Today marks the one-year anniversary of the National Hockey League’s most embarrassing television moment.
Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final between the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres had ended in a 2-2 tie after regulation time. The Senators were leading the series, 3-1, and a win would put them in the Stanley Cup finals.
The game was being televised by NBC. The network was also televising the Preakness Stakes, the second lef of the Triple Crown, after the game. Coverage of the race was beginning at 5, and showing the overtime would have cut into the coverage. So, NBC bumped the overtime in favor of Preakness prerace coverage. The hockey game was shifted to Versus, where viewers — if any of them made the switch — saw the Senators win, 3-2.
The following week, I wrote about how I was disgusted with the NHL, and was done defending them. Honestly, I didn’t see how the league could recover from this.
Somehow, though, the league has overcome last year’s slight.
Versus has been getting record ratings during this year’s Stanley Cup coverage. Last Sunday’s Eastern Conference game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins on Versus earned a 1.7 rating. It was the highest hockey rating in the three years Versus has televised the NHL.
It was also the most-watched hockey telecast on Versus. A total of 2,345,834 viewers watched the Penguins’ 4-2 win.
Viewership topped the previous record set during the Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal between the Penguins and New York Rangers on May 1 (1,184,519 total viewers), and the rating surpassed the previous high (1.1) set during Game 7 of the 2006 Eastern Conference final between Buffalo and Carolina.
The telecast was the second-highest rated (1.7) and second most-watched telecast ever in network history among households (1,262,514), behind only Lance Armstrong’s final ride in the 2005 Tour de France (2.1/1,323,018).
Versus’ playoff ratings are up
50 percent, going from a .8 last year to a 1.2 this season. A 1.2 may seem miniscule, but it’s certainly much better than being below 1.0.
NBC’s playoff ratings are even with last year, .9. The network’s regular-season ratings were up 11 percent (1.0 vs. .9) over last year. NBC recently picked up its option to carry the NHL next season.
So, right now, all is good with the NHL again. And my Flyers won Thursday night to stay alive in their Eastern final against Pittsburgh. And I get to watch Game 5 Sunday afternoon on NBC.
Now, when anyone wants to take a cheap shot at the NHL, I feel like I can defend the league again. That makes me very happy.
NBC has a contingency plan in place should today’s Game 5 of the Western final between the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings be tied at the end of regulation, and run up against the start of its Preakness coverage.
Adam Freifeld, director of communications for NBC Sports, wrote me in an e-mail Thursday that NBC will show the first overtime. If the game is still deadlocked, then coverage will shift to Versus for the remainder of the game, and NBC will begin its Preakness broadcast. The game will also be available on NBCSports.com and NHL.com.
The hockey game will start at 1:30 p.m. Preakness coverage is scheduled to begin at 4:30. Both events can be seen in the Capital Region on WNYT (Ch. 13) and WNYT HD.
WTMM-FM (104.5) has radio coverage of the Preakness beginning at 5:30.
NEW HOME FOR OPEN
The U.S. Open tennis tournament will have a new cable home starting next year.
Actually, it will be on two cable channels. ESPN and the Tennis Channel will share coverage of the tennis season’s final grand slam. USA Network has held the cable rights since 1984.
The deal completes the grand slam for ESPN. It also has the
cable rights to the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.
CBS continues to be the over-the-air network for the U.S. Open.
ESPN is making major changes to its morning and afternoon weekday programming schedule. And a familiar face will be joining the network.
Beginning Aug. 11, ESPN will have live editions of “SportsCenter” from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. The live shows will replace the repeats of the 1 a.m. “SportsCenter.” Also being dumped are “Best of Mike and Mike” and “1st and 10.” Those shows aired in the 2 to 3 p.m. block.
Hannah Storm, formerly co-host of CBS’ “The Early Show,” will anchor the 9 a.m. to noon “SportsCenter” block. Storm also worked for NBC Sports (1992-2002) and CNN (1989-92). She is married to NBC golf host Dan Hicks.
TNT has Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference semifinal between San Antonio and New Orleans on Monday night. TNT begins its Western Conference final coverage on Wednesday. ...
ESPN has the NBA draft lottery at 8 p.m. Tuesday, followed by Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final at 8:30 p.m.
In a major surprise, today’s Mets-Yankees game won’t be on national television. SNY and YES will have that game at 1 p.m., while Fox Sports televises the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox at
3:40 p.m. That game will be on WXXA (Ch. 23) and WXXA HD. ESPN will have the Mets and Yankees at 8 p.m. Sunday.