Hockey fans have often criticized NBC’s

 coverage for not
showing more of the NHL’s young stars and the up-and-coming teams.That changes
when the season opens Wednesday as the network goes with a new approach.NBCSN’s
“Wednesday Night Rivalries” has been replaced by “Wednesday Night Hockey.” As
part of the repackaging Jake
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, the network’s studio crew will occasionally report
on site, starting on Wednesday from Washington when the Capitals begin defense
of their title against Boston.“We’re now showcasing the brightest team and
stars. We think it’s a great way to add new teams and stars to a big night,” NBC
Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood said. “The intent on Wednesday nights has
always been to make it the destination night for hockey. Now we can really take
advantage of that.”Much like the NBA does on Thursdays, the NHL has tried to
make Wednesday its night for must-see TV.Steve Mayer, the NHL’s chief content
officer, said “Wednesday Night Rivalries” proved how special that night can be
for the league.“We’re going to make Wednesday night feel special and we want our
players to once we get into this to say, ‘Wow, we’re playing on Wednesday
night.’ We know that in football Jeff
Carter Jersey
, for example, playing on ‘Monday Night Football’ is
a big deal,” Mayer said. “Well, why can’t playing on Wednesday night hockey be a
big deal? And that’s what we’re striving for.”The biggest beneficiaries of the
change are the Western Conference teams. NBCSN will air 18 doubleheaders on
Wednesday nights — up from five last season — and 67 of the scheduled 110 games
on NBC and NBCSN will have a team from the conference.Winnipeg, which has not
made a regular-season national appearance since 2014, will make five this
season, including an Oct. 24 game against Toronto that will see NBCSN’s studio
show going on the road.NBC’s Mike Emrick said the Jets are one of many teams
that deserve the increased exposure.“That matchup could be a Stanley Cup final.
There is going to be plenty of excitement with that game early in the season,”
he said.Other teams receiving increased exposure are Tampa Bay and Nashville.
Both teams will make 12 appearances ,
which is almost double what they had last season. Defending Western Conference
champion Vegas (9), Anaheim (8) and Edmonton (7) also have nearly twice as many
appearances as last season.Colorado, which was on only once last year, will be
on six times.“We feel it’s time and vital that, given the parity of the league
throughout, that we start to develop other teams,” Mayer said. “If suddenly the
Nashvilles and the Tampas and some teams that haven’t had the grand exposure get
exposure, what’s to say that they’re not going to be the higher-rated teams? …
We really believe that our audience is into great hockey played by the best
teams and the way we present the games and the stars will lead to great
ratings.”The traditional teams will still get plenty of exposure. Chicago will
have the most appearances with 19 despite not making the playoffs last season.
One of those games will be the Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium on Jan. 1
against Boston. Washington will make the first of its 18 appearances followed by
Philadelphia (17) and Pittsburgh (15).The only teams not scheduled to appear on
NBCSN are Ottawa and Vancouver.“Certainly from a kind of talent
standpoint Nate
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, a competitive standpoint, showing more clubs is
better,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “The fact that NBC is prepared
to engage on that basis where we don’t necessarily have to have major U.S.
markets for their national games says a lot about how far we’ve come as a
sport.”The All-Star Game, which will be held in San Jose on Jan. 26, will be
broadcast in prime time on NBC, which is the first time that has happened on a
major broadcast network since 1997.Flood thinks the three-on-three format could
draw even more fans. It also will be the week before the Super Bowl, which
should allow the league to reap increased exposure.The league is also focusing
on improving its digital offerings through its deal with BAMTech, which began as
a spinoff of Major League Baseball Advanced Media before becoming its own
entity. The Walt Disney Co. took a controlling stake in BAMTech in 2017.The
NHL.TV offering will include more pregame and postgame coverage Authentic
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, as well as being able to view programming
during intermission, after deals were made with team broadcasting partners.ESPN
hasn’t aired the NHL since 2004 on any of its channels but will have nine games
a week on its ESPN streaming service starting this season. ESPN , which launched
in April and just crossed over a million subscribers, had at least one baseball
game a day. ESPN will also air a nightly hockey show.“We know there is a big
opportunity to grow the subscriber base with both products,” said Disney
Streaming President Michael Paull. “One thing we learned is that fans want more
video. They want more coverage before and after the games.” Bruce Bennett/Getty
ImagesNew York Islanders fans spent nine years cheering for John Tavares when he
was a member of their beloved team, but now that he is a TorontoMaple Leaf, the
Nassau Coliseum is no longer a warm and welcoming environment for the
star.Tavares made his first trip tothe arena since signing a seven-year, $77
million deal with his childhood team Thursday. It was then that he found out
just how hostile his former home could be:Dan Rosen drosennhlLeafs hit the ice
at the Coliseum. See if you can tell when John Tavares gets out there.
KypBZnzi0sSpittin Chiclets spittinchicletsIslanders fans are tossing plastic
snakes at John Tavares during warmups MyTQXq9un7Not only did New York fans greet
him with "traitor" and "JT sucks" chants Tanner
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, as ESPN's Greg Wyshynski pointed out, but there
was also a NSFW chant directed at the ex-Islander:Brett Cyrgalis
BrettCyrgalisThe full Tavares video. #Isles p4N0LbtKcgWhile New York fans will
still feel betrayed, it's worth noting the Islanders are on pace to end a
two-year playoff droughtwithoutTavares. The Islanders (36-19-7, 79 points) sit
atop the Metropolitan Division, while Tavares' Leafs (39-20-4, 82 points) are
third in the Atlantic.Tavares has 36 goals, 32 assists and 68 points through 63
games in his first season in Toronto.
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