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NHL on SportsChannel America was the presentation of NHL broadcasts on the now defunct SportsChannel America cable television network.

Terms of the DealEdit

Taking over for ESPN, SportsChannel's contract paid $51,000,000 ($17,000,000 per year) over 3 years, more than double what ESPN had paid ($24,000,000) for the previous 3 years SportsChannel America managed to get a fourth NHL season for just $5,000,000.

SportsChannel's AvailabilityEdit

Unfortunately, SportsChannel America was only available in a few major markets and reached only a 1/3 of the households that ESPN did at the time. SportsChannel America was seen in fewer than 10 million households. In comparison, by the 1991–92 season, ESPN was available in 60.5 million homes whereas SportsChannel America was available in only 25 million.

As a matter of fact, in the first year of the deal (1988–1989), SportsChannel America was available in only 7 million homes when compared to ESPN's reach of 50 million. When the SportsChannel deal ended in 1992, the league returned to ESPN for another contract that would pay $80 million over 5 years.

SportsChannel America took advantage of using their regional sports networks' feed of a game, graphics and all, instead of producing a show from the ground up, most of the time. Distribution of SportsChannel America across the country was limited to cities that had a SportsChannel regional sports network or affiliate. Very few cable systems in non-NHL territories picked it up as a stand alone service. Regional affiliates of the Prime Network would sometimes pick up SportsChannel broadcasts, but this was often only during the playoffs. SportsChannel America also did not broadcast 24 hours a day at first, usually on by 6:00 p.m. and off by 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., then a sport sticker for the next 18 hours.

Philadelphia Edit

Since SportsChannel Philadelphia did not air until January of 1990, PRISM (owned by Rainbow Media (the owners of SportsChannel at the time) picked up the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals. Other than that, there was no NHL television coverage in Philadelphia except for the Flyers for the first half of the original deal.

LawsuitEdit

As previously mentioned, the NHL would return to ESPN following the 1991-92 season. Shortly after the ESPN deal was signed, SportsChannel America would contend that its contract with the NHL gave them the right to match third-party offers for television rights for the 1992–93 season. SportsChannel America accused the NHL of violating a nonbinding clause. SportsChannel America argued that it had been deprived of its contractual right of first refusal for the 1992–93 season. Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court justice Shirley Fingerwood would deny SportsChannel America's request for an injunction against the NHL. Upholding that opinion, the appellate court found the agreement on which SportsChannel based its argument to be "too imprecise and ambiguous" and ruled that SportsChannel failed to show irreparable harm.

In the aftermath of losing the NHL, SportsChannel America was left with little more than outdoors shows and Canadian Football League games. For SportsChannel, the deal was a disaster overall. While the cable channel three years later, was available in 20 million homes (as previously mentioned), the broadcaster lost as much as $10 million on the agreement, and soon faded into obscurity.[14] Some local SportsChannel stations – which carried NHL games in their local markets – were not affected.

Coverage OverviewEdit

Regular Season CoverageEdit

SportsChannel America would televise about 80–100 games a season (whereas ESPN aired about 33 in the 1987–88 season). Whereas the previous deal with ESPN called for only 1 nationally televised game a week, SportsChannel America televised hockey 2 nights a week in NHL cities and 3 nights a week elsewhere.

It was very rare to have a regular-season game on SportsChannel America that wasn't a regional SportsChannel production from Chicago Blackhawks, Hartford Whalers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, or Philadelphia Flyers. San Jose Sharks were added in 1991-92. As previously suggested, SportsChannel America for the most part, used the local telecasts. The dedicated SportsChannel America station was little more than an overflow channel in New York area for SportsChannel New York.

Playoff broadcast anomalies Edit

Taped delayed playoff broadcasts Edit

Main article: Broadcast delay

Year Round Teams Games Play-by-play Color commentators
1989 Divisional semifinals Montreal-Hartford Games 1–4 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
Boston-Buffalo Game 5 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
Divisional finals Pittsburgh-Philadelphia Games 1–5 Mike Emrick Bill Clement
1990 Divisional semifinals Boston-Hartford Games 1, 3, 5 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
NY Rangers-NY Islanders Games 2, 4 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall
Divisional finals Boston-Montreal Games 1–2 Mike Emrick Bill Clement
NY Rangers-Washington Games 3–5 Rick Peckham Dave Maloney
1991 Divisional semifinals Boston-Hartford Games 1–6 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
Divisional finals Pittsburgh-Washington Games 1–5 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
1992 Divisional semifinals Montreal-Hartford Games 1–7 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
Divisional finals Montreal-Boston Games 2–4 (CBC's feed) Bob Cole John Garrett and Dick Irvin, Jr.

Playoff broadcasts that were joined in progress Edit

Year Round Teams Games Play-by-play Color commentators Ice level reporters
1990 Divisional semifinals Calgary-Los Angeles Games 5–6 Mike Emrick Bill Clement
Divisional finals Edmonton-Los Angeles Games 1–4 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall
1991 Divisional semifinals Los Angeles-Vancouver Games 1–2, 5–6 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall
Calgary-Edmonton Game 7 (CBC's feed) Chris Cuthbert Jim Peplinski
Divisional finals Los Angeles-Edmonton Games 1–6 Pat Foley Dale Tallon
1992 Divisional semifinals Los Angeles-Edmonton Games 3–4, 6 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall
Divisional finals NY Rangers-Pittsburgh Game 1 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall
Montreal-Boston Game 1 (CBC's feed) Bob Cole John Garrett and Dick Irvin, Jr.
Vancouver-Edmonton Games 3–4 (CBC's feed) Chris Cuthbert Harry Neale Steve Armitage

All-Star Game Coverage Edit

SportsChannel America was the exclusive American broadcaster of the 1989 NHL All-Star Game. The following year, they covered the first ever NHL Skills Competition and Heroes of Hockey game. SportsChannel America would continue their coverage of these particular events through 1992. In 1991, SportsChannel America replayed the third period of the NHL All-Star Game on the same day that it was played. That was because NBC broke away from the live telecast during the third period in favor of Gulf War coverage.

ProductionEdit

A fair amount of times in their first season, they would use their own production services for games, but very rarely would this sort of practice occur in the last 3 seasons. Since programming was so sparse otherwise on SportsChannel America, usually the games were replayed immediately following the live telecast.

For playoff coverage, if any of the aforementioned teams made the playoffs, SportsChannel America would focus on those teams, using their facilities. Sometimes, they would use the CBC feed for other series (Boston Bruins-Montreal Canadiens series, for example). For the Stanley Cup Finals, SportsChannel America use their own facilities. They also use their own facilities for any Conference Final series that did not involve one of SportsChannel's regional teams.John Shannon was the senior producer of The NHL on SportsChannel America.

Conference Finals broadcasters Edit

Eastern Conference Edit

Year Teams Play-by-play Color commentators
1989 Montreal-Philadelphia Mike Emrick Bill Clement
1990 Boston-Washington Jiggs McDonald Bill Clement
1991 Boston-Pittsburgh Jiggs McDonald John Davidson
1992 Pittsburgh-Boston Jiggs McDonald Bill Clement

Western Conference Edit

Year Teams Play-by-play Color commentators
1989 Calgary-Chicago Jiggs McDonald Herb Brooks
1990 Edmonton-Chicago Pat Foley Dale Tallon
1991 Edmonton-Minnesota Mike Emrick Bill Clement
1992 Chicago-Edmonton Pat Foley Dale Tallon

Announcers Edit

For the Stanley Cup Finals, Jiggs McDonald served as play-by-play, Bill Clement served as the color commentator. Also during the Stanley Cup Finals, Mike Emrick served as the studio host, and John Davidson served as rinkside and studio analyst (Herb Brooks filled into that role in 1989).

Play-by-play Edit

Color commentary Edit

Ice level personalities

Studio personalities Edit

Commentating Crews Edit