The NHL released its TV broadcast schedule for the upcoming 2010-11 season on Wednesday. For those of us in the US waiting for the big return of the NHL to nightly TV viewing, we are still going to have to wait. However, there is some good news. We are getting closer.
VS. has picked up a total of 78 regular season games, which is a baker's dozen more than they had last season. They have 53 exclusive broadcasts with an additional 25 games slotted as "bonus coverage". I'm not sure if either of these are included in that total but VS. will broadcast the All Star Game as well as the Heritage Classic between the Canadiens and Flames. They also have featured a game per night on the final week of the season leading up to the playoffs. October 7th is the first broadcast with five games total on the schedule and three of them on in a row.
In sports terms, this is the contract year for VS. They have every opportunity to boost thier chances for a renewal for next year or go down in flames trying. I think if the network has any chance to survive in the stable of Comcast networks, they have to come out of this season with a win. No one is going to keep tuning in for Bull Riding, Indy Car Racing, and the occasional MMA fight alone.
As for everyone's favorite network, NBC, their season begins on January 1st with the Winter Classic. This years WC game is being hosted at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and pits the Penguins against their conference rivals the Capitals. Basically it is Gary Bettman's wet dream with Ovechkin vs. Crosby facing each other on the "most watched" hockey game of the year. Break out the napkins.
NBC will keep their coverage going throughout the rest of the season with the game of the week featured every Sunday until the playoffs, including the "Let's Copy Canada" day, otherwise known as Hockey Day In America on February 20th. The controversy here is whether or not coverage will be regionalized. Last year it wasn't and most of America was forced to watch either the force-fed network coverage or nothing at all. In looking at the schedule, it appears like the same old teams we have grown accustomed to on NBC are back with little to no changes. At this point, there are a dozen or so teams without a spot on the schedule and, as pointed out by some other media outlets, the flex scheduling options are so piss-poor that there are clearly going to be more than just the initial 12 without games.
Of course for our Canadian brethern, they get the royal treatment. TSN and TSN2 will air 124 games while CBC and Hockey Night In Canada have 87 games (is that a tribute to their gold medal hero?) As usual, RDS will show all Canadiens games.
As for the flagship network station, the NHL Network has 75 games scheduled in the US and another 31 in Canada. This is more than have ever have and now that they are available in HD for most carriers, I am excited. Of the three networks in the US that broadcast games, their announcers and color grind my gears the least. More details on the upcoming season of TV viewing can be obtained over at the official NHL site.
Again, the increased coverage can be nothing but good for the game of hockey. More exposure means more advertising, meaning more revenue and the occasional conversion of a fan or two doesn't hurt either.
42 Days and counting.