NBC plans to prove that there are more than a handful of teams in the NHL with its 2018-19 broadcast schedule released Monday.
The 109-game regular-season schedule includes the replacement of the “Wednesday Night Rivalry” games with 17 “Wednesday Night Hockey” doubleheaders, most beginning at 7 p.m. ET, that will showcase teams from across the league.
“It’s a new world,” Sam Flood, president and executive producer of NBC and NBC Sports, told USA Today in advance of the release. “We need to embrace and celebrate those teams more than we ever have before. It doesn’t take away from those great Pittsburgh-Philadelphia games and Bruins-Canadiens games. We will keep doing those, but we have to lean into some different matchups.”
Just how different will NBC and NBC Sports Network’s schedule look? The Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning will appear before Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins. The Vegas Golden Knights, expansion darlings and surprise Stanley Cup finalists in the 2017-18 season, will appear twice in the regular season’s first week.
NBC also will announce that the All-Star Game, scheduled for Jan. 27 in San Jose, will be carried in prime time on a broadcast network for the first time since 1997.
As part of the revamp, NBC plans on-site studio shows, featuring its top talent, at many of the doubleheader sites to add more flavor to the broadcasts.
“Sometimes I think, through no fault of anyone, we were looking at the ratings through a core group of teams,” Flood said. “’Rivalry Night’ was successful, but some of (the rivalries) don’t have the juice they once did when we started this 12 or 13 years ago.”
To be clear, NBC isn’t abandoning the NHL’s traditionally strong markets: The Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals will appear eight times on “Wednesday Night Hockey.” The Penguins will be on seven times.
For NBC Sports Group’s entire NHL schedule, click here.