years. After sixteen years of watching the league on NBC it will be weird seeing it on a different network.

It will be interesting to see what changes the two networks bring to their coverage over the better part of the next decade. Don’t expect all of those voices you’ve come to love to hate to go away. The on-air talent for NBC will be available for ESPN and Turner Sports to choose from so it’s unlikely Pierre McGuire is out of our lives.

The initial reaction to the announcement that Turner Sports is joining the party seems to be a positive one. Part of the reason is the success of their studio show, Inside the NBA, which achieves a nice blend of information and fun, probably more so than any other analyst show in sports.

If they can bring some personality to the presentation of the sport and let individuals shine, it’ll go a long way to helping the sport grow. While there are a few bright spots in the NBC coverage team, John Forslund, A.J. Mleczko, and Brian Boucher come to mind, there are too many similar personalities in their broadcasts. Is there really anything that separates Patrick Sharp and Keith Jones?

Along with Turner Sports, HBOMax will be available for streaming NHL content in the future. While that does mean yet another streaming service to sign up for if you haven’t already, it’ll mean the possibility of having some of the resources that produced the old “Road to the Winter Classic” series that were so fun to watch. More Liev Schreiber narrating highlights please!

Speaking of the Winter Classic (which will be broadcast on TNT or TBS) it’ll be interesting to see if the break from NBC will bring about some changes as to which teams are showcased in that game. As we all know, NBC went heavy on the big market teams like Chicago and New York along with Pittsburgh and Washington. The marketing was heavy on the two players that came along as the league was coming out of the break - Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

While the two are still going along just fine, they are no longer the top players in the league. The NHL has a chance now to showcase some of the other stars in the league and build their marketing around them. You know, players like Nikita Kucherov and Auston Matthews. It’s inexcusable that the Lightning, a perennial Stanley Cup contender since 2015, and a team that plays a rather exciting brand of hockey, hasn’t been featured in an outdoor game yet. I’m not demanding they host one, although that would be fun, but to not have the even appear in one because it’s not one of the big TV markets for the league is an insane waste of a good product.

I’m looking forward to seeing what changes are in store for the league next year. I’m also looking forward to figuring out which of the 3,436 different channels or streaming apps games will be broadcast on and how that will work with broadcast blackouts. Hopefully, it won’t be regurgitated NBC with a different logo splashed across the screen.

Lightning Links

Lightning win 7-4

It wasn’t the prettiest defensive effort (way too many penalties), but they put the puck in the net quite a bit so things worked out in the end. Brayden Point is carrying the offense right now and it’s a beautiful thing to watch.

Chicago loses 7-4

It wasn’t pretty from the Chicago side of the ice. Goaltending was a bit of an issue.

Lightning are the team to beat in the NHL

Did you know that the Lightning’s .688 points percentage (before last night’s game) is the highest of any defending Stanley Cup champion in 25 years? I didn’t. In other words, the Lightning did what they needed to do in the regular season - get to the playoffs. Everything changes once the postseason starts.

Some notes from our friends at the Lightning

  • The Lightning have made the playoffs for the fourth season in a row (ties a franchise record) and for the seventh time in eight seasons with Jon Cooper as the head coach.
  • Tampa Bay has earned points in 24 of their last 25 games against Chicago with a 21-1-1-3 record since 2010-11. We’ll forget about the 2-4 record in the Stanley Cup Final.
  • Ondrej Palat is now 7th in franchise history in points with 372, having passed Vinny Prospal
  • Alex Killorn is tied with Freddy Modin for seventh place in franchise goals with 145.
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy is 11-0-0 in the regular season against the Chicago Blackhawks

Hockey Highlights

Florida Panthers clinch playoff spot

Tampa Bay isn’t the only Sunshine State team that will be playing in the postseason. The Panthers punched their ticket as well and there is a good chance they will be meeting up with the Lightning in the first round.

Connor McDavid is going to hit 100 points

Well, maybe. He needs 19 points in 10 games, but if anyone in the league can pull it off, it’s McDavid.

NHL could adjust playoffs for US/Canada border rules

At some point (the third round of the playoffs) the NHL is going to have deal with the possibility of teams crossing the border to play each other. How they are going to deal with that has yet to be determined, but they will abide by the COVID protocols set in place by the local governments. With U.S.-based teams playing in front of fans (and bringing in that precious ticket revenues) it’s doubtful the final two rounds of the playoffs will be played in a bubble, but you never know with this league.

Some good news for players in the NWHL: