National networks still have not entirely gotten over 1994, when MSG got to carry Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in North America’s largest market, garnering huge ratings for the Rangers’ clincher over the Canucks.
That Sam Rosen call was the last time a local television announcer got to describe his team’s big moment.
But even now the NHL clings to some of that local feel, with regional sports networks such as MSG still allowed to televise first-round series, except for NBC’s weekend afternoon exclusives.
Hence Games 1 through 5 and Game 7 (if necessary) of the Rangers-Canadiens series that opens on Wednesday will be shown on MSG, with Game 6 on April 22 still undecided because it could be an NBC exclusive.
But wait: Even that bit of local flavor will be somewhat diminished this season. For the first time, coverage of first-round games on NBC’s cable outlets will not be blacked out in teams’ local markets.
So, for example, Rangers fans in the New York area can listen to Rosen and Joe Micheletti on Wednesday night, or they can listen to Gord Miller and Ray Ferraro on NBCSN, if they so desire.
Why the change? To make a long story short, it was a byproduct of NHL agreements to allow games to be live-streamed by outlets such as MSG, through its MSG GO service.
That is why NBC’s coverage of Penguins and Bruins first-round games will be blacked out in local markets. Those teams lack live streaming deals.
“We think it’s a great opportunity for fans to know there is one stop for hockey during the postseason and come to the networks of NBC,” NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said.
“The fans can still watch their local telecast, if they want. If they’re a hardcore Capitals fan, stay on the local telecast. If you’re out of town or living in Washington, you get to watch the national broadcast. It’s the perfect world. It satisfies the local fan but gives the national brand an opportunity to play into every market. So that will work out great.
“And it’s good that the league was able to work out this new plan, and I think it’s a win for the fans, so it will be a lot less confusing where the games are and when these local blackouts hit, which at times made people a little bit unaware of where to go. Now you know where to go. We like that. Simplicity is a good thing.”
MSG will begin its coverage with a special “Rangers Quest for the Cup,” at 8 p.m. Tuesday, followed by an edition of “MSG Hockey Show” at 8:30 p.m.
The pregame for Game 1 will begin at 6 p.m. Postgame shows during the playoffs will be an hour in length.
While Rosen gets to call Rangers games in the first round, his Islanders counterpart will get to do so as well, but not for the Isles.
MSG’s Brendan Burke, who got generally strong favorable reviews from Islanders fans in his rookie season, will call at least the first four games of the Sharks-Oilers series. Game 1 is Wednesday night on USA Network.