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NHL on USA is the de facto title of a television show that broadcasts National Hockey League games on USA Network. The network last broadcast regular-season games in 1985, but as part of current parent company NBCUniversal's contract to cover NHL, the network resumed broadcasting a handful of games in the first 2 rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs by serving as an overflow channel for NHL playoff games that cannot air on sister networks NBC or NBCSN through 2021.

Before USA NetworkEdit

Manhattan Cable & HBO Network (1969-1977)Edit

Manhattan Cable (also referred to as the MSG Network) debuted in the spring of 1969 and did all home events from the Madison Square Garden: New York Knicks basketball, New York Rangers hockey, college basketball, horse shows, Golden Gloves boxing, tennis, the Westminster Dog Show, ice capades, professional wrestling, etc. The first reference to the channel as “MSG Network” was sometime around 1971–72 although the name did not become official until 1977.

The first televised events were NHL and NBA playoffs in the spring of 1969; in those playoffs Marty Glickman did play-by-play for Knicks broadcasts while Win Elliot did play-by-play for Rangers.

Meanwhile, HBO began simulcasting some MSG games in 1972 beginning with New York Rangers vs Vancouver Canucks game on November 8, 1972 (the first ever program televised on HBO, to a few subscribers in Wilkes-Barre, PA). The 1974–1975 season marked the only year in which HBO used MSG announcers for their feed.

Because HBO is a premium cable service, it created a burden on announcers to fill in dead airtime on HBO while commercials aired on MSG Network. After the 1976-1977 season, HBO didn't broadcast Knicks or Rangers games.

UA Columbia (1977-1980)Edit

When the MSG/HBO channel ended in 1977, the Madison Square Garden proceeded to seek a new partner to launch a national network to show off its events. For several years, beginning with the 1977–78 season, all MSG home events (such as those involving the Knicks, Rangers, etc.) were then televised on a fledgling network that would eventually become known as the USA Network. This channel (which debuted on September 22, 1977) was basically a continuation of the existing MSG Network. The key difference however, was that it was now nationally syndicated via satellite rather than terrestrially. It was also the first cable channel to be supported by advertising revenues. By this time, the channel was officially called the MSG Network.

In 1979–80, the NHL replaced their syndicated coverage package "The NHL Network" with a package on USA. At the time, the USA Network was called UA-Columbia. As the immediate forerunner for the USA Network, UA-Columbia, served as the cable syndicated arm of not only MSG Network in New York, but also the PRISM channel in Philadelphia and whatever pay/cable outlets were around in 1979.

USA Network is FormedEdit

On April 9, 1980, the MSG Network changed its name to the USA Network which occurred when the ownership structure was reorganized under a joint operating agreement by the UA-Columbia Cable vision cable system (now known as Cablevision Systems Corporation) and MCA (which was the then parent of Universal Studios, now owned by NBC Universal). Things took a step further a year later when, Time Inc. (which eventually merged with Warner Communications to form Time Warner) and Paramount Pictures Corp. (then a division of Gulf+Western, now owned by Viacom) took minority ownership stakes in USA. G+W also owned the New York Rangers and the MSG regional sports television network (both later owned by Cable vision, but spun off in 2010).

Coverage Overview (1979-1985)Edit

As previously mentioned USA's (or UA-Columbia as it was known at the time), NHL coverage begin in the 1979–80 season as a Monday night series with Dan Kelly doing play-by-play alongside a variety of commentators including Pete Stemkowski, Lou Nanne, and Brian McFarlane. The intermission host was Scott Wahle.

1980-81 SeasonEdit

For the 1980–81 season, some of the Sunday night games were added. Once again, Dan Kelly did play-by-play alongside analyst Mike Eruzione. Dick Carlson and Jiggs McDonald also did play-by-play work on occasion. In addition, Don Cherry was a commentator for at least 1 game. Meanwhile, Jim West was the host for most games.

With USA's coverage of the 1981 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it marked the first time that there was "blanket" American television coverage of the NHL playoffs. In other words (more often than not that) whenever a game was played it was televised on a national outlet (whether it was broadcast or cable). However, USA Network didn't televise Game 1 of the playoff series between Philadelphia Flyers and Calgary Flames (April 16th) because of they were instead, broadcasting a baseball game between Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies. Meanwhile, they also skipped Games 2–6 (on April 17, 22, and 24) of the Philadelphia–Calgary series because of their coverage of the NBA playoffs. The network also didn't televise Games 2 and 5 of the playoff series between Calgary Flames and Minnesota North Stars (April 30th and May 7th respectively) because of baseball games involving Minnesota Twins vs. Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Phillies respectively.

1981-82 SeasonEdit

In the 1981–82 season, Al Trautwig took over as studio host. Dan Kelly did play-by-play with either Gary Green or Rod Gilbert on color commentary. For the playoffs, Dick Carlson and Al Albert were added as play-by-play voices of some games. Meanwhile, Jim Van Horne hosted the Stanley Cup Finals games played in Vancouver.

In April of 1982, USA Network outbid the ESPN network for the NHL's American national television cable package with $8 million (at least $2 million more than what ESPN was offering).

1982-83 and 1983-84 SeasonsEdit

Things pretty much the remained the same for USA during the 1982–83 season. Dan Kelly and Gary Green called most games while Al Albert did play-by-play on several playoff games. USA Network didn't cover any playoff game on April 7, 1983 because they were broadcasting second round highlights of The Masters. This was followed by a West Coast NBA telecast.

In the 1983–84 season, USA covered over 40 games including the playoffs. While Gary Green did all games, Dan Kelly and Al Albert did 20 games each. Meanwhile, Jiggs McDonald helped broadcast one game.

Because USA was airing Masters highlights, Game 1 of the 1984 playoff series between Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues (April 12th) and Game 2 of the playoff series between New York Islanders and Washington Capitals (April 13th) were aired on tape delay at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

1984-1985Edit

For USA's final full season of NHL coverage in 1984–85, Dan Kelly and Gary Green once again, did most games, while Al Albert and Green called the rest. In all, USA covered about 55 games, including 33 in the regular season Also, Hartford Whalers goaltender Mike Liut was added as an studio analyst for the Stanley Cup Finals.

Meanwhile, for increased publicity opportunities, the Stroh Brewing Company turned to such sports as hockey—which had been overlooked by Anheuser and Miller—and sponsored broadcasts of NHL games on the USA cable network.

Seldom during the early rounds of the playoffs did USA carry an away game of 1 of 3 New York-area teams (New York Rangers, New York Islanders, or New Jersey Devils) since WOR-TV New York at the time available on most of the nation's cable television systems, often carried that away game of the New York-area team both locally in New York and on its "super station" feed.

One exception was a playoff game between two of the New York-area clubs since WOR was usually barred from carrying it since the home team's cable-television contract superseded the visiting club's over-the-air television deal.

Between 1985 and 2015Edit

USA Network lost the rights to the NHL to ESPN in 1985 and largely abandoned sports after the early 1990s as the channel shifted almost exclusively to scripted entertainment. Beginning in 2006, USA began carrying some coverage of top level hockey by cooperating with NBC's coverage of ice hockey at the Winter Olympics in 2006, 2010, and 2014; these games were mostly daytime contests that would not preempt the network's increasingly popular prime time programs.

Selected early-round playoff games, 2015-currentEdit

As part of a 2011 contract renewal, Comcast's properties earned exclusive national rights for all Stanley Cup playoffs through 2021. Because NBC and NBCSN could not carry all of the games on those two outlets alone, other Comcast properties would need to be used; USA was initially not used due to the risk of preempting its popular prime time lineup and the company instead used CNBC and NHL Network as the overflow channels for the first four years of the contract. In 2015, for the first time since 1985, Comcast announced that USA would carry some games in the first 2 rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, mainly on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

List of commentatorsEdit

Play-by-play Edit

Color commentary Edit

Studio hostsEdit

  • Al Trautwig
  • Jim Van Horne
  • Al Albert

Studio analystsEdit

Playoff Commentating CrewsEdit

Year Round Teams Games Play-by-play Color commentators
1980 First round Buffalo-Vancouver Game 3

(CBC's feed)

Jim Robson Howie Meeker
1981 First round Los Angeles-NY Rangers Game 2 Dick Carlson
Quarterfinals St. Louis-NY Rangers Game 3 Dick Carlson Mike Eruzione
Philadelphia-Calgary Game 7 Dan Kelly Mike Eruzione
Semifinals NY Islanders-NY Rangers Games 1, 3 Dan Kelly Mike Eruzione
Calgary-Minnesota Games 3–4, 6 Dan Kelly Mike Eruzione
1982 Divisional semifinals NY Islanders-Pittsburgh Games 3, 5 Dick Carlson (Game 3)

Dan Kelly (Game 5)

Gary Green
Minnesota-Chicago Game 1 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Divisional finals NY Islanders-NY Rangers Games 2, 6 Dick Carlson Mike Eruzione
Boston-Quebec Games 5, 7 Dick Carlson (Game 5)

Dan Kelly (Game 7)

Gary Green
Boston-Chicago Game 4 Dick Carlson Mike Eruzione
Vancouver-Los Angeles Game 3 Dick Carlson Mike Eruzione
Conference finals NY Islanders-Quebec Games 2, 4 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Chicago-Vancouver Games 1, 5 Dan Kelly Gary Green
1983 Divisional semifinals Philadelphia-NY Rangers Game 3 Dan Kelly Gary Green
NY Islanders-Washington Games 1, 4 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Boston-Quebec Game 1 Al Albert Gary Green
Divisional finals NY Islanders-NY Rangers Games 2, 4, 6 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Boston-Buffalo Games 5, 7 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Chicago-Minnesota Game 3 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Edmonton-Calgary Game 1 (taped delayed) Dan Kelly Gary Green
Conference finals NY Islanders-Boston Games 1–3, 5–6 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Edmonton-Chicago Games 1, 3–4 Dan Kelly Gary Green
1984 Conference semifinals Buffalo-Quebec Game 2 Al Albert Gary Green
Conference semifinals NY Islanders-NY Rangers Games 1, 4–5 Al Albert (Games 1, 4)
Dan Kelly (Game 5)
Gary Green
Washington-Philadelphia Game 3 Al Albert Gary Green
Divisional finals Quebec-Montreal Games 4, 6 Al Albert Gary Green
NY Islanders-Washington Games 2 (taped delay), 3, 5 Al Albert Gary Green
Minnesota-St. Louis Games 1 (taped delay), 7 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Conference finals Montreal-NY Islanders Games 2–6 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Edmonton-Minnesota Game 1 Dan Kelly Gary Green
1985 Divisional semifinals Washington-NY Islanders Games 3–5 Al Albert (Games 3–4)

Dan Kelly (Game 5)

Gary Green
St. Louis-Minnesota Game 1 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Divisional finals Philadelphia-NY Rangers Game 3 Al Albert Gary Green
Montreal-Quebec Games 2, 5–7 Al Albert (Games 2, 6)

Dan Kelly (Games 5, 7)

Gary Green
Chicago-Minnesota Games 1, 4–5 Dan Kelly (Game 1)

Al Albert (Games 4–5)

Gary Green
Edmonton-Winnipeg Game 2 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Conference finals Quebec-Philadelphia Games 1–2, 5 Al Albert Gary Green
Edmonton-Chicago Games 1, 3–4, 6 Al Albert Gary Green

External links Edit

  • Official website
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