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

Terms of the deal Edit

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

SportsChannel's availability Edit

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.[11] 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 (1988–89), SportsChannel America was available in only 7 million homes when compared to ESPN's reach of $50,000,000. When the SportsChannel deal ended in 1992, the league returned to ESPN for another contract that would pay $80 million over five 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, and often to justify the cost, some cable providers carrying it during the playoffs only carried it as a pay-per-view option. SportsChannel America also did not broadcast 24 hours a day at first, usually on by 6 p.m., off by 1 or 2 a.m., then a sportsticker for the next 16 hours.

Philadelphia Edit

Since SportsChannel Philadelphia did not air until January 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.

See also: 1988–89 Philadelphia Flyers season and 1989–90 Philadelphia Flyers season

Lawsuit Edit

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. Some local SportsChannel stations – which carried NHL games in their local markets – were not affected.

Coverage overview Edit

Regular season coverage Edit

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 one nationally televised game a week, SportsChannel America televised hockey two nights a week in NHL cities and three 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 the Chicago Blackhawks, Hartford Whalers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders or Philadelphia Flyers. The 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 the New York area for SportsChannel New York.

Special programming Edit

In 1989, SportsChannel America provided the first ever American coverage of the NHL Draft.[15] In September 1989, SportsChannel America covered the Washington Capitals' training camp in Sweden and pre-season tour[16] of the Soviet Union. The Capitals were joined by the Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames, who held training camp in Prague, Czechoslovakia and then ventured to the Soviet Union. Each team played four games against Soviet National League clubs. Games were played in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Riga. The NHL clubs finished with a combined 6-2 record against the top Soviet teams, including the Red Army club and Dynamo Moscow. Five of the eight contests were televised by SportsChannel America.

All-Star Game coverage Edit

SportsChannel America was the exclusive American broadcaster of the 1989 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 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.

Playoff broadcast anomalies Edit

Taped delayed playoff broadcasts Edit

Year Round Teams Games Play-by-play Color commentators Ice Level Reporters
1989 Divisional semifinals Montreal-Hartford Games 1–4 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers Dave Maloney
Boston-Buffalo Game 5 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers Dave Maloney
Divisional finals Pittsburgh-Philadelphia Games 1–5 Mike Emrick Bill Clement Gary Thorne
1990 Divisional semifinals Boston-Hartford Games 1, 3 and 5 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers Dave Maloney
New York Rangers-New York Islanders Games 2 and 4 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall Peter McNab
Divisional finals Boston-Montreal Games 1-2 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall Peter McNab
New York Rangers-Washington Games 3-5 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall Peter McNab
1991 Divisional semifinals Boston-Hartford Games 1-6 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers Dave Maloney
Divisional finals Pittsburgh-Washington Games 1-5 Mike Emrick Bill Clement Mickey Redmond
1992 Divisional semifinals Montreal-Hartford Games 1-7 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers Dave Maloney
Divisional finals Montreal-Boston Games 2-4 (CBC's feed) Bob Cole Harry Neale Scott Russell

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 (CBC's feed for Game 5) Mike Emrick Bill Clement Gary Thorne
Divisional finals Edmonton-Los Angeles Games 1-4 Mike Emrick Bill Clement Mickey Redmond
1991 Divisional semifinals Los Angeles-Vancouver Games 1-2, 5-6 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall Peter McNab
Calgary-Edmonton Game 7 Pat Foley Dale Tallon Darren Pang
Divisional finals Los Angeles-Edmonton Games 1-6 Mike Emrick Bill Clement Mickey Redmond
1992 Divisional semifinals Los Angeles-Edmonton Games 3-4, 6 (CBC's feed) Chris Cuthbert John Garrett Scott Oake
Divisional finals New York Rangers-Pittsburgh Game 1 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall Peter McNab
Montreal-Boston Game 1 (CBC's feed) Bob Cole Harry Neale Scott Russell
Vancouver-Edmonton Games 3-4 (CBC's feed) Chris Cuthbert Dick Irvin Jr. Ron MacLean

Production Edit

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 three 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 (the Boston Bruins–Montreal Canadiens series, for example). For the Stanley Cup Championship, SportsChannel America would use their own facilities. They would 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 NHL on SportsChannel America.

Announcers Edit

Stan Fischler and John Davidson were the studio personalities during the regular season coverage. For the Stanley Cup Finals, Mike Emrick and Bill Clement were in the booth as commentator, while Gary Thorne and Mickey Redmond were the Ice Level Reporter. Also during the Stanley Cup Finals, Stan Fischler served as the studio host while John Davidson served as the studio analyst.

Broadcast teams Edit

  • Mike Emrick-Bill Clement
  • Pat Foley-Dale Tallon-Darren Pang
  • Steve Grad-Craig Laughlin
  • Dave Hodge-Dave Maloney
  • Jiggs McDonald-Ed Westfall-Peter McNab
  • Rick Peckham-Gerry Cheevers
  • Joe Starkey-Don Edwards
  • Ken Wilson-Herb Brooks
  • Randy Hahn-Pete Stemkowski

Ice Level personalities Edit

  • Gary Thorne
  • Darren Pang
  • Peter McNab
  • Mickey Redmond
  • Dave Maloney
  • Joe Micheletti

Studio Personalities Edit

  • Stan Fischler
  • John Davidson

Commentating Crews Edit

  • Chicago Blackhawks: Pat Foley, Dale Tallon, and Darren Pang
    • SportsChannel Chicago
  • Hartford Whalers: Rick Peckham and Gerry Cheevers
    • SportsChannel New England
  • New York Islanders: Jiggs McDonald and Ed Westfall
    • SportsChannel New York
  • New Jersey Devils: Mike Emrick and Peter McNab
    • SportsChannel New York
  • Philadelphia Flyers: Mike Emrick and Bill Clement
    • SportsChannel Philadelphia
  • San Jose Sharks (1991–92 only): Randy Hahn and Pete Stemkowski
    • SportsChannel Pacific
  • St. Louis Blues: Ken Wilson, Herb Brooks, and Joe Micheletti
    • SportsChannel St. Louis

Conference Finals broadcasters Edit

Eastern Conference Edit

Year Teams Play-by-play Color commentators Ice level reporters
1989 Montreal-Philadelphia Mike Emrick Bill Clement Mickey Redmond
1990 Boston-Washington Jiggs McDonald Peter McNab Ed Westfall
1991 Boston-Pittsburgh Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall Peter McNab
1992 Pittsburgh-Boston Mike Emrick Bill Clement Mickey Redmond

Western Conference Edit

Year Teams Play-by-play Color commentators Ice Level Reporters
1989 Calgary-Chicago Jiggs McDonald Peter McNab Ed Westfall
1990 Edmonton-Chicago Pat Foley Dale Tallon Darren Pang
1991 Edmonton-Minnesota Mike Emrick Bill Clement Gary Thorne
1992 Chicago-Edmonton Pat Foley Dale Tallon Darren Pang

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