NEW YORK -- For the first time in the history of the NHL, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be broadcast in their entirety nationally.
That was the overarching message Monday from League Commissioner Gary Bettman and NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus in a roundtable discussion with gathered media at the NHL offices that featured NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, NHL CEO John Collins and NBC Sports Group's Sam Flood, Seth Winter, John Miller and Jon Miller.
In the past, it was impossible to show four, or sometimes five, first-round games if they were taking place on the same night, but that's no longer the case.
All the postseason action will air on either NBC, NBCSN, CNBC or the NHL Network.
"In terms of bringing our games, the quality of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which we think is unrivaled in sports, particularly when you look at the craziness of the first round and the excitement of the first round, they're going to do it all," Bettman said. "This has been the partnership we had hoped for, envisioned, and we couldn't be more thrilled about how they work with us. They have great people who spend their waking hours worrying about us and our game, and we couldn't be more grateful to them.
"If you go back in our history, having this level of exposure, giving hockey fans everywhere in the United States an opportunity to see what's going on, especially and including outside of their markets, is unprecedented for us."
The breakdown of coverage through the opening round's first five games of each series is as follows:
* 6 games on NBC
* 20 games on NBCSN
* 10 games on CNBC
* 5 games on the NHLN
How the remaining games will be dispersed throughout the networks when series go beyond five games hasn't been determined, but they will air nationally. Lazarus said when the NHL and NBC entered into their 10-year partnership that began last year, making sure every postseason game aired nationally was the top priority.
"The amount of exposure we've been able to bring with all teams to the national stage, that's an important part of our relationship," Lazarus said. "We are not just certain teams' broadcast partner -- we are all teams' broadcast partner, whether they are near or far, here or in Canada."
The playoffs get started Wednesday night with a doubleheader on NBCSN with the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins meeting at 7:30 p.m. ET followed by the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks at 10:30 p.m. At 8 p.m., the Detroit Red Wings will face the Nashville Predators on CNBC.
To accommodate the busier nights, NBC Sports Group has built a second set at its Stamford, Conn., studio to give fans a better intermission and postgame report. NHL Live will start the coverage at 6:30 p.m. ET on all game nights.
It's part of a plan to not only serve viewers during the first round, but get them prepared for the second round, too, which will be broadcast exclusively over NBC and NHLN in the United States.
"The wonderful thing about this playoff system is there's so much rivalry, and some of that rivalry is, 'Who are we going to play next?' " Lazarus said. "Our ability to continue to promote that next round to all of the viewers of any given series, we think will have a cumulative effect of heightening the excitement as we move through the playoffs."
Lazarus was happy with the regular-season ratings garnered by NHL broadcasts, and expects to see the numbers improve during the postseason.
"When April Nielsen numbers come out, we'll have 3 million more homes to show from where we were a year ago," Lazarus said. "Now we're getting to the really exciting part. We're getting to the playoffs, where we will show every game on all the platforms. We think that will help with that bring a level of excitement to the series. There will be no gaps for fans trying to guess or pick up the series mid-stream.
"We think that the number of people who will have seen NHL hockey this year will be the most ever throughout a season. We're very comfortable and confident once we get through the Stanley Cup Final, we will have been able to shake hands after one year after our new relationship and say, 'Boy that was great, and the best is yet to come.'"
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Author: Dave Lozo | NHL.com Staff Writer