What To Watch Thurs. 4/9 – Sun. 4/12

All Times Are Pacific.

Thursday April 9th

The Masters 1st Round – Noon ESPN: A tournament unlike any other….and it’s steaming online at themasters.com.

Frozen Four: Nebraska -Omaha vs Providence – 2pm ESPN2: Well since the hardwood Final Four is finished, let’s get on the ice.

Frozen Four: Boston vs North Dakota – 5:30pm ESPN2: Next!

LA Kings at Calgary Flames – 6pm NHL Gamecenter: The Kings need to win out if they want a chance at the playoffs. They have to win this one against a possible playoff opponent.

Portland TrailBlazers at Golden State Warriors – 7:30pm TNT: Two playoff bound teams just tuning up for the post season.

REMOTE-contrast

Friday April 10th

The Masters 2nd Round – Noon ESPN: It’s the Masters. Even if you hate golf you’ll still know who wins this. And it’s only the second round!

NY Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins – 4pm NHL Network: The Pens need to get their act together if they want to be in the playoffs.

 

Saturday April 11th

The Masters 3rd Round – Noon CBS: The cut is down and now it’s time to get down to business.

San Jose Sharks at LA Kings – Noon NBC: The Kings have to win out and get some help if they want any chance of defending their title. The Sharks would love nothing more than to prevent that from happening.

DC United vs New York Red Bulls – 4pm MLS Live: The top two teams in the East square off. Oh, and they don’t like each other.

Frozen Four Final – 4:30pm ESPN: Let’s find out who is college hockey’s best team!

 

Sunday April 12th

Manchester United vs Manchester City – 7:55am NBCSN: A Manchester Derby on a Sunday morning.

The Masters Final Round – 11am CBS: It’s the final round of the Masters. It’s usually pretty awesome.

Portland Timbers vs Orlando City FC – 2pm ESPN2: Kaka visits the friendly confines of Providence Park. Sure the Timbers Army will make him feel welcome.

LA Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders – 4pm FS1: Arguably two of the more entertaining teams in all of MLS. Neither is 100% but it’s still worth tuning in for.

Boston Red Sox at NY Yankees – 5:10pm ESPN: Well if you’re going to watch a baseball game this early in the year it might as well be between these two.

What To Watch Fri. 2/13 – Sun. 2/15

All times are Pacific.

 

Friday February 13th

Arizona Wildcats at Washington Huskies – 6pm ESPN: This is a good basketball game for a Friday night. It’s no gimmie either for the #7 ranked Wildcats.

Boston Bruins at Vancouver Canucks – 7pm NHL GameCenter: Two teams battling to stay in the playoff picture in their respective conferences.

 

Saturday February 14th

Baylor Bears at Kansas Jayhawks – 10am CBS: Not many top 25 match ups but this should be the best of the bunch.

Villanova at Butler – 3pm CBS Sports Network: This is the other top 25 match up worth watching.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens – 4pm NHL Network: Well the Leafs aren’t very good this year but the Habs are.

Washington Capitals at LA Kings – 7pm NHL GameCenter: Alex Ovechkin and the Caps head out west to take on the defending Stanley Cup champs.

UFC Fight Night – 7pm FS1: Either Benson Henderson is going to grind out Brandon Thatch for 5 rounds or Thatch catches Henderson early. Take your pick.

 

Sunday February 15th

Pittsburgh Penguins at Chicago Blackhawks – 9:30am NBC: It’s on national TV for a reason. You get to see some of the biggest names in the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning at San Jose Sharks – 5pm NHL GameCenter: The Lightning hit that tough west coast swing coming off two hard fought games against Nashville and St Louis.

 

What To Watch Fri. 1/30- Sun. 2/1

All times are Pacific

Friday January 30th

Portland TrailBlazers at Atlanta Hawks – 4:30pm NBA League Pass: The Hawks have been unreal but the Blazers are no joke themselves.

Chicago Blackhawks at Anaheim Ducks – 7pm NHL GameCenter: The Blackhawks head west to take on the best team in the NHL as far as points are concerned.

 

Saturday January 31st

Chelsea vs Manchester City – 8:30am NBC: Five points separate Chelsea and Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. Yeah, it’s a big game.

Washington Capitals at Montreal Canadiens – 10am NHL Network: Two quality teams in one of the best venues in all of hockey.

North Carolina at Louisville – 1pm ESPN: It was fun when they played a few weeks ago. This should be too.

Los Angeles Kings at Boston Bruins – 4pm NHL Network: An east coast vs west coast showdown.

Duke at Virginia – 4pm ESPN: Duke is ranked in the top 5 but have to have this game is they want any shot of winning the ACC regular season title. UVA looks to keep their unbeaten season alive.

LA Clippers at San Antonio Spurs – 6pm ESPN: Lob City heads deep into the heart of Texas to take on the defending champs.

UFC 183: Silva vs Diaz – 7pm PPV: As long as Nick Diaz shows up we should have a fun fight. Even a 39 year old Anderson Silva coming off an extended layoff is something to marvel at.

 

 

Sunday February 1st

St Louis Blues at Washington Capitals – 10am NBCSN: The Blues have to be the most underrated team in the NHL. See how good they really are. Tough back to back stretch for the Caps too.

Nashville Predators at Pittsburgh Penguins – 11am NHL GameCenter: Predators have been one of the best teams in the NHL this season. Pittsburgh is a tough place to steal three points though.

Super Bowl XLIX – Seattle Seahawks vs New England Patriots – 3:30pm NBC: This should be an amazing game. We did think that last year too.

Failing Eventualy Does Matter

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Dan Bylsma was let go yesterday by the Pittsburgh Penguins. It marks the end of a tough six months behind the bench for the Penguins and for Team USA in the Winter Olympics.

Bylsma is the winningest coach in Penguins history (252-117-32) and lead them to a Stanley Cup in 2009 (albeit he came on in February of that year.) But blowing a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers may have sealed his fate.

Dan Bylsma

The fact is that Bylsma couldn’t get the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup Final even with players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice. While these players have had injuries over the years (Crosby missed most of the 2010-2012 seasons with concussion type symptoms) the Penguins were still a force to be reckoned with and were always an odds on favorite to win the Cup.

Two other things didn’t help Bylsma the first six months of this year. First was the non-medaling performance by Team USA in the Winter Olympics and then a 5-1 shellacking at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks on national TV during the Stadium Series.

Bylsma probably won’t be out of work for very long since there are three teams besides Pittsburgh looking for head coaches right now.

While the Penguins organization felt that a change needed to be made the move also points out again that sports is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ business. Yes the expectations are high in Pittsburgh and they should be. Look at the team they have now and the history they have. So remember that while you may hear buzzwords like ‘fail fast’ going around right now, you can only fail for so long before you have to pay the piper.

 

Not The TV Ratings You’re Looking For

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Lord Stanley

On Wednesday night the New York Rangers will square off against the Los Angeles Kings in the 121st edition of the Stanley Cup Finals. While on paper this may appear to be a great matchup for the NHL with the teams from the top two TV markets squaring off but it could have been better if neither team was in it.

The Kings defeated the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks in a thrilling game 7 overtime game on Sunday night. It would have been better for the NHL if the Blackhawks won because they are a bigger TV market when it comes to hockey. In fact Chicago out did the LA as far as viewers are concerned during game 7 by a wide margin.

The Rangers are the Rangers. New York has a tendency to rally around their teams, and not just in New York City. The Buffalo Sabers actually came in second as far as local TV ratings go in the NHL this seasons despite finishing dead last in the league.

The Rangers will probably hold their own but that doesn’t mean that the countries number one TV market always turns out in droves for a New York area team.

Take 2012 when the Kings won their first Stanley Cup at the expense of the New Jersey Devils (who play in Newark, NJ which is in the New York City TV market.) The highest rated game for that series was the decisive game 6. That game did a 3.1 rating. That only would have been the fifth highest rated game in the 2013 Final when Chicago defeated the Boston Bruins in six games.

If the NHL could pick the two teams in the Stanley Cup Final based on TV ratings in the US, it would be a matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks. Both crush their local TV numbers and have players and brands that transcend the sport.

The fact is the NHL is happy with a Stanley Cup Final featuring teams from the two biggest TV markets in the US. Next time, they should look at their numbers and realize, like the NFL has, that LA isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and it’s better to have a matchup between Original Six teams.

What To Watch Sat. 3/22-Sun. 3/23

Be advised, March Madness is in full swing. See it on TV and online throughout the weekend via CBS and Turner.

Saturday March 22nd

Chelsea vs Arsenal – 5:45am NBCSN: All aboard for some top flight soccer on a Saturday morning!

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Pittsburgh Penguins – 10am NHLN:  If ice, sticks and some of the world’s best players is more your thing then the NHL Network has you set on Saturday morning.

Montreal Canadiens @ Toronto Maple Leafs – 4pm NHLN: It’s the Habs vs the Leafs. They are both in playoff contention at the end of March. You’re welcome.

LA Galaxy @ Real Salt Lake – 1pm NBCSN: RSL has been nothing but good over the last four or five years. But so have the Galaxy. It’s a display of some of the leagues best players and two teams that don’t seem to like each other very much.

San Jose Earthquakes @ Sporting KC – 5:30pm MLS LIVE: Both teams are coming off of tough Champions League losses during the week. SKC is a tough place to play but San Jose is a tough team. Or as they say in Quakes territory, ‘Goonies never say die!’

Sunday March 23rd

St. Louis Blues @ Pittsburgh Penguins – 10am NHLN: Two of the best teams in the east face off in Pittsburgh.

Real Madrid  v Barcelona – Noon beIN Sports: El Clasico is on. Messi, Ronaldo, Bale, Fabregas and then some. See two of the best clubs square off with some of the best players on the planet.

Dan Henderson vs Shogun Rua – 4pm FS1: The last fight between the two was, in some circles, the best MMA fight…ever. So don’t miss rounds 6-10.

The Fans Came Back to the NHL. Sort of.

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

With the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs rapidly approaching we thought it would be a good time to look and see if the fans came back to the NHL. There was lot of concern in January when the lockout shortened season got underway that the fans would not return but it appears that those fears where all for not.

Many teams enticed fans to return with special promotions as we pointed out in a post earlier this year. Now we have some actual numbers to back up the consensus out there that hockey really is back, especially locally. According to Sports Media Watch some big hockey towns like Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, and New York have seen fans return to their TV’s in droves. NBC Sports Network has also seen an increase in it’s ratings with seven of the eight highest rated games coming this season.

Attendance appears to not have suffered as it was once feared. While nothing can make up for the business that was lost last fall when the lockout was in full swing, fans do appear to have returned.

It’s not all wine and roses however. NBC has seen a decline and surprisingly enough the Boston Bruins 1st round playoff battle against the Toronto Maple Leafs is down in the ratings compared to a year ago. That’s right, the Bruins TV partner NESN has seen a decline in the TV ratings.

There is still a long way to go for the NHL. The Phoenix Coyotes are still run by the league, Vancouver and Montreal were knocked out in the 1st round of the playoffs (not much the league can do about that though) and there is now the extraordinary challenge of putting on a hockey game outside in LA.

That’s right, the LA Kings will play the Anaheim Ducks outside at Dodger stadium next January. It’s one of several outdoor games planned for next season in the newly created Stadium Series. These stadium games do well ratings wise and attendance wise. It’s another way the NHL is trying to get fans back to hockey. Although, as we pointed out earlier, hockey fans apparently haven’t gone anywhere.

The NHL Is Back! Does Anybody Care?

The LA Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup on June 11, 2012. Champions of the NHL. They’ll begin their title defense on January 19th, 2013. That’s 221 days for those of you keeping track. 221 days since the NHL last played a game. 510 regular season games were cancelled due to the labor dispute that led to the NHL’s lockout. The 2nd in less than 10 years. The question everyone is asking now is, now that the NHL returns to the ice will there be anyone there to cheer them on?

One of the toughest jobs in North America right now has to be that of a Marketing/PR person for the league and its 30 teams. From Miami to Winnipeg and Vancouver to Raleigh, people are trying to figure out how to get the fans back. Apologies have been posted, some more heartfelt than others, and deals galore. While no one has gone the overt route of free tickets & beer there have been some pretty good ones from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Are 25% discounts at the team store, free nachos, and the equivalent of $8 tickets enough to get people to come back to the arena? All the while battling traffic, paying for parking, and dealing with crowds? Will the fans return to the sports bars and buy food and drinks? Will they even watch when they’re at home? Will they care?

The answer is that we’re not going to know until they drop the puck. People may say one thing and do another. Even the people who say that they are done with hockey may return next season. We just don’t know. The promotions help but PR and marketing can only do so much. Eventually the play on the ice has to be compelling enough for the people to come back.