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. 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.

Playoff broadcast anomalies Edit

Taped delayed playoff broadcasts Edit

Main article: Broadcast delay

Year Round Teams Games Play-by-play Color commentators Ice level reporters
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 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers

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 Pat Foley Dale Tallon
Divisional finals Los Angeles-Edmonton Games 1–6 Pat Foley Dale Tallon
1992 Divisional semifinals Los Angeles-Edmonton Games 3–4, 6 (CBC's feed) Don Wittman Jim Peplinski Steve Armitage
Divisional finals NY Rangers-Pittsburgh Game 1 Jiggs McDonald Ed Westfall
Montreal-Boston Game 1 Rick Peckham Gerry Cheevers
Vancouver-Edmonton Games 3–4

(CBC's feed)

Chris Cuthbert Harry Neale Steve Armitage

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 focus on those teams, using their facilities. Sometimes, they use CBC feed for other series (the Boston Bruins–Montreal Canadiens series, for example). For the Stanley Cup Championship, 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.

Announcers Edit

Bob Papa and Leandra Reilly were the studio hosts during the regular season coverage. For the Stanley Cup Finals, Jiggs McDonald served as the play-by-play while Bill Clement was the color commentator. Also during the Stanley Cup Finals, Mike Emrick served as the host while John Davidson served as the rinkside and studio analyst.

Play-by-play Edit

Color commentary Edit

Studio personalities Edit

  • Al Koken
  • Bob Papa
  • Leandra Reilly
  • Stan Fischler
  • John Davidson

Ice level personalities

  • Gary Thorne
  • John Davidson
  • Al Koken

Commentating crews Edit

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