Behind the Broadcast: NBC proved up to the challenge of covering NHL’s Winter Classic

NBC proved up to the challenge of covering NHL’s Winter Classic

It was a gray, snowy day in Orchard Park on Tuesday — perfect weather for outdoor hockey.

From the moment NBC opened its broadcast of the NHL Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres with a camera shot from over Ralph Wilson Stadium showing snow falling, you knew you were about to witness something special.

NBC did a marvelous job capturing the excitement of the first NHL game to be played outdoors in the United States. From the enthusiasm of the announcing crew, to the shots of the snow and sleet coming down near the lights above the stadium, NBC didn’t miss a thing.

Play-by-play announcer Mike Emrick did his usual wonderful job, and Eddie Olczyk was solid with his analysis. “Inside the Glass” reporter Darren Pang did a good job with his updates and interviews, especially during breaks in the action when the ice needed to be worked on.

Host Bob Costas was alone when he opened the broadcast, but behind him you could see new studio analyst Mike Milbury walking toward him after playing a game with

a group of youths. It was certainly out of the ordinary, but it was kind of cool to see.

There were some technical glitches in the third period, which could be attributed to the weather. NBC briefly lost the picture, and Pang’s microphone wasn’t working properly. It was out completely as he interviewed the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby after he scored the winning goal in the shootout round.

The biggest gaffe was made by NBC Weather Plus meteorologist Bill Karins. During the first intermission, he proclaimed that the second period would be the best weather-wise. A Doppler Radar view showed clear skies in the area,

but indicated that snow would be arriving for the third period.

So, what happens when NBC returns from a commercial for the start of the second period? We have a shot of sleet falling.

That just proves to me that predicting the weather is a crapshoot, and that meteorologists are gamblers with high-tech equipment.

The ratings showed people tuned in. NBC earned a 2.6 overnight rating and a 5 share, the best overnight NHL regular-season rating in more than a decade. Fox got a 3.0/7 for a six-game regional card on Feb. 3, 1996. The outdoor game drew a better rating than Wayne Gretzky’s last game, which was broadcast on Fox April 18, 1999 (2.5/6).

“The best regular-season rating in more than a decade is a result of the tremendous efforts of the NHL, and we’re delighted by the success of this historic event,” Ken Schanzer, president of NBC Sports, said in a statement. “[Producer] Sam Flood, his production team and our broadcasters also deserve credit for conveying the great atmosphere in Buffalo and producing a memorable broadcast. The Winter Classic exposed hockey to a larger audience,

and definitely made new fans of the game.”

NHL Network will have an encore presentation of the game today at 4:30 and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

football schedule

Here is a list of college football and NFL playoff games that will be televised over the next three days. Announcers, in order of play-by-play, analyst and sideline reporter, are in parentheses. Note that some games will have two analysts in the booth, or two sideline reporters.



NBC (WNYT Ch. 13 and WNYT HD) — NFC Wild Card: Washington at Seattle, 4:30 p.m. (Tom Hammond/Cris Collinsworth/Bob Neumeier); AFC Wild Card: Jacksonville at Pittsburgh, 8 p.m. (Al Michaels/John Madden/Andrea Kremer).


Fox (WXXA Ch. 23 and WXXA HD) — NFC Wild Card: N.Y. Giants at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. (Joe Buck/Troy Aikman/Pam Oliver).

CBS (WRGB Ch. 6 and WRGB HD) — AFC Wild Card: Tennessee at San Diego, 4:30 p.m. (Jim Nantz/Phil Simms).



ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD — International Bowl: Ball State vs. Rutgers, noon (John Saunders/Doug Flutie and Jesse Palmer/Stacey Dales).


ESPN and ESPN HD — GMAC Bowl: Bowling Green vs. Tulsa, 8 p.m. (Rece Davis/Lou Holtz and Mark May/Rob Stone).


Fox and Fox HD — BCS national championship game: LSU vs. Ohio State, 8 p.m. (Thom Brennaman/Charles Davis/Chris Myers).


WOFX-AM (980) will have both NFL playoff games today, while WENT-AM (1340) joins the Washington-Seattle game in progress after the conclusion of its broadcast of the Hudson Falls-Gloversville boys’ high school basketball game. WENT will broadcast the entire Jacksonville-Pittsburgh game.

On Sunday, WPYX-FM (106.5), WIZR-AM (930) and WENT will have the Giants-Tampa Bay game. WOFX will join the game after the conclusion UAlbany’s men’s basketball game against Vermont. WOFX and WENT will have the Tennessee-San Diego game.

local basketball on TV

Capital Region sports fans may have a tough decision to make on Sunday. Should they watch the NFL playoffs, or the area’s two NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams?

The choice may be difficult for fans of the Giants and UAlbany. The Great Danes are playing Vermont at the same time as the Giants. The game, from SEFCU Arena, will be televised by Fox Sports Net New York.

Siena will be playing while the Tennessee-San Diego game is in progress. The Saints host Saint Peter’s at the Times Union Center at 6 p.m. MSG will televise the contest.

parting shots

A pair of high school all-star games will compete for viewers today. NBC will televise the All-American Bowl at 1 p.m. ABC has the All-America Game at 2 p.m. . . .

Time Warner Cable channel 3 has the South Florida-Syracuse men’s basketball game today at noon, and the Niagara-Cornell men’s hockey game at 7 tonight. . . .

The final two rounds of the first PGA event of the year, the Mercedes-Benz Championship, will be televised by The Golf Channel at 6 p.m. today and Sunday. . . .

The NHL Network has the gold-medal game of the World Junior Hockey Championships at 2 p.m. today. The bronze-medal game is on at 10 a.m.

Categories: Sports

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