The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup in June 2018. Seems they may finally get the attention of the NHL and NBC sports and their national affiliates. The second place winner; however, are the new darlings of the broadcast media and they are banking on the Vegas Golden Knights to increase the market share.
The new viewing schedule for the NHL is out and there is a change in the game showing strategy, as USA News first reported. The NHL is viewed on the national level on via NBC, NBCSN, and the NHL Network. Few games ever make it to NBC until the playoffs, and then historically only the final round makes it to NBC. They will air 109 games this season. “NBC Sports will present 13 NHL games on NBC, beginning with the 2018 Discover Thanksgiving Showdown on Friday, Nov, 23, when the Philadelphia Flyers host the New York Rangers.” Four of those are Capitals Games.
NBC will cover the Caps opening day, primarily because of the Stanley Cup banner raising. The game will air at 730 pm on NBCSN. NBC/NBCSN will air the following 18 Capitals games:
Oct. 3 vs Boston NBCSN
Oct. 10 vs Vegas NBCSN
Oct. 17 vs NY Rangers NBCSN
Nov. 7 vs Pittsburg NBCSN
Dec. 11 vs Detroit NBCSN
Dec. 19 vs Pittsburgh NBCSN
Dec. 21 vs Buffalo NBCSN
Jan. 8 vs Philadelphia NBCSN
Jan 20 at Chicago NBC
Jan. 23 at Toronto NBCSN
Feb 3 vs Boston NBC
Mar 3 at NY Rangers NBC
Mar. 6 at Philadelphia NBCSN
Mar. 12 at Pittsburgh NBCSN
Mar. 19 at NJ Devils NBCSN
Mar. 20 vs Tampa Bay Lightning NBCSN
Mar 24 vs Philadelphia NBC
Mar. 26 vs Carolina NBCSN
Additionally, NBC will televise matches that include:
• Doubleheaders – 17 of 25 “Wednesday Night Hockey” showcases on NBCSN will be doubleheaders, the most in the network’s history, with a nearly equal balance of Eastern and Western Conference teams;
• Star Power – Established stars and young phenoms will take center stage on “Wednesday Night Hockey,” highlighted by multiple appearances from the likes of Alex Ovechkin (WSH), Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK), Sidney Crosby (PIT), Patrick Kane (CHI), P.K. Subban (NSH), Patrice Bergeron (BOS), Steven Stamkos (TBL), Claude Giroux (PHI) Connor McDavid (EDM), Patrik Laine (WPG), Auston Matthews (TOR), Henrik Lundqvist, (NYR), Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), Joe Pavelski (SJS), Jonathan Quick (LAK), and Nathan MacKinnon (COL);
With the new schedule released on Monday, the Capitals will appear on nationally televised games 18 times. Over time, the NHL has created a degree of hype with rivalry night- although in recent years the rivalries have been a stretch to identify. One longstanding rivalry has been the Capitals versus the Penguins. Now that the Caps have finally beat the Pens and advanced to become the NHL champions, rivalry night is no more!
Rivalry Night now becomes Wednesday Night Hockey! The focus will be on the teams which NBC has deemed will draw the most viewership and high on that list are the Knights who have nine games this season. Also viewed as audience makers: Tampa Bay, Colorado, Toronto, Vegas, Edmonton, Nashville and Winnipeg. The majority of the games (60 percent) will have western conference teams which likely will mean a lot of late-Night games the east coast won’t watch. NBC has promised an earlier start (7/730 pm) for many games with a 930 pm start for double-header games. Key games include:
• October 10 – A 2018 Stanley Cup Final rematch between the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals;
• October 24 – Two of the best young stars in the NHL will clash when Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets;
• January 23 – Ovechkin and the Capitals host Matthews and the Maple Leafs, followed by a battle out west between P.K. Subban and the Nashville Predators vs. Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights;
• February 13 – Three-time Stanley Cup champion Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins host Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton’s only visit to Pittsburgh;
• March 20 – A rematch of the 2018 Eastern Conference Final, as Ovechkin and the Capitals host Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In 2011 NBC and NHL reached an agreement to air games for ten years, running through the 2020/21 season. Per the agreement: “The NBC Sports Group will televise 100 regular-season games per season, and NBC will have a new telecast the day after Thanksgiving in the new contract.” Locally, the Capitals, Monumental Sports and NBC Sports Washington established a new affiliation in November 2015 for local coverage of the Capitals and Wizards through the 2031-32 season. That ensures that Caps fans have the best coverage of their favorite team from some of the best NHL broadcasters.
Obviously the NHL and NBC believe that the new kid on the block holds the might in their future growth in the sports market. There was a good bit of excitement about a newly minted team facing the team the NHL least believed could win the Stanley Cup. However, they may have confused first year excitement with long-term excitement. Vegas lost after all and though we fully expect a valiant comeback, so too are the Capitals preparing to defend their title.
The Caps have one of the most marketable faces in the NHL with Alex Ovechkin and they finally seem ready to acknowledge that. The love affair with Sidney Crosby seems to be fading as did his performance last season. The Capitals have a stunning goaltender and several rising stars. Yet the NHL may still underestimate them and under-rate the excitement around the hockey world for this team.
Washington DC has JoeB and Locker and May and a whole team that will bring the fans the coverage the they love. And as the Caps advance in the standings, local sports will have their back and fans won’t miss the national NHL coverage one little bit!
Other key nationally televised events announced in the schedule include:
2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Features Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 on NBC from Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.
NBC Sports Presents 2019 NHL All-Star Game from San Jose, Calif., Live in Primetime on Broadcast Television for First Time Since 1997