Launches NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2
Jan. 2 is an important day for the NBC Sports Group as it broadcasts the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at 1 p.m. on NBC and launches the NBC Sports Network, currently VERSUS, immediately following the game at 4 p.m. with a special NHL Live post-game show hosted by Bob Costas from Philadelphia.
This year's NHL Winter Classic features an intense rivalry between the top two teams in the Atlantic Division as the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers battle outdoors at Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia, home of the Phillies. This is the fifth iteration of the NHL Winter Classic, an event created by both NBC Sports and the NHL. It was dubbed "a holiday tradition" by Newsday.
Costas, a 22-time Emmy Award-winner, will host NBC's coverage of the Winter Classic. He will be joined by NBC Sports Group studio analysts Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick for coverage on NBC and post-game coverage on NBC Sports Network. NBC's game coverage will be led by Emmy Award-winner Mike "Doc" Emrick (play-by-play) Eddie Olczyk (analyst), and Pierre McGuire (inside-the-glass reporter).
Last year's Winter Classic was the most-watched NHL regular-season game in 36 years. Played between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins from Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and broadcast on New Year's Day in primetime due to a weather delay, the game was watched by 4.5 million viewers.
Click here for a time-lapse video of the rink being built at Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia: http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=14&id=137090
As part of a new strategy to bring all four tiers of NBC Sports Group's assets (broadcast network, two national cable networks, 11 regional sports networks and digital) into a consistent framework of branding, VERSUS will be re-named the NBC Sports Network. The NBC Sports Network will serve as a 24/7 cable platform for NBC Sports' storytelling, production and promotional power.
Following are highlights of Dec. 31-Jan. 2 programming:
•Prior to being re-branded, VERSUS will kick-off the weekend with the 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game featuring former Philadelphia Flyers against former New York Rangers in a New Year's Eve showdown on Dec. 31 at 1 p.m. The Alumni Game will showcase six members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, recent retirees and Stanley Cup winners, including Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Eric Lindros and NBC Sports' Jeremy Roenick. NBC Sports Network guest analyst and former Rangers coach Mike Keenan, who won the Stanley Cup in 1994 while coaching the team, will lead the Rangers alumni team.
•Continuing the transition to the NBC Sports Network, VERSUS will premiere the hour-long special, "NBC Sports: A Storied History," on Dec. 31 at 6 p.m., following the NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game, chronicling the last seven decades of Emmy Award-winning event coverage on NBC Sports.
•On Jan. 1, VERSUS will air the 2008 and 2009 NHL Winter Classics at 7 and 10 p.m., respectively.
• Jan. 2 will begin on VERSUS and end on the NBC Sports Network. VERSUS will air the 2010 and 2011 Winter Classic games back-to-back at 7:30 and 10 a.m., respectively. At 3 p.m., it will air an encore presentation of "NBC Sports: A Storied History." At 4 p.m., the switch will be flipped and the NBC Sports Network officially launches with a special NHL Live Winter Classic post-game show hosted by Costas and featuring all the highlights from the outdoor game.
•The new NBC Sports Network will continue with hockey-themed programming at 4:30 p.m. with the premiere of "Cold War on Ice: Summit Series '72" produced by Ross Greenburg. The documentary focuses on the hockey series played in 1972 between a team of Canadian NHL all-stars and the Soviet Union national team during the height of the Cold War.
•"Cold War on Ice" will be followed by a special 90-minute edition of NBC "SportsTalk" at 6 p.m., "NHL Live" at 7:30 p.m., and the Vancouver Canucks hosting the San Jose Sharks at 8 p.m. "NHL Live" post-game and "NHL Overtime" will end the NBC Sports Network's first day.