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Behind the Broadcast: Stanley Cup finals belong on network TV

Behind the Broadcast: Stanley Cup finals belong on network TV

There were many things I loved about the 10-year contract the NHL signed with the NBC Sports Group l

There were many things I loved about the 10-year contract the NHL signed with the NBC Sports Group last year.

For starters, every Stanley Cup playoff game was going to be on national TV, a first for the league. NBC Sports Network televised over 100 regular-season games, and had a game on just about every night the final few weeks of the season.

But there is one item that still gnaws at me. Not all of the Stanley Cup final games are on NBC Sports.

Games 3 and 4 of the series Monday and Wednesday, respectively, will shift to cable on NBC Sports Network. This has been a trad­ition of having at least two games of the Cup finals on cable since 1995, when the NHL had contracts with FOX Sports and ESPN. Prior to then, all of the Cup final games were on cable because the league didn’t have a contract with an over-the-air network.

My belief, and it’s something I have been complaining about for years, is that all games of the Cup finals belong on over-the-air TV. You have more of an audience than on cable. And, quite frankly, does the NHL want the Cup to be presented on NBCSN? I don’t think so.

If the NHL still wants to have two games of the Cup finals on cable, it should be the first two games. But, to me, it better serves the league to have all of the Cup final games on over-the-air TV.

Mixed News

Some mixed ratings news for the NHL.

The Los Angeles Kings’ 2-1 overtime victory over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday earned a 2.4 rating for NBC Sports. That’s down 25 percent from last year’s Game 1, featuring the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks.

Meanwhile, thanks to having every Stanley Cup playoff game televises, the first three rounds averaged 1.09 million viewers across NBC, NBCSN and CNBC. It’s the highest average since FOX, ESPN and ESPN2 averaged 1.24 million in 1997.

NBCSN averaged 994,000 viewers for playoff coverage — up

16 percent from last year, and the highest average for the playoffs on a single cable network since ESPN averaged 1.152 million in 2002

However, there was an 11 percent decline in viewership for the conference finals.

great job

I can honestly say that I haven’t watched the Tennis Channel very often. But after getting tired of the gloom and doom the Capital Region meteorologists were predicting as thunderstorms were descending on the area Tuesday afternoon, I turned on the Tennis Channel to watch some of the French Open and kill some time before my son got home from school.

Thank goodness I did that, because I got to see an epic match.

I caught the final set of what turned out to be Virginie Razzano’s 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 upset of Serena Will­iams in the first round. That last set, and the last game in partic­ular, were incredible. It seemed like neither Razzano nor Williams could win that last game. It took nearly 25 minutes for that last game, and Razzano finally won it on her seventh match point.

I give high marks to play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle, who always does an excellent job, no matter what sport he covers. He didn’t talk too much, and he was right to criticize the chair umpire when she called two hindrance penalties on Razzano, which resulted in points for Williams.

belmont stakes coverage

With I’ll Have Another running for a possible Triple Crown, the first since Affirmed in 1978, NBC Sports Group will have 11 hours of coverage leading up to the Belmont Stakes.

It begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with “I’ll Have Another — Charging Toward History” on NBC Sports Network. That will be followed by the rebroadcast of the Kentucky Derby at 8 p.m., and the Preakness Stakes at 10 p.m.

On Friday, NBCSN will have “Belmont Classics” at 4 p.m., followed by “Live from Belmont” at 5.

Next Saturday, NBCSN will have the “Belmont Stakes Saturday” at 3 p.m. NBC Sports then takes over at 4:30 with coverage of the Belmont Stakes. NBCSN will have postrace coverage at 7.

nfl notes

A couple of football TV notes.

u The Miami Dolphins will be the featured team in the seventh season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this summer, HBO, NFL Films and the Dolphins announced Tuesday.

The show will premiere Tuesday, Aug. 7. This summer’s edition of “Hard Knocks” marks the first time the series will premiere on Tuesday night in prime time. Previously, the series debuted on Wednesday.

The 2012 season marks the 40th anniversary of the Dolphins’ perfect season, when they went 14-0 in the regular season and 3-0 in the postseason, culminating with a 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.

This year’s Dolphins have a new coach in Joe Philbin.

u NBC Sports has hired former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward as an analyst for many of its NBC Sports Group properties, it was announced Thursday.

Ward will contribute to NBC’s “Football Night in America” studio show. He will also serve as an analyst on NBC Sports Network’s college football coverage.

“We think Hines is a perfect match for television because he brings with him a unique comb­ination of charisma and football experience, which he demonstrated on our Super Bowl pregame show from Indianapolis,” Sam Flood, executive producer, NBC Sports and NBCSN, said in a statement. “He’s an opinionated personality who can draw upon his 14 years of exper­ience, having excelled at the highest levels of the game. Just don’t expect him to dance.”

Ward will regularly appear on “NBC SportsTalk” with Mike

Florio and Peter King to preview and recap the week in the NFL.

parting shots

FOX23 and FOX23 HD have the New York Yankees-Detroit Tigers game tonight at 7. . . .

ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD have the St. Louis Cardinals-New York Mets matchup on “Sunday Night Baseball” at 8. CW15 and CW15 HD have the game today at 4. . . .

The NBA playoffs conference finals continue this weekend. Tonight at 8:30, TNT and TNT HD have Game 4 of the Western Conference contest between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. ESPN and ESPN HD have Game 4 of the Eastern Conference matchup between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. That game will also be on ESPN Radio 104.5 The Team (WTMM).

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