Ever since the 2008-2009 regular season schedule was unveiled on July 17th, fans have waited to see how the national television schedule would take shape. Now we have a clear view of what it looks like.
Earlier today, the National Hockey League made the announcement on their official web site with a breakdown of schedules for each of the network carriers. I actually put together the following information for those I post with at one of the online hockey communities I'm a part of.
Over 300 games will be televised nationally as all 30 teams will make at least one appearance during the 2008-2009 season on either NBC, CBC, Le Réseau des Sports (RDS), Versus or The Sports Network (TSN).
The NHL Network plans to show 75 games in the United States and 40 across Canada. No full broadcast schedule has been finalized for both the NHL Network and NBC, but will be announced soon.
Here is the breakdown of what is in store for each of the national television broadcasters...
After signing a new six-year broadcasting contract with the NHL on June 3, 2008, TSN will show 70 games during the 2008-2009 regular season, all in high definition. They provide a complete list of the NHL on TSN games that are on tap and even have a brief video to preview it. With the launch of TSN 2 on August 29, 2008, games may also been seen there on what was called the TSN "alternate feed". This would especially be the case during days of doubleheader coverage when the first game may not end before the second game is scheduled to begin. For the first time in 10 years, TSN will also show preseason games this fall with each of the six Canadian NHL teams each making one appearance.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has 69 games planned for their regular season Hockey Night in Canada coverage, including 25 of them being all-Canadian matchups. The network that has traditionally shown NHL games on Saturday nights for over 50 years will have a new theme song after CBC's broadcast rights to its very famous predecessor had expired. CTVglobemedia, Inc. acquired the rights to "The Hockey Theme" on June 9, 2008. As a result, TSN and RDS will now feature the song in their NHL broadcasts starting this fall. CTVglobemedia owns Canadian Television (CTV) and a share of TSN and RDS. "The Hockey Theme" will also be featured during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Speaking of RDS, the French-language broadcast network will show all 82 Montréal Canadiens games across all of Canada. They will also showcase for Francophone viewers the 57th NHL All-Star Game in Montréal on January 25, 2009 as part of the Canadiens' centennial season anniversary celebration. CBC and Versus will show the game for Anglophone viewers.
Versus will broadcast 56 games in their fourth season of national cable television coverage in the United States, including October 5, 2008 when the second day of two NHL Premiere games in Europe are played. The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning square off in Prague, Czech Republic while the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins play in Stockholm, Sweden. In addition to their full list of games they plan to air, Tom Layberger highlighted what he felt was his top 13 games to watch.
American viewers will have NBC once again provide over-the-air national television contests starting on New Year's Day with no fewer than 10 games in 2009. The second edition of the Winter Classic kicks off their fourth season of coverage with an Original Six matchup between the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks from Wrigley Field in Chicago. CBC and RDS will show the game for Canadian viewers. The Rangers and Penguins face off in Pittsburgh during NBC's second broadcast of the season scheduled for January 18, 2009. The remaining 8 games in the following 10 Sundays are "flex games" in which the league and NBC will finalize which games they'll show on those days.
When I was surfing the web (and that includes the media blogosphere) to dig deep for some details on the national television schedule, I found one that would be useful for my fellow fans. That would be Paul Kukla on his Kukla's Korner blog providing a more in-depth breakdown of schedule team by team.
Regardless, you'll have plenty of hockey to watch during the 2008-2009 season. Go get NHL Center Ice if you really want to be a couch potato and make sure you have the television schedule in front of you so you can keep up.