After a rousing Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009 and ratings to match on Jan. 1, NBC starts its Sunday afternoon coverage of NHL games this Sunday, Jan. 18, with the New York Rangers
visiting their division rival Pittsburgh Penguins
. Game time is 12:30 p.m., which will be the NBC time slot that hockey fans can count on this season.
After Sunday's game, NBC will continue regular Sunday games Feb. 8 with a matchup that will be announced on air this weekend. Another thing to watch for this weekend in Pittsburgh: NBC will again be isolating a camera on one player from each team. This weekend it will be Sidney Crosby
of the Penguins and Chris Drury
from the Rangers. You can view the "iso-cam" on NHL.com during Sunday's game.
NBC Sports and the NHL announced last spring that they extended their partnership through the 2008-09 season with NBC exercising its option on the NHL. The joint announcement was made by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.
"We're thrilled to be able to continue our relationship with the NHL," said Ebersol back in April. "There have been positive signs for the league, both on and off the ice. Ratings were up this year; the Winter Classic in Buffalo was a huge success; advertising sales were healthy; and the product on the ice has never been better, led by young, marketable stars such as Sidney Crosby
and Alex Ovechkin
. We believe this is a sport that will continue to grow."
Bettman said, "This is great news for the NHL and its fans. NBC has been a great partner and its innovations to the broadcasts have helped bring fans inside the game like never before."
Regular-season ratings for the NHL "Sunday Game of the Week" on NBC during the 2007-08 season were up 11 percent over the previous. In the key demographic category of men 18- to 49-year-olds coveted by advertisers, ratings increased by 33 percent.
NBC will broadcast the NHL Sunday "Game of the Week" during the regular season, highlighted by flexible scheduling. Under the flex policy, NBC can select from up to three games on Sunday afternoons. At least 13 days prior to the scheduled games, NBC, in conjunction with the NHL, selects one of those games as the "Game of the Week" to be broadcast during the NBC window. The other games remain available to the teams' regional carrier, but are not televised during NBC's broadcast window. NBC will air almost all, if not all, of its Sunday afternoon games at a consistent 12:30 p.m. ET start time. NBC will offer extensive coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final, up to 15 post-season games in all.
NBC's NHL coverage has received critical acclaim, earning praise for innovations such as "Inside the Glass," a reporter position between the teams' benches first introduced by NBC hockey producer Sam Flood. ESPN.com said of NBC's hockey coverage, "the NHL has never looked or sounded better in its free, on-the-air history."
The Hockey News called "Inside the Glass," "the biggest innovation to hit televised hockey in recent years" and the Toronto Star said it "is proving to be one of the best broadcasting innovations since the advent of the second camera" providing viewers "with the kind of insights that only someone in that position could get."
"NBC has been a great partner and its innovations to the broadcasts have helped bring fans inside the game like never before."
-- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
"Hockey has found a network that will let the sport be the sport," said the San Jose Mercury News. The New York Daily News said, "Mike Milbury
has brought reality -- and a sharp edge -- to the Peacock's NHL studio. He also has displayed something many analysts -- in all sports -- lack: guts."
"Pierre McGuire's verbal sparring with Milbury has been nothing short of classic theater," said the Philadelphia Inquirer.
For more McGuire, Milbury and the NHL's best teams, see you Sundays at 12:30 ET.