Alright, let’s suspend disbelief for a second. It really helps if you do. Apparently the NHL seems to have done that. That can only explain why, in the middle of contentious labour negotiations with the NHLPA that has the hockey world fearing a lockout (or partial lockout), the League released its full season national broadcast schedule today.

This will be the start of the new partnership with NBC that reportedly is worth $2 billion over ten years. That’s a big ol’ chunk o’ change for the NHL to share among its teams. Unsurprisingly, though, the actual number of games that each team will have nationally broadcast across the U.S. in 2012-2013 (again, suspending our disbelief that there won’t be a lockout) is not evenly spread.

Three of the least televised teams have won Stanley Cups. So, uh, I guess that bodes well for Columbus then, right? [CLICK TO ENLARGE CHART]

Some notable things:

  • Yes, I’ve ignored the NHL Network from this count. Why? Because it is a specialty channel specifically designed for die-hard hockey fans. The NHL is unlikely to gain new viewers through that network. So, for these purposes “nationally broadcasted” really only means anything on NBC or NBC Sports Network.
  • I’m focusing only on U.S. broadcasts. Canada is such a different monster when it comes to broadcasting hockey that it isn’t worth noting how many games will be shown on CBC vs TSN vs Sportsnet (especially when CBC has exclusive weekend rights and Sportsnet is technically a regional broadcaster, so isn’t even included in this release). I could write a whole other blog about how frustrating it is not to be able to watch an out-of-region Sportsnet game. Seriously, do you know how hard it is being a Canuck fan living in Ottawa? It’s almost as hard as being a Sens fan.
  • That being said, two Canadian franchises (Montreal and Toronto) do appear on U.S. national broadcasts more than seven U.S.-based franchises.
  • Had a conversation about this over lunch, and had tweeted about it, but how does broadcasting Phoenix nationally only 4 times grow the game, increase their fanship, or add value to the franchise for prospective owners?
  • Seems strange that Anaheim, Carolina and the Islanders only get one nationally televised game each. They all have Stanley Cup banners in their arenas. Even if they didn’t have playoff teams last year, can’t you throw them a bone, every now and then?
  • How do you only give the offensive ridiculousness that will be Staals Eric & Jordan, Alex Syomin/Semin, Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu only one game on the national stage?
  • This schedule does little to dispell the notion that NBC remains unconvinced that teams other than Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston or the Rangers exist. Buffalo and St. Louis seem to be the biggest surprise inclusions at the top.
  • Coming back to this again. Same as with Phoenix, and looking at that list above, by sticking to nationally broadcasting traditional markets, how does this grow the game?
  • Columbus only gets one nationally televised game, but with the All-Star weekend coming to town (again, suspending disbelief of lockout, etc), should get plenty of attention for such a terrible, terrible team (and apparently an actually decent city). I’m already looking forward to All-Star appearances from Vaclav Prospal, Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Brandon Dubinsky, er, Nikita Nikitin (“he plays so nice, they named him twice”), and RJ Umberger (will excel in the skills competition – when someone asks him to take pictures for them).

Whatever. The season probably won’t start on time, so this will all be moot anyways. See you all in 2013!