NHL fans will see more than ever before on TV
Hockey fans will be able to watch every single game of the 2012 NHL playoffs on TV here in Utah.
No blackouts. No tape-delays. Nothing to get between you and your favorite team when the playoffs begin on Wednesday.
Provided, of course, you have all the necessary channels in your cable or satellite programming package.
This is the first season of a 10-year contract between NBC and the National Hockey League that guarantees every playoff game will air on readily available channels. And they're excited about this at NHL headquarters.
"Perhaps the most important element to us in this new relationship is the fact that all of our Stanley Cup games are being televised nationally," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "That is something we never had before as a sport.
"We think this takes us to a whole new level that engages fans in whatever market they're in, wherever they've moved, whether their team has been eliminated. You can get all the hockey you want on an extraordinarily well-covered basis."
Clearly, the NHL isn't the NFL. Or the NBA. Or Major League Baseball. And, while diehard hockey fans might disagree, it's never going to be at the same level as any of those sports.
But it has never been smart to alienate those diehard fans or even casual hockey fans by making it difficult for them to see games. Making every playoff matchup available to viewers is a simple idea that makes a huge amount of sense.
When it comes to TV, hockey fans have a chip on their shoulder. Many are still convinced that the sport was better off when the NHL was on ESPN. They're still uncertain about the NBC Sports Network (the channel formerly known as Versus), which has yet to make a big splash in the ratings.
And before NBC announced its plans, there was a good deal of skepticism about the promise to televise every game nationally speculation that NBC Universal would put games on some digital channel like Universal HD, G4 or Chiller.
But NBC stepped up. In addition to the NBC broadcast network (which is available in nearly every home in America), NBCSN (80 million homes) and the NHL Network (43 million homes), first-round games will air on CNBC. And CNBC is in about 100 million homes and that's pretty much the same as ESPN.
Again, it just makes sense. CNBC reports on financial news during the day, but has less of a presence in the evening.
And the cable network has aired hockey during the Olympics.
By the way, national telecasts will be blacked out in home markets to protect local rights holders. According to the NHL, that does not apply to Phoenix Coyotes games in the Salt Lake television market this year, although it has in the past.
(I can't say that I'm 100 percent certain that won't happen at all during the Phoenix-Chicago first-round series. We've been unpleasantly surprised before.)
After the first round, the action will be on NBC (Channel 5 in Utah) and NBCSN with the possibility of a few games on the NHL Network only if scheduling dictates, NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus promised.
"We're looking to maximize exposure," he said.
It's part of a bigger plan "to create new hockey fans" by making it easier for them to see the most meaningful and, potentially, the most exciting games of the year.
It just makes sense.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.
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