Breathing a heavy sigh of relief: NBC Sports Network, which saw its momentum from the London Olympics squandered by the NHL lockout. With the memorandum of understanding signed, the lockout is done and hockey is back on NBCSN, which is great news for the dozen or so shows that are quite good but that no one was watching.
What you need to know about NBC’s coverage of the NHL this season:
NBC Sports Group will air 70 NHL regular-season games across NBC and NBC Sports Network this season during the NHL’s 48-game, intra-conference season.
The schedule includes 14 exclusive windows (15 games) on NBC, the most regular-season windows ever for the network, as well as 24 exclusive windows and 26 exclusive games on NBC Sports Network.
For the sixth consecutive season, the NHL and NBC Sports Group will utilize flex scheduling, which provides the ability to select from up to four games on Sunday afternoons. At least 13 days prior to the scheduled games, the NHL and NBC will announce which game will air.
So who are the winners and losers in the NBC Sports NHL schedule this season?
Now, keep in mind that NBC’s hands were tied here. Without inter-conference games, many of the matchups we’d see in the past that would bring a lesser-watched team into the spotlight against a popular team from another conference went by the wayside. So while a Carolina/Detroit game might have gotten the Hurricanes on TV in the past, not so much this season.
So it was a challenge to get all the teams featured that are usually featured. And here’s how NBC and the NHL met the challenge.
(NOTE: This includes all possible appearances on NBC And NBCSN, meaning that some games are counted in both categories if they’re flex games.)
NBCSN Games (Last Season)
Columbus Blue Jackets
Detroit Red Wings
Los Angeles Kings
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
Winner: New Jersey Devils. Despite losing Zach Parise and being picked by many to miss the postseason after making the Cup Final, the Devils appear on NBCSN as many times as they did all of last season and get two games against the Rangers on NBC (as currently scheduled) in April. Clearly, line brawls sell.
Loser: Carolina Hurricanes. Add Jordan Staal and Alex Semin. Lose any appearances on NBC. The Canes do have eight games on NHL Network, including the Penguins visiting Staal on Feb. 28.
Winner: Los Angeles Kings. The Kings triple their appearances on NBC after winning the Cup last season, including an “opening day” afternoon affair against Chicago that much of the country will see.
Loser: Anyone Who Wants To See The Oilers. We’ll just keep making this lament until it’s rectified. For the third straight season, the Oilers don’t appear on NBC, despite now adding the top pick in the draft to the previous top pick in the draft, who was added to a team that also had the top pick in the draft on its roster. Why can’t NBC viewers watch Justin Schultz win the Calder, Norris, Hart, Art Ross and the Lady Byng like Canada can?
Winner: Chicago Blackhawks. Although one of the games is a regional coverage game against the Kings, Chicago leads all teams with five appearances on NBC.
Loser: Anaheim Ducks. One lonely game on the schedule. Quack.