In 2011 NBC announced a broadcasting rights deal for the NHL that spanned ten years and was worth over two billion dollars. This along with the creation of NBCSN has led to a golden age to television for live broadcasts of NHL games in the United States. The NBC Sports Group will broadcast 103 NHL regular season games, fourteen of those on NBC. We are even seeing the slow death of the east coast bias in hockey as a late Western Conference game will be included opening night and thirteen more late games in the schedule. Add in the creation and promotion by the network of “Hockey Day in America” and the documentary styled show “NHL Rivals” and NBC has done a great job starting to build solid hockey coverage in America.
The game presentations are solid. Doc Emrick’s play by play carries the games. Color commentary is some times lacking and Pierre McGuire’s between the benches commentary seems to rub people the wrong way.
The studio show is hit or miss. Liam McHugh is a great studio host but Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick are mediocre to good on the scale of studio analysts. That would not be a problem were it not for the fact that the studio show is the only coverage NBC gives the leagues other than the games themselves.
The other major factor against the NHL on NBC is that the network is available to fewer viewers then the NHL would wish, only 68.08% of U.S. homes. For the NHL to grow it’s weekly games, playoffs and even a few Stanley Cup games should be available to more people. Hockey fans will make sure they can see it but the casual fan, or maybe even brand new ones, cannot come across the games if they are not on their television package.
If you view the NHL on NBC as a work in progress then I would give it high marks. If this is what NBC thinks is their final product then I have a lot of fears for how stagnant it will get over the next eight years of their contract.