With the Stanley Cup wrapping up and the hockey season finished for another year, it's time to take a look at how NBC and their cable affiliates did in covering the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Buoyed by a new contract extension and televising each game of the postseason nationally for the first time, it meant more eyes were going to be on the coverage throughout the playoffs. In looking at the big picture, NBC's playoff coverage is symbolic of their well-established, collaborative relationship with the sport of hockey.
-With each passing year, Mike Emrick rightly convinces more of the American population that he is the best play by play man currently behind a microphone. Just take a look at the wide range of quotes and emotions used in last night's telecast. The man paints pictures with his words the way Rembrandt would with his brush or Shakespeare with his quill pen.* His skill in broadcasting a hockey game is unmatched across the sports spectrum and there's nothing like Doc calling an overtime game in the playoffs. His excitement, his ability to back out and let the game take center stage, and his way of setting the scene are elite. Emrick's broadcast partner Eddie Olczyk has also improved over the last few years and the pair make one of the top broadcast duos in sports.
*An admitted exaggeration... but just a slight one.
-NBC's decision to air every game of the Stanley Cup Finals was past due and brought something extra to both hardcore and casual hockey fans alike. The NHL followed the largely successful March Madness model of going to multiple networks to show games at the same time, even using a non-sports network like CNBC along with NBC Sports Network and NHL Network. During the first rounds of the playoffs, this made one of the more enjoyable postseasons to watch even better. On a single night you could follow multiple overtime games, switch from one game to another without effort, and be put in charge of which game you wanted to watch. The decision to air the games in this way is very user-friendly, and it wouldn't surprise me to see this become a wider trend across sports. Although there were a couple hiccups with the coverage, it was a great success.
-The decision to show every game also made each postseason series seem more important in the early rounds especially. This led to a wider interest and higher ratings throughout the early rounds of the playoffs. Of course, having teams like Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, Washington, and the Rangers involved certainly helped the matter. Nevertheless, NBC Sports Network had the best playoff ratings for a cable network since ESPN in 2002 averaging 1.03 million viewers, another (small) step forward for the young channel.