For the first time ever in America, all of the NHL Stanley Cup Final games will be aired live nationally.
NBC, NBC Sports Network, CNBC, and NHL Network will be airing games in the Conference Quarterfinals, with NBC Sports Network being the prime home of the games. Primetime coverage will be available on CNBC and NHL Network, while there will be coverage on NBC in the afternoon during the weekends of April 14th and 21st. The same channel alignment is true for the Conference Semifinals, while NBC provides afternoon coverage during the weekends of April 29th and May 5th. There will be less primetime coverage on CNBC and NHL Network during this round, likely due to there being half as many games.
The Conference Finals will air mainly on the NBC Sports Network, but NBC will air one game on both May 19th and May 20th. As for the Stanley Cup Finals, Games 3 and 4 will air on NBC Sports Network (as they did last year, when the network was still known as Versus), and the other five possible games will air on NBC.
Since we’re in the spring…why not talk about BLACKOUTS!! Mainly coming into play during national baseball broadcasts, blackouts will be an issue in the first round of the playoffs. The major isssues will come for Sharks, Flyers, Blackhawks, and (possibly) Capitals fans, whose Comcast affiliates will be providing extensive coverage of games, including pre and post game shows. In Boston, CSN New England will air pre and post game shows for ALL Bruins games, as opposed to just the first round.
This is something that the NHL absolutely, positively needed to get done in order to provide fans the most comprehensive coverage of the playoffs. In fact, it’s amazing to think this will be the first year that all Stanley Cup games will be televised nationally. It will be a slight inconvenience for fans to hunt around a variety of channels to find the game they want to see, but at least we’ll find it eventually. Having NHL Playoff games on CNBC is a bit like NCAA Tournament games airing on truTV, so at least searching for games on non-traditional channels isn’t a completely foreign experience.
I remember a couple of years ago when I wanted to watch some Coyotes playoff games… and only one of them was aired nationally on Versus. It drove me nuts. Knowing that I, along with all of the other NHL fans out there, can see every playoff game without having to pay for an extensive streaming package is a huge benefit. I’d be much more willing to follow along with the Stanley Cup Finals if I didn’t have to throw down some extra money for something that could be useless to me after four games. Given the solid ratings throughout the season and NBC’s push for more live sports, making every Stanley Cup game available on national television promises to be a successful move for everyone involved.