There are five Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, and all of them are facing U.S.-based teams in the first round. Which means there are only three first-round series that are all-American, where NBC is getting ratings from both markets involved.
Ratings challenges aside, NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood is happy to have Canadian representation back in the postseason.
“Last year everyone was saying there are no Canadian teams. Was that great for the U.S.? No, it’s not. What’s great for the U.S. is great hockey and great stars,” he said.
That’s the variable that’s changed dramatically for the NHL’s Canadian franchises: The fact that so many of the League’s most electrifying young stars are playing north of the border. You might not make time to watch the Edmonton Oilers as an American fan, but you will for Connor McDavid.
“It doesn’t matter where they play; it matters that we get to showcase them,” said Flood. “We put a number of games on this year with Auston Matthews. We’ve put two on with Connor McDavid. So we’re out to build these stars and change the way you watch hockey.”
Matthews forced his way onto NBCSN after his four-goal debut in October, and NBCSN added a McDavid vs. Matthews showdown in November. That was in addition to Matthews being featured in the Leafs’ outdoor game against the Detroit Red Wings.
But at the start of last season, that Leafs outdoor game was the only scheduled appearance for either Matthews or McDavid on the networks of NBC Sports, the NHL’s lone rights-holder in the U.S.
Flood says we can expect more of these young stars on NBCSN next season, but that strong performances on the ice and with the audience in the postseason could influence that.
“Teams can always play their way onto the schedule. Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews demonstrated this season that they are superstars and will almost certainly receive more national TV opportunities next season,” said Flood. “We demonstrated our ability numerous times this year to be responsive to their amazing seasons by flexing into previously unscheduled games.”
McDavid’s Game 1 loss against the Sharks was on USA Network on Wednesday night. Matthews’s Game 1 on Thursday is also on USA Network. The next three games for both McDavid and Matthews are on NBCSN.
Please tune in if you’d like more of these young stars on American television.
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