The NHL announced their national television schedule for the 2011-12 season on Thursday, and thanks to the league's new American TV deal with NBC, we'll be treated to more games than ever before.
The most dramatic changes come on Versus, or what will soon be known as NBC Sports Network. The channel is set to change at the turn of the year. As part of the new television deal, Versus/NBCSN will telecast three games per week most week, up from one or two last year. We'll be able to find nationally televised hockey on most every Monday and Tuesday of the NHL regular season, and most Wednesdays as well.
NBC will also broadcast more hockey, and their full Game of the Week coverage begins on Sunday, January 22 with a game between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. Starting regularly on Sunday, March 4, NBC and NBC Sports Network will team up to provide flex coverage of games. NBC has a choice of two games to broadcast at 3 p.m. ET, and the game they do not select will be broadcast on their cable sister.
NBC and NBC Sports Network will team up to televise 100 games this season across the two networks, which is by the far the most since the NHL took a year off in 2004-05. Versus/NBCSN will also keep the NHL Overtime program going, and will televise 30-minute pre-and-post game coverage for every game on their docket. In the past, Versus hasn't had pre-game coverage for all games on their network.
The Winter Classic will be officially announced last week, but in the NHL's press release Tuesday there is no mention of it. It's an NBC game televised on a Monday at 1 p.m., however, between the Flyers and New York Rangers. We can make that assumption rather safely.
In addition to the fifth-annual outdoor game, NBC and the NHL are kicking off another annual tradition on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. At 1 p.m. that day, the Bruins will host the Detroit Red Wings in what's set to become another annual showcase. As the NHL boasts, it's the earliest in the year a game has appeared on NBC since the lockout.
78 games will be broadcast on NHL Network in the United States, bringing the total number of games broadcast nationally in the country to 178 (if you get NHLN, that is). That's a lot. NHL Network's coverage will take place mostly on Thursday nights and Saturday nights, meaning that for much of the season, nationally televised hockey can be seen on Monday through Thursday, as well as Saturday and many Sundays. Don't feel bad for Friday; it always gets the fun.
As for Canada, well, it's the same story as always. 77 games on TSN, 73 of which feature at least one Canadian team. TSN 2 will broadcast 74 games, and CBC will televise 109 games.
Some more highlights:
- The national television schedule will kick off on Thursday, October 5 with a doubleheader on Versus. The Bruins and Flyers will battle on the ice at 7 p.m. ET after Boston raises yet another championship banner to the rafters of TD Garden, and at 10 p.m. ET, the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Vancouver Canucks on both Versus and CBC at 10 p.m. ET. In Canada, the Maple Leafs will host the Canadiens on CBC at 7 p.m. ET.
- Versus, TSN and TSN 2 will have full coverage of the NHL Premiere events this year from Europe. Anaheim, Buffalo, Los Angeles and the Rangers will
- Every game on NBC Sports Network will be an NBC production, meaning that there will be no more local coverage of games simulcast nationally. That news comes via Steve Lepore.
- Hockey Day In America returns on Sunday, February 19. Three games -- Penguins at Sabres, Sharks at Wings, Blues at Blackhawks -- will be broadcast regionally on NBC with staggered start times beginning at 12 p.m. ET, just like last year. At 3 p.m., the Bruins will travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild in a nationally televised game. At 6 p.m. that day as well, the Devils and Canadiens will do battle at Bell Centre on NBC Sports Network.
- The Bruins and Flyers appear on NBC and Versus more than any other team, each appearing 13 times. Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh each appear 12 times. The Winnipeg Jets appear once.