NBC Sports Group Celebrates Storied Legacy Of NHL Coverage As NHL Centennial Begins In 2017
NBC’s contributions to the 'Rugged Frozen Terpsichore' of the NHL date back to 1940, when an NBC affiliate provided its first-ever telecast of an NHL game, featuring the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers from Madison Square Garden in New York.
With the NHL beginning its celebration of its Centennial season on New Year’s Day in Toronto, NBC Sports Group celebrates its storied legacy of NHL television coverage. NBC Sports Group has been the exclusive U.S. national broadcast partner of the NHL since 2005, and the network is woven into the fabric of U.S. hockey coverage, dating back more than 75 years.
In honor of the NHL’s Centennial celebration, following is a look back at some of NBC Sports’ historic NHL moments.
February 25, 1940 – W2XBS-TV, which would become WNBC4 in New York, provides its first-ever telecast of an NHL game, featuring the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers from Madison Square Garden in New York.
April 10, 1966 – NBC presents its first-ever national NHL Stanley Cup Playoff broadcast, and its first-ever NHL game in color, when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings in Game 2 of the NHL semi-finals from Chicago Stadium. Win Elliot provides play-by-play for the game alongside Bill Mazer, as the Red Wings defeated the Blackhawks 7-0. In the attached promotional photo for NBC’s coverage of the 1966 Stanley Cup Playoffs, NBC’s press team used the phrase "rugged frozen terpsichore" to reference NHL hockey.
January 7, 1973 – NBC begins the first of three seasons of NHL regular-season coverage with its Hockey Game of the Week, featuring the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks. Tim Ryan handles play-by-play duties from 1973-75, alongside NHL Hall-of-Famer Ted Lindsay and Brian McFarlane. In addition to its regular-season coverage, NBC televises select Stanley Cup Playoff and Final games during this time. NBC also introduces Peter Puck, a popular hockey puck-shaped cartoon character that appears on NBC’s NHL broadcasts. It was created by NBC executive Donald Carswell.
1990-1994 – In Pittsburgh in 1990, NBC provides coverage of the NHL All-Star Game, the first NHL game on a broadcast network game since Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Final, and the first time a national audience watches superstars Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky.
May 19, 2004 – NBC Sports acquires NHL broadcast rights for 2004-05 and 2005-06 (the 2004-05 season was not played due to a lockout). NBC’s coverage begins with a regionalized tripleheader on Jan. 14, 2006, featuring New York vs. Detroit, Colorado vs. Philadelphia, and Dallas vs. Boston. The agreement is extended in 2007 and 2009, before the current 10-year deal, which is signed in 2011 and runs through 2021.
2005-06 – NBC Sports introduces the ‘Inside-the-Glass’ broadcast position for its NHL game telecasts. Now the industry standard in hockey broadcasts, the position is created by NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood in order to bring fans closer to the action by providing a unique perspective. Pierre McGuire serves as NBC Sports’ lead Inside-the-Glass analyst and won the 2013 Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Reporter in that role.
January 1, 2008 – Co-created by NBC Sports President of Programming Jon Miller, NBC televises the first ever NHL Winter Classic, featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, from Ralph Wilson Stadium outside of Buffalo, N.Y. The Penguins win 2-1 in a shootout, with Sidney Crosby scoring the winner. The annual NHL Winter Classic regularly produces the most-watched regular-season games on record, peaking with Washington at Pittsburgh in 2011 at Heinz Field, which averaged 4.525 million viewers on NBC.
February 20, 2011 – NBC Sports presents the first ever Hockey Day In America, which celebrates America’s affinity for hockey and includes multiple national NHL broadcasts. The annual event has featured numerous marquis matchups, including last year’s Blackhawks-Wild Stadium Series game from TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. Coverage has featured on-site broadcasts from various locations, including Lake Placid, N.Y., home of the 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice.’
June 15, 2011 – The Boston Bruins defeat the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final on NBC in what is the most-watched NHL game on record, averaging 8.54 million viewers. NBC Sports Group has televised every NHL Stanley Cup Playoff game nationally since 2012.
January 16, 2013 – NBCSN presents the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers in the first-ever Wednesday Night Rivalry Dubbed "the hottest new brand in sports" by Forbes in its inaugural season, the exclusive Wednesday night window features the biggest rivalries in the sport and has become destination viewing for NHL fans each week on NBCSN.
January 25, 2014 – Dovetailing off of the successful Winter Classic games, NBC Sports presents the first-ever NHL Stadium Series outdoor game, featuring the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings from Dodger Stadium on NBCSN. Other locations include Yankee Stadium in New York and Soldier Field in Chicago, which featured an NBC primetime showdown between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks.
September 30, 2015 – NBCSN televises the first-ever Kraft Hockeyville USA pre-season game, featuring the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins, from Johnstown, Pa. Johnstown is named Kraft Hockeyville USA after a fan vote, and is awarded $150,000 in arena upgrades. The event celebrates the impact of hockey in local communities across the country.
2016-17 – NBC Sports Group is scheduled to televise 106 NHL regular-season games, more than ever before. Since the 2005-06 season, regular-season cable viewership on Versus/NBCSN has increased 132%.