|NEW YORK – December 27, 2011 – January 2 is an important day for the NBC Sports Group as it broadcasts the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at 1 p.m. ET on NBC and launches the NBC Sports Network, currently VERSUS, immediately following the game at 4 p.m. ET with a special NHL Live post-game show hosted by Bob Costas from Philadelphia.
NHL WINTER CLASSIC: This year’s game features an intense rivalry between the top two teams in the Atlantic Division as the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers battle outdoors at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, home of the Phillies. This is the fifth iteration of the NHL Winter Classic, an event created by both NBC Sports and the NHL, and that has already been described as “a holiday tradition” by Newsday.
NBC’s coverage of the Winter Classic will be hosted by Costas, a 22-time Emmy Award-winner. He will be joined by NBC Sports Group studio analysts Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick for coverage on NBC and post-game coverage on NBC Sports Network. NBC’s game coverage will be led by Emmy Award-winner Mike “Doc” Emrick (play-by-play) Eddie Olczyk (analyst), and Pierre McGuire (inside-the-glass reporter).
Last year’s Winter Classic was the most-watched NHL regular-season game in 36 years. Played between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and broadcast on New Year’s Day in primetime due to a weather delay, the game was watched by 4.5 million viewers.
FROM VERSUS TO NBC SPORTS NETWORK: As part of a new strategy to bring all four tiers of NBC Sports Group’s assets (broadcast network, two national cable networks, 11 regional sports networks and digital) into a consistent framework of branding, VERSUS will be re-named the NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2 at 4 p.m. ET. The NBC Sports Network will serve as a 24/7 cable platform for NBC Sports’ rich heritage of unmatched storytelling, best-in-class production and broad promotional power. Following are highlights of Dec. 31-Jan. 2 programming:
- Prior to being re-branded, VERSUS will kick-off the weekend with the 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game featuring former Philadelphia Flyers against former New York Rangers in a New Year’s Eve showdown on Dec. 31 at 1 p.m. ET. The Alumni Game will showcase six members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, recent retirees and Stanley Cup winners, including Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Eric Lindros and NBC Sports’ Jeremy Roenick. NBC Sports Network guest analyst and former Rangers coach Mike Keenan, who won the Stanley Cup in 1994 while coaching the team, will lead the Rangers alumni team.
- Continuing the transition to the NBC Sports Network, VERSUS will premiere the hour-long special, NBC Sports: A Storied History, on Dec. 31 at 6 p.m. ET following the NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game, chronicling the last seven decades of Emmy Award-winning event coverage on NBC Sports.
- On Jan. 1, VERSUS will air the 2008 and 2009 NHL Winter Classics at 7 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. ET, respectively.
- Jan. 2 will begin on VERSUS and end on the NBC Sports Network. VERSUS will air the 2010 and 2011 Winter Classic games back-to-back at 7:30 a.m. ET and 10 a.m. ET, respectively. At 3 p.m. ET, it will air an encore presentation of NBC Sports: A Storied History. At 4 p.m. ET, the switch will be flipped and the NBC Sports Network officially launches with a special NHL Live Winter Classic Post-Game show hosted by Costas and featuring all the highlights from the outdoor game.
- The new NBC Sports Network will continue with hockey-themed programming at 4:30 p.m. ET with the premiere of Cold War on Ice: Summit Series ’72 produced by Ross Greenburg. The documentary focuses on the hockey series played in 1972 between a team of Canadian NHL all-stars and the Soviet Union national team during the height of the Cold War.
- Cold War on Ice will be followed by a special 90-minute edition of NBC SportsTalk at 6 p.m. ET, NHL Live at 7:30 p.m. ET and the Vancouver Canucks hosting the San Jose Sharks at 8 p.m. ET. NHL Live post-game and NHL Overtime will end the NBC Sports Network’s first day.
Highlights of the NBC Sports Group’s Jan. 2 Schedule (all times ET, subject to change):
TIME NETWORK PROGRAM
7:30 a.m. VERSUS Replay of 2010 NHL Winter Classic
10 a.m. VERSUS Replay of 2011 NHL Winter Classic
1 p.m. NBC 2012 NHL Winter Classic
3 p.m. VERSUS NBC Sports: A Storied History
4 p.m. NBC Sports Network NHL Live Post-Game (from Philadelphia)
4:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network Cold War on Ice: 1972 Summit Series
6 p.m. NBC Sports Network NBC SportsTalk
7:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network NHL Live Pre-Game
8 p.m. NBC Sports Network NHL: San Jose at Vancouver
10:30 p.m. NBC Sports Network NHL Live Post-Game
11 p.m. NBC Sports Network Replay of NBC SportsTalk
12:30 a.m. NBC Sports Network NHL Overtime
PRESS EVENT: Below are highlights of a NBC Sports Group and NHL press event held on Dec. 21 in 30 Rock’s famed Studio 8H with the following participants:
- Bob Costas – NBC Sports Winter Classic host
- Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick – NBC Sports NHL lead play-by-play commentator
- Sam Flood – Executive Producer, NBC Sports & NBC Sports Network
- Jon Miller – President, Programming, NBC Sports & NBC Sports Network
- John Collins – NHL Chief Operating Officer
- Peter Luukko – Comcast-Spectacor, President & COO
- Adam Graves – Former New York Ranger and the team’s current Special Assistant for Prospect Development and Community Relations
Click here for an NBCU Direct video of Emrick, Flood and Miller speaking at the event: http://www.nbcudirect.com/nhlwinterclassic122711/
COSTAS ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE WINTER CLASSIC: “All of us at NBC, everybody in the stands and most importantly all the players understood, even as it began, that this was something not just out of the ordinary. This was something that was going to be tremendously successful.”
EMRICK ON THE CHALLENGES THAT COME WITH CALLING AN OUTDOOR GAME: “I try to look at it as a player, and how they play regardless what happens. I also take the wisdom of our producer before we start. Sam always says, remember, a lot of people that don’t normally watch hockey are going to watch this. I think those two things together are the thing that I focus on, and you try to not get in the way and just let the celebration begin with the opening face-off and go from there.”
FLOOD ON PRODUCTION: “We treat it as an event. This is not a hockey game, it’s an event. We want to make it bigger because of the field it’s being played on. It’s not in a confined building; it’s outdoors. So we have an airplane. I was so proud in Buffalo when we played the first replay of a goal from an airplane. We knew we were the first people ever do that because no one had ever covered a game with an airplane before, so we thought that was a neat trick. We’re also using a CableCam for the second time. We’ve figured out cool ways to use that CableCam that we see in every NFL game, but you can’t do it in a hockey game, but it works here. We’ve figured out how to make it special and unique.”
“We have all the bells and whistles, 30 cameras for a hockey game we have more cameras than players on each team which is a nice treat to have for a production team to go have some fun with it. The goal is to make people fall in love with a hockey game the way it first began, which is outdoors, under the open sky, which is how I played as a kid in the Boston area.”
LUUKKO ON WHAT HOSTING THE EVENT MEANTS TO PHILADELPHIA: “When you can be showcased in an event like this. I think a lot of the reason that people look at us as an original six type team is we’ve only had one face. We’ve been consistent in our play.”
“This game propels your organization. In our case, selling out the Alumni Game, selling out, obviously, the Winter Classic.”
GRAVES ON RANGERS-FLYERS MATCH-UP: “The best part for me with this year’s game is that both teams are firing on all cylinders and they’re both at the top of the conference. Whenever you get these teams together, they’re both fast teams, they’re good on specialty teams, and they’re both very, very intense.”
MILLER ON THE LAUNCH OF NBC SPORTS NETWORK: “Clearly there’s been a lot of work going on with the rebranding and the re-launch. The idea to flip it on Jan. 2 gave us the window of using a high-profile event that is big to NBC and to the NHL. What better place to re-launch and tell the world about what your new brand is going to be than around this event.”
MILLER ON WHAT FANS CAN EXPECT ON NBC SPORTS NETWORK: “We have three tranches of programming that we’re looking to put on NBC Sports Network starting with live events, live games, and big-league relationships. The second tranche is original news, talk and conversation. The third tranche is the original programming we’ve developed with the NHL around shows like NHL 36 with the NFL, with NFL Turning Point, the Bob Costas Show that will be breaking this year, Costas Tonight, as well as the Costas Town Halls. We’ll embrace the brands that are already associated with NBC Sports like the Triple Crown. We’ve added the MLS to our portfolio. We have a strong, robust relationship with the Tour de France, and then we will obviously have an extensive Olympic presence come June, July and August with the Olympic trials, then actually live Olympic programming throughout the game.”