Wild has been ignored all year by NBC

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 3, 2008 - 9:37 PM

Minnesota appears to not have the star power of teams that have been shown frequently like the Rangers, Red Wings and Penguins.

The Wild might be atop the Northwest Division standings but that wasn't enough to earn it an appearance on NBC this season. In fact, the team never had a real chance to be featured on one of the network's nine weekend telecasts.

Under terms of a flexible schedule agreement reached last spring, NBC had the opportunity to pick its Sunday games from a list of (usually) three matchups 13 days prior to faceoff. Those contests were pre-determined by the NHL and none included the Wild.

For instance, NBC will air Chicago at Detroit at 11:30 a.m. Sunday in its final regular-season telecast. That game was picked over the Rangers at New Jersey and Pittsburgh at Philadelphia.

NHL spokesperson Jamey Horan said in an e-mail Thursday that "all teams are considered for the national TV schedule in both the U.S. and Canada," and that the league originally had the Wild under consideration for two flex schedule games against Colorado, including this Sunday's regular-season finale in Denver.

"[Those] games were not selected due to NBC's broadcast start times [11:30 a.m.], which would have meant local start times prior to noon," Horan said. "Obviously, scheduling plays the most important role in fulfilling national windows."

And so does getting marquee U.S. teams on the air in those windows.

In reality, the Wild's exclusion should not come as a shock given the fact the Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks only had one game on the network. No surprise, the Rangers led the way with four appearances, followed by the Red Wings and Sidney Crosby's Penguins with three apiece. (That doesn't include the Pittsburgh-Buffalo outdoor game on Jan. 1.)

So how does the Wild feel about the snub? Bill Robertson, the team's vice president of communications and broadcasting, pointed out the club made four national appearances on the Versus Network and carefully chose his words in assessing the situation.

"We feel the Wild has made tremendous and positive strides with regards to our local television ratings on KSTC and FSN [North]," he said, "but we also hope to be considered for future regular season and playoff games on NBC and the additional national exposure and attention they would provide our franchise."

That's probably wishful thinking for the short term. Don't expect to see any Wild postseason contests on NBC unless the team makes a deep run. The network will show games on Saturdays and Sundays during the playoffs -- May 10 and 11 will be an exception -- and gets the first two picks on the series it wants.

"We'll be looking at markets and matchups and we'll see how the schedule plays out for the postseason," NBC spokesman Brian Walker said.

In other words, get ready to see more of the Penguins, Rangers and Red Wings.

• NBC has an option to continue its relationship with the NHL in 2008-09 and Walker acknowledged that "we're in talks with them." The success of the outdoor game -- and the opportunity to hold another next season -- appears to be one reason NBC is interested.

"We were really pleased with the success of this year's [outdoor game]," Walker said.

Lots of air time

Darby Hendrickson figures to be a busy man as long as his former team is in the playoffs. Hendrickson, who has made frequent appearances on FSN North's hockey coverage, also has agreed to be part of KSTC's Wild pre- and postgame shows and WCCO Radio's expanded postgame.

The Wild continues talks with KSTC (Ch. 45) and FSN about the playoffs. That schedule will be set early next week with the Wild starting Wednesday or Thursday. It's possible KSTC's sister station, KSTP (Ch. 5), could figure into the mix. Former Wild defenseman Brad Bombardir also will be part of all the KSTP/KSTC telecasts.

WCCO (830 AM) is planning a one-hour pregame for the playoffs.

Fine-tuning

• The Twins have yet to make the schedule for TBS' new major league Sunday afternoon package that will begin at noon this weekend with Boston at Toronto. TBS, which formerly only carried Atlanta Braves' games, has its matchups set for the first two months. Unlike Fox's Saturday package, TBS' games won't have exclusivity. That means any Twins telecast running at the same time as a TBS game won't be blacked out. MLB's "Extra Innings" package also won't be blacked out on Sunday afternoons.

• CBS enters this weekend's Final Four averaging a 5.2 rating and 11 share for its coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. That is a 7 percent dip from last year at this time (5.6/12) and could result in the network's lowest rating ever for the tournament. The 2003 tourney, which was interrupted by coverage of the beginning of the Iraq war, finished with a 5.5 rating and 11 share.

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