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The NHL on Versus was a presentation of NHL games broadcast on Versus. Versus became the NHL's cable partner in the United States beginning in the 2005–06 season from previous partner ESPN, providing coverage of regular season games, playoff games, and select games from the Stanley Cup Finals.

Before the beginning of the 2011–12 season, Comcast—the owners of Versus—acquired a majority stake in NBC Universal, the parent company of the NBC and the NHL's current American broadcast television partner. As a result of this merger and the impending relaunch of Versus as NBCSN in 2012, all NHL telecasts on Versus were re-branded under the NHL on NBC name beginning with the 2011–12 season.

HistoryEdit

The NHL's television deal with Versus was made at the conclusion of the 2004–05 NHL lockout that caused the cancellation of an entire season. At the time, Versus offered a 2 year, US$130 million contract (with a network option for a 3rd year) that delivered guaranteed money for Commissioner Gary Bettman (ESPN, which previously held the rights and broadcast games on ESPN National Hockey Night, wanted a revenue-sharing deal similar to NBC's). Versus was expected to use NHL coverage to show it was a legitimate suitor for MLB and NFL packages that were to be negotiated later in 2005, but they did not land agreements with either league. In 2007, the NHL signed an agreement to extend the NHL on Versus to the 2010–2011 season. Versus paid $72.5 million for 2007–2008 and will pay inflationary increases over the next 3 years.

In January 2011, Comcast officially acquired NBC Universal. Then in April of that year, NBC Sports and Versus announced they had reached a 10 year extension to the television contract with the National Hockey League worth nearly 2 billion dollars over the life of the contract. The new contract takes advantage of the NBC-Comcast merger. Comcast/NBC also announced that Versus would become NBCSN, and both the cable channel and NBC would increase its number of games. Under this contract, NBC Sports Network usually airs at least two regular season games per week, while the main NBC broadcast network airs afternoon games on selected weekends. Coverage of the playoffs and the Finals is split between the 2 networks, with some 1st round games also being shown on another cable channel owned by NBC Universal.

As a consequence of its re-branding as NBC Sports Network all NHL coverage on Versus was re-branded as NHL on NBC beginning at the start of the 2011-12 season.

CoverageEdit

The network broadcasts at least 54 games during the regular season (usually two games per week, sometimes three or just one), plus the All-Star Game, Skills Competition and the YoungStars game.

At the end of the year, the network has blanket coverage of the playoffs, culminating in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Versus also shows the NHL Awards Show and first round of the NHL Draft. Versus schedules a few doubleheaders during the regular season (consisting of a game in the Eastern Time Zone or Central Time Zone, and then a Mountain or Pacific Time Zone game). Playoff coverage usually involves doubleheaders throughout the first 2 rounds, except weekends prior to 2007–08 when NBC often televised multiple games during its broadcast windows.

Under the terms of the contract running from 2007–2011, Versus aired 54/more NHL games each season, generally on Monday and Tuesday nights and provided coverage of as many Stanley Cup Playoff games as possible (generally 2 per night in the first 2 rounds. The Conference Finals are usually played on alternating days), and two games of the Stanley Cup Finals (Games 3 and 4 in 2009, 2010 and 2011). On April 19, 2011, the league and NBC/Versus announced a new ten-year agreement.

Beginning with the 2011–12 season, Versus will now air 90 regular season telecasts (expanding its coverage on Wednesdays in the process), air any future Heritage Classic games, all Stanley Cup Playoff games will be aired nationally on a NBC Sports channel while the soon-to-be-renamed NBC Sports Network and later renamed NBCSN has exclusive television rights to Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

On April 19, 2011, the league and NBCUniversal (which had been acquired by Versus parent company Comcast, announced a new 10 year agreement. Beginning with the 2011–12 season, the channel would now air 90 regular season telecasts (expanding its coverage on Wednesdays in the process), air any future Heritage Classic games, all Stanley Cup Playoff games would be aired nationally on a NBCUniversal channel, while Versus would have exclusive television rights to Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

In preparation for the re-launch of Versus as NBCSN (now NBCSN) in January 2012 as part of a major re-launch of the NBC Sports division coinciding with the 2012 NHL Winter Classic, all broadcasts on Versus transitioned to the NHL on NBC branding and presentation beginning in the 2011-12 season.

The "Game of the Week"Edit

Included in the schedule is a "Game of the Week" for selected dates. In this "Exclusive" time period (which was created in 2006–07), no other NHL game may be broadcast involving a team based in the United States and in most cases, no other game is scheduled unless it involves two Canadian teams. Regional carriers are allowed to air games outside Versus' exclusive window.

Like NBC, games aired on The NHL on Versus usually feature teams based in the United States, with the exception of playoffs. As previously mentioned, for the first 2 playoff rounds, Versus will occasionally simulcast TSN/CBC feeds depending on the schedule and match-ups, although it has made a commitment to offering its own production in most cases.

The selection of teams for The NHL on Versus is somewhat more diverse (possibly because there are more game slots to air) than its broadcast partner, NBC. Because of inordinately high ratings in the Buffalo and Pittsburgh markets, Versus has made note to air a significant number of games featuring the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. Traditionally ratings-friendly teams such as the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins along with the Comcast-owned Philadelphia Flyers also get selected regularly, frequently at/near the maximum of 9 appearances/team during the regular season.

Any regular season game selected by Versus airs exclusively on that network which has caused controversy due to the relative lack of availability of Versus compared to other channels like ESPN (a similar situation developed with Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network. Unlike the NHL games on Versus, these games are not exclusive to NFL Network and must be simulcast over-the-air in the primary markets of the participating teams).

Hockey Central and NHL LiveEdit

Versus also provides postgame coverage after every game they broadcast. The postgame show was initially known as "Hockey Central" airing from their Stamford, Connecticut studios. Beginning in the 2011-12 season, the program was re-named "NHL Live" and began incorporating NHL on NBC personalities.

Playoff CoverageEdit

During the playoffs, Versus' first-round and second-round games may be subject to blackout in the participating teams' regional markets (although they have exclusivity for 2 second-round games/series). Versus regains full national coverage for its Conference and Stanley Cup Final telecasts.

Beginning with the 2006 playoffs, Versus simulcast the CBC's coverage of some games, generally first 2 rounds matchups from Western Canada instead of using their own crews and announcers. In the early 1990s, SportsChannel America covered the Stanley Cup playoffs in a similar fashion. Versus continues to use CBC and TSN feeds to augment its own playoff coverage, sometimes even picking up a Canadian broadcast of a game involving two American teams.

In 2007, Canadians accused the NHL of giving the CBC second billing to Versus' coverage of the playoffs.

Beginning in the 2011–2012 season, NBC Sports and NBCSN will have exclusive rights to the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs starting in round 2 (Conference Semifinals), and non-exclusive rights for the 1st round (Conference Quarterfinals), and will air each game nationally.

PersonalitiesEdit

Broadcast teamsEdit

2005–2006Edit

2006–2007Edit

2007–2008Edit

2008–2009Edit

2009-2010Edit

2010-2011Edit

2011-2012Edit

ReportersEdit

2005–2006Edit

  • Chris Simpson
  • Bob Harwood
  • Billy Jaffe
  • Andy Brickley

2006–2007Edit

  • Chris Simpson
  • Bob Harwood
  • Billy Jaffe
  • Bob Beers
  • Jack Edwards

2007–2008Edit

  • Chris Simpson
  • Bob Harwood
  • Billy Jaffe
  • Jack Edwards

2008–2009Edit

  • Chris Simpson
  • Bob Harwood
  • Lindsay Soto
  • Billy Jaffe

2009-2010Edit

  • Charissa Thompson
  • Bob Harwood
  • Billy Jaffe
  • Sarah Kustok
  • Lindsay Soto
  • Darren Pang
  • Steve Coates

2010-2011 (Discontinued after NBC/Comcast Merger)Edit

  • Charissa Thompson
  • Bob Harwood
  • Billy Jaffe
  • Sarah Kustok
  • Lindsay Soto
  • Todd Walsh

Inside the GlassEdit

2010-2011 (Used after NBC/Comcast Merger)Edit

  • Pierre McGuire
  • Brian Engblom
  • Darren Pang
  • Joe Micheletti
  • Darren Eliot
  • Billy Jaffe

2011-2012Edit

  • Pierre McGuire
  • Brian Engblom
  • Darren Pang
  • Joe Micheletti
  • Jeremy Roenick

StudioEdit

HostsEdit

2005–06Edit

  • Bill Clement
  • Jack Edwards
  • Al Trautwig

2006–2007Edit

  • Bill Clement
  • Jack Edwards
  • Al Trautwig

2007-2009Edit

  • Bill Patrick

2009-2010Edit

  • Bill Patrick
  • Deb Placey

2010-2011 (pre-NBC/Comcast merger)Edit

  • Bill Patrick
  • Bill Pidto
  • Liam McHugh
  • Deb Placey
  • John Boruk
  • Charissa Thompson

2010-2011 (post-NBC/Comcast merger)Edit

  • Bill Patrick
  • Liam McHugh
  • Bill Pidto

2011-2012Edit

  • Liam McHugh
  • Bill Patrick

AnalystsEdit

2005–2006Edit

  • Keith Jones
  • Neil Smith
  • Pierre McGuire
  • P.J. Stock
  • Eddie Olczyk
  • Brian Engblom

2006–2007Edit

  • Keith Jones
  • Brian Engblom
  • Eddie Olczyk
  • Mark Messier

2007–2008Edit

  • Keith Jones
  • Brian Engblom
  • Eddie Olczyk
  • Mark Messier

2008–2009Edit

  • Keith Jones
  • Brian Engblom
  • Eddie Olczyk

2009–2010Edit

  • Keith Jones
  • Brian Engblom
  • Darren McCarty
  • Mike Keenan (guest analyst)
  • John Stevens (guest analyst)
  • Peter Laviolette (guest analyst)

2010-2011 (Prior to NBC/Comcast Merger)Edit

  • Keith Jones
  • Brian Engblom
  • Aaron Ward
  • Darren McCarty
  • Dave Maloney
  • Mike Milbury
  • Jeremy Roenick

2011 (After NBC/Comcast Merger)Edit

  • Keith Jones
  • Mike Milbury
  • Mike Keenan
  • Billy Jaffe
  • Jeremy Roenick
  • Aaron Ward
  • Ken Daneyko
  • Darren McCarty
  • Dave Maloney
  • Kelly Chase
  • Kevin Weekes

2011-2012Edit

  • Keith Jones
  • Mike Milbury
  • Jeremy Roenick
  • Pierre McGuire

Stanley Cup Playoffs broadcast teams Edit

2010 Edit

Round Series Game/Date/Time Play-by-play Color commentators Ice level reporters
First Round 1 Washington Capitals vs 8 Montreal Canadiens Game 1: Thursday 4/15 7 pm Sam Rosen Billy Jaffe Bob Harwood
Game 2: Saturday 4/17

7 pm

Sam Rosen Billy Jaffe Bob Harwood
Game 5:

Friday 4/23

7 pm

Sam Rosen Billy Jaffe Bob Harwood
Game 6:

Monday 4/26

7 pm

Sam Rosen Billy Jaffe Charissa Thompson
Game 7: Wednesday 4/28

7 pm

Sam Rosen Billy Jaffe Bob Harwood
2 New Jersey Devils vs 7 Philadelphia Flyers Versus did not broadcast any games in this series.
3 Buffalo Sabres vs 6 Boston Bruins Game 3:

Monday 4/19

7 p.m.

Sam Rosen Billy Jaffe Bob Harwood
Game 4: Wednesday 4/21 7:00pm Sam Rosen Billy Jaffe Bob Harwood
4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5 Ottawa Senators Game 1: Wednesday 4/14 7:00pm John Forslund Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
Game 2: Friday 4/16 7:00pm John Forslund Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
Game 3: Sunday 4/18 6:30pm John Forslund Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
Game 4:

Tuesday 4/20 7:00pm

John Forslund Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
Game 5: Thursday 4/22 7:00pm John Forslund Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
Game 6: Saturday 4/24 7:00pm John Forslund Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
1 San Jose Sharks vs 8 Colorado Avalanche Game 1: Wednesday 4/14 10:30pm Used San Jose Sharks Feed
Game 2: Friday 4/16 10:30pm Used San Jose Sharks Feed
Game 3: Sunday 4/18 9:30pm Used San Jose Sharks Feed
Game 4: Tuesday 4/20 10:00pm Used San Jose Sharks Feed
Game 5: Thursday 4/22 10:30pm Used San Jose Sharks Feed
Game 6: Saturday 4/24 10:00pm Used San Jose Sharks Feed
2 Chicago Blackhawks vs 7 Nashville Predators Game 1: Friday 4/16 8:30pm Used Chicago Blackhawks Feed
Game 2: Sunday 4/18 8:30pm Used Chicago Blackhawks Feed
Game 3: Tuesday 4/20 9:00pm Used Chicago Blackhawks Feed
Game 4: Thursday 4/22 8:30pm Used Chicago Blackhawks Feed
Game 6: Monday 4/26 9:00pm Used Chicago Blackhawks Feed
3 Vancouver Canucks vs 6 Los Angeles Kings Game 1: Thursday 4/15 10:00pm Used CBC Feed
Game 2: Saturday 4/17 10:00pm Used CBC Feed
Game 3: Monday 4/19 10:00pm Rick Peckham Daryl Reaugh Lindsay Soto
Game 4: Wednesday 4/21 10:00pm Rick Peckham Daryl Reaugh Lindsay Soto
Game 6: Sunday 4/25 9:00pm Rick Peckham Daryl Reaugh Lindsay Soto
4 Phoenix Coyotes vs 5 Detroit Red Wings Game 1: Wednesday 4/14 10:00pm Rick Peckham Daryl Reaugh Bob Harwood
Game 2: Friday 4/16 10:00pm Rick Peckham Daryl Reaugh Bob Harwood
Game 5: Friday 4/23 10:00 pm Rick Peckham Daryl Reaugh Lindsay Soto
Game 7: Tuesday 4/27 9:00pm Rick Peckham Daryl Reaugh Lindsay Soto
Second Round 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs 8 Montreal Canadiens Game 1: Friday 4/30 7:00pm Mike Emrick Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
Game 3: Tuesday 5/4 7:00 pm Mike Emrick Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
Game 4: Thursday 5/6 7:00 pm Mike Emrick Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
Game 5: Saturday 5/8 7:00pm Mike Emrick Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
Game 6: Monday 5/10 7:00pm Mike Emrick Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
Game 7: Wednesday 5/12 7:00pm Mike Emrick Darren Eliot Charissa Thompson
6 Boston Bruins vs 7 Philadelphia Flyers Game 2: Monday 5/3 7:00pm Joe Beninati Andy Brickley Bob Harwood
Game 3: Wednesday 5/5 7:00pm Joe Beninati Andy Brickley Bob Harwood
Game 4: Friday 5/7 7:00pm Joe Beninati Andy Brickley Bob Harwood
Game 5: Monday 5/10 7:00pm Used Philadelphia Flyers Feed
Game 6: Wednesday 5/12 8:00pm Used Philadelphia Flyers Feed
Game 7: Friday 5/14 7:00pm Joe Beninati Billy Jaffe Bob Harwood
1 San Jose Sharks vs 5 Detroit Red Wings Game 1: Thursday 4/29 9:00pm Rick Peckham Daryl Reaugh Lindsay Soto
Game 2: Sunday 5/2 8:00pm Rick Peckham Daryl Reaugh Lindsay Soto
Game 3: Tuesday 5/4 7:30pm Used San Jose Sharks Feed
Game 4: Thursday 5/6 7:30pm Used San Jose Sharks Feed
Game 5: Saturday 5/8 10:00pm Rick Peckham Daryl Reaugh Lindsay Soto
2 Chicago Blackhawks vs 3 Vancouver Canucks Game 1: Saturday 5/1 8:00pm Sam Rosen Billy Jaffe Bob Harwood
Game 2: Monday 5/3 9:00pm Used Chicago Blackhawks Feed
Game 3: Wednesday 5/5 9:30pm Rick Peckham Daryl Reaugh Billy Jaffe
Game 4: Friday 5/7 9:30pm John Forslund Eddie Olczyk Bob Harwood
Game 5: Sunday 5/9 8:00pm Joe Beninati Billy Jaffe Bob Harwood
Game 6: Tuesday 5/11 9:30pm John Forslund Daryl Reaugh Bob Harwood
Conference Finals 7 Philadelphia Flyers vs 8 Montreal Canadiens Game 1: Sunday 5/16 7:00pm Joe Beninati Daryl Reaugh Bob Harwood
Game 2: Tuesday 5/18 7:00pm Joe Beninati Daryl Reaugh Bob Harwood
Game 3: Thursday 5/20 7:00pm Joe Beninati Daryl Reaugh Billy Jaffe
Game 5: Monday 5/24 7:00pm Joe Beninati Daryl Reaugh Bob Harwood
1 San Jose Sharks vs 2 Chicago Blackhawks Game 2: Tuesday 5/18 10:30 pm Mike Emrick Eddie Olczyk Charissa Thompson
Game 3: Friday 5/21 8:00 pm Mike Emrick Eddie Olczyk Charissa Thompson
Stanley Cup Final 2 Chicago Blackhawks vs 7 Philadelphia Flyers Game 3: Wednesday 6/2 8:00pm Mike Emrick Eddie Olczyk Charissa Thompson and Bob Harwood
Game 4: Friday 6/4 8:00pm Mike Emrick Eddie Olczyk Charissa Thompson and Bob Harwood

RatingsEdit

Versus had about 20 million fewer subscribers ESPN when the NHL started on Versus, but its owner Comcast switched Versus from a digital tier to basic cable to make NHL games available to more cable subscribers as well as re-branded the network (which was then known as the Outdoor Life Network) as a sports network.

For Versus, the NHL coverage was a good addition as Versus' ratings grew by about 275% when it showed an NHL game.

2005–2006Edit

Versus' games rated substantially higher than any non-Tour de France programming that Versus had ever aired in comparable timeslots (rating between 0.2 and 0.3 during the regular season).

Still, these numbers were quite small compared to ratings for most other sports on national cable channels reaching at least as many homes as Versus.

Versus' playoff viewership did not increase as much as it or the league might have hoped. Versus reached a viewership of 610,836 households for Game 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.

This figure was 39% fewer households than what ESPN drew for the Stanley Cup series opener two years earlier (even though ESPN has a larger reach than Versus). Game 2 was seen in slightly fewer households (605,501).

2006–2007Edit

Versus averaged a 0.2 Nielsen Media Research household rating about level with the 2005–06 regular season NHL numbers and its 2006 prime time average.

Versus' coverage of the 2007 NHL All-Star Game garnered a .7 rating (474,298 viewing homes and 672,948 total viewers).

Ratings were down 76% from ABC's ratings in 2004, the last time the game was played, and down 82% from ABC's coverage in 2000.

However, some of that significant drop can be attributed to the game being played on a weeknight (Wednesday) as opposed to the traditional weekend game and the fact that Versus is a cable television network unlike ABC which is a broadcast network. The 2008 NHL All-Star Game was scheduled for a Sunday.

2007–2008Edit

In 2007–08, NHL audiences on Versus in the United States remained small, but increased over the previous two seasons.

Versus averaged 246,154 viewers a game, up 24 percent from the previous year.

Over the year, channel distribution increased to 73.6 million households from 70.8 million.

Conference Finals ratings were averaging a 1.2 HH rating. Game 2 between the Flyers and Penguins drew a 1.7 HH rating, 2.3 million viewers which was an NHL record on Versus.