NBC Sports Releases '14-15 NHL Schedule, Puts Added Emphasis On West Coast Teams
NBC Sports Group yesterday unveiled its TV plans for the '14-15 NHL season, with 14 regular-season games to air on the broadcast network and 89 to be carried on NBCSN. The season begins with an Oct. 8 opening-night doubleheader on NBCSN, starting with "Wednesday Night Rivalry" coverage of Flyers-Bruins and continuing with Sharks-Kings. The Bruins, Flyers, Capitals, Kings and Sharks each will make 12 appearances across NBC and NBCSN, followed by seven teams with 11 each. NBCSN will offer the majority of games Monday-Wednesday, with a Sunday game added most weeks starting in January (NBC). USA TODAY's Mike Brehm noted the Blackhawks lead appearances with 20, followed by the Penguins (19), Bruins (17), Flyers (16), Red Wings (15) and Rangers (14). The Sabres, who finished last in the NHL in '13-14, make 11 appearances. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs (two each) "are the only Canadian teams on the schedule, and those top" the Coyotes, Blue Jackets and Predators (one each) and the Panthers and Islanders (zero appearances). NBC "begins its broadcast schedule on the day after Thanksgiving" with Rangers-Flyers and resumes on Jan. 1 with the Blackhawks-Capitals Bridgestone Winter Classic in DC. Regular Sunday afternoon broadcasts start Jan. 18 (USATODAY.com, 7/22).
WHAT ABOUT SMALL MARKETS? THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ryan Kennedy notes a "greater emphasis has been placed on West Coast games on this schedule," with 10 matches slated to begin at 10:00pm ET or later. NBC and the NHL will use flex scheduling once again, meaning the "broadcast schedule on Sundays could change, giving the Islanders and Panthers a slim chance at getting back on the slate" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 7/22). SI.com's Allan Muir wrote fans understand that the Panthers, Islanders, Coyotes, Blue Jackets and Predators "aren't huge national draws, but to push them off to the side is an insult to their supporters and denies hockey fans the chance to see such young stars" as Predators D Seth Jones, Blue Jackets C Ryan Johansen, Islanders C John Tavares and Panthers D Aaron Ekblad, the top pick in the '14 draft (SI.com, 7/22).