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Posted at 7:33 AM ET, 01/ 3/2011

Capitals-Penguins Winter Classic scores big in NBC ratings

By Washington Post Sports Editors

Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby under the bright lights of Heinz Field on prime-time TV = success.

From Puck the Media:

According to TV By The Numbers, the Winter Classic won the night in the coveted 18-49 demo with 4.56 million total viewers. CBS and Fox had more viewers, but among younger demos, NBC was the winner with a 1.8 rating and a 5 share.
With the game being postponed just the day before and scheduled for primetime, there's no doubt that the ratings were helped by having just one college football bowl game opposite (the boring Fiesta Bowl) rather than four had the Winter Classic been played as scheduled at 1 p.m Eastern.

The NHL lucked into the game's success, using the 8 p.m. time slot as a fall-back plan because of the rainy weather. But it worked, and after the game, Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league would look into scheduling the next Winter Classic in prime time.

Do you think of a prime-time Winter Classic should be the new standard, or was this game uniquely appealing?

By Washington Post Sports Editors  | January 3, 2011; 7:33 AM ET
Categories:  Winter Classic  
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Next: Capitals are on an upswing, but Alex Ovechkin's slump is still a reality


I'm amazed that it received that many viewers, given that most DVRs still showed their originally scheduled programming from 8-11pm.

Imagine if the weather was cold enough and all the rain that fell was in fact snow. Would have made for an epic environment.

Posted by: dimagus | January 3, 2011 8:06 AM | Report abuse

I wish the Post would do a post/article about how terrible the NBC production was. The choice to show large chunks of game play from the blimpcam was asinine. We all missed one of fehr's goals because of this. It was the most frustratingly poor tv production of a game I've ever seen.

Posted by: noogiepuck | January 3, 2011 8:10 AM | Report abuse

I wish the Post would do a post/article about how terrible the NBC production was. The choice to show large chunks of game play from the blimpcam was asinine. We all missed one of fehr's goals because of this. It was the most frustratingly poor tv production of a game I've ever seen.

Posted by: noogiepuck | January 3, 2011 8:10 AM | Report abuse

And to take it a step further, NBC's obvious bias towards the Penguins. From Mike Milbury calling Sidney Crosby hockey's golden boy and referring to Alex Ovechkin as the bad guy, to the on-ice announcers wearing ski hats that matched the Penguins' uniforms, to the subdued reaction by the announcers when the Caps won the game. I wonder if people in the NHL offices feel that way about the Caps, too.

Posted by: stwasm | January 3, 2011 8:17 AM | Report abuse

While I suppose it's good that the ratings were high, I don't think this was a good production for those "casual" hockey fans that tuned in becuase of the unique nature of the game. Despite being a regular viewer of NHL games, I was none-the-less bewildered by the ever changing camera angles that made the game almost impossible to follow. (The Caps are moving right-to-left, oops, no, now they're moving left-to-right. OK, now they're moving from top to bottom - not that you can see anything from the blimp anyway.) I can only imagine what people new to hockey thought about the game - the broadcast could easily have scared them away from watching future games.

And of course there was another anti-European comment from our favorite NBC bigot Mike Milbury - "Crosby is the perfect face of the league" and Ovechkin is the "bad boy". Just another in a long list of biased comments from Mr. Milbury. If he talked about black players the way he talks about Eastern Europeans he would have been fired long ago.

I guess there's a reason NBC is consistently last in the ratings...

Posted by: wawgt | January 3, 2011 8:19 AM | Report abuse

I loved the 8pm start time! That meant I could watch the game at 10am on Sunday morning here in Japan (instead of 3am).

Posted by: CAP-lanta | January 3, 2011 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Anyone know what time practice is today?

Posted by: capscoach | January 3, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Agreed all around on the complaints about the NBC camera angles. It was almost enough to induce nausea with the constantly changing angles. On the Fehr goal my response was - "I think we just scored but I can't tell from this blimp shot".

It really looked like whoever was directing the game had never watched a hockey game on TV and didn't know what the camera angles were supposed to look like. The sideline cameras worked just fine - if they had just used that flyover camera for a couple establishing shots when coming back from breaks it would be fine but given the direction the game was almost unwatchable on TV. If this had been say Detroit/Chicago I'd have turned it off the coverage was so bad.

Having Milbury on there at all is just an insult to Caps fans. I don't mind that the guys a big fat idiot but a big fat idiot with an obvious bias shouldn't be involved in national coverage. Look at how Joe B covers a Caps game on VS. Gotta leave the biases (either way) behind on national coverage.

And then the thing with Bettis and Franco Harris - do we really need two Pittsburgh guys involved and no DC guys?

Posted by: psujohn | January 3, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Better time -AND- 2 compelling teams. But the next game should be in Canada outdoors, MTL should do a Thanksgiving thing always play and inv a team. MTL vs TOR would be huge in Canada. Maybe CHI could do the same in the US, invite a team, do dates or 2 games on the same day like the NFL on Thanksgiving with two teams that always invite. What they do need is a to set up better sight lines for the fans and the tv -- find a good outdoor stadium that will accomidate these two aspects.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | January 3, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

We were at the game and the DVR didn't adjust to the changed time because DirecTV didn't update the program guide, so I have no comment on the TV coverage other than to say I'm sure everything others have said is correct. I have it set to record one of the re-broadcasts later this week, and I am happy to hear it's likely to be the CBC feed.

My comment relates to the question posed by the editors. No, I do not think future editions of this game should be set for primetime, and the reason is precisely what happened Saturday--the risk of bad weather. Scheduling it for early afternoon allows you to push the game back and hold it on the same day. While this year they could have postponed it to the next day without much hassle because it was a weekend, that's the exception. New Year's Day falls on a weekday more often than not, such that the next day is a holiday. Yes, many people who go to the game will take January 2 off, but if the game is postponed, it suddenly becomes a MAJOR problem, especially for people who might fly (consider, for example, if it were Capitals v. Wild at the University of Minnesota's stadium--rescheduling a flight home isn't always easy nor free).

The advantage to scheduling the game for primetime is that it broadens the field of potential hosts. With a 1:00 PM game, you're pretty much disqualifying any city west of the Central Time Zone because a 1:00 PM EST start time is 11:00 AM Mountain Time/10:00 Pacific, and games simply aren't played that early. If the game is set for, say, 7:00 EST in Denver, that means it starts around 5:00 local time out there. (I suppose puck drop would be set for 5:28 if they followed this weekend's original schedule.) That's a lot more reasonable.

"And then the thing with Bettis and Franco Harris - do we really need two Pittsburgh guys involved and no DC guys?"

Those of us who went noted that the stadium PA announced Pittsburgh's starting lineup but not the Capitals'. Even the Pittsburgh fans around us were a bit surprised at that one. The NHL ought to take a bit more control of some of these things. I know it was a Pittsburgh home game, and so I have no problem with their homer PA man or with the "entertainment" during the stoppages focusing more on their fans, but every team announces both sides' starting lineups. (It wasn't a case of doing it earlier, either, as we entered the stadium pretty early so as to take some pictures before the place filled up.)

Posted by: 1995hoo | January 3, 2011 9:15 AM | Report abuse

I liked the prime-time game, but the problem with making that the standard is then you don't have an easy fall-back plan, as they did this year with moving it from 1 to 8 (with the possibility of Sunday also, with Jan 1 on a Saturday).

Posted by: Cosmo06 | January 3, 2011 9:17 AM | Report abuse

How Mike Milbury has a job talking hockey after he was such a terrible gm/coach for the Isles kills me. He does not have a compelling voice, so that's not it. I love when Roenick basically told him to shut up about OV last year.

BTW, I would still like to see if the Caps could sign Bill Guerin for a playoff run. The guy has a great scoring touch, plays big in the playoffs, and can score dirty goals. He'd be great for the lockerroom, too.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | January 3, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Agree all around re NBC.

Now here's some pretty incredible news regarding Kuznetsov, in case you missed it. This story is from
With four minutes remaining in the second quarterfinal between Russia and Finland, the Russians were going through another listless PP, trailing by 2 goals to a Finnish team with arguably the top goaltender in the tournament and a reputation for being excruciatingly responsible defensively. The Russians had nothing going on all period, with most of their rushes being thwarted before a shot even could develop. Then, Evgeny Kuznetsov saw a rare chance to drive to the net from the corner on his off wing, jamming the puck onto Joni Ortio's sprawling pad, before a little bit of space opened up on the rebound and he got the puck over the goal line just before the penalty to Teemu Pulkkinen expired. Kuznetsov announced to the world that we were in for quite a finish, and he continued to make sure of it.

With just over a minute and a half to play, Kuznetsov broke in on the Finnish defense, deked out captain Sami Vatanen and forced Ortio to make a great pad save with his right leg (while moving to his left). The end result was the puck was just sitting there for Maxim Kitsyn to pounce on to tie the game. It was a sudden change in fortune from what seemed like a Finnish team that had done everything right all tournament long. Overtime was forced thanks to the will, and more importantly skill, of Kuznetsov, the Washington Capitals first round draft choice (of course).

And then, in OT, where the teams were trading chances and a shootout seemed like a likely option, Kuznetsov again stepped forward to win it all for Russia. At 6:44 of OT, he skated into the high slot and wristed a shot top shelf, just to show he had a little bit of everything in his game. His first goal was scored by determination and drive, the second by his unbelievable hands, and the third by a great snap shot.”

Welcome to the worlds Evgeny. Looking forward to seeing you in a Caps sweater.

Posted by: Justafan | January 3, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

It was pretty hilarious the way Milburry went quiet after the Caps took over the score. Coincidence...I think not.

Posted by: capscoach | January 3, 2011 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Watch the CBC version of the game if you get a chance. Despite many of those same bad camera angles they do a much better job. And even though he's a Canadian boy, CBC was much less in Crosby's corner than NBC. Unlike NBC, the Canadian broadcasters were actually willing to criticize Crosby!

Of course CBC was fortunate not to have Milbury's expertise on this telecast. I can't figure out why HNIC hasn't dumped him.

Posted by: temuchin | January 3, 2011 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Not defending NBC, but getting good camera angles was tough due to the size of the stadium and relatively small dimensions of the ice sheet. If you think about any indoor arena, the camera positions are designed for hockey & basketball, but if you tried to do the same thing at Heinz Field you probably would have had camera cranes and dollies obstructing what little the fans could see from their seats. In addition, I think that hockey moves too quickly for the remote-controlled overhead cameras they use for football. NBC had ice-level cameras, but they are only good for a limited number of plays. I agree, however, that the high overhead shot was almost useless.

If the Winter Classic comes to DC it MUST be played at RFK! Not too large, fans nearly hanging over the ice and great camera locations.

While I don't see the strong anti-Caps bias across the board at NBC, I don't think that there is any question that Milbury has serious issues with Ovechkin and he needs to move on/stop the nonsense already. We get believe that Crosby is a more complete player and you are probably correct - Crosby and Ovechkin are no longer the #1/#2 players out there, but Ovie is still in the top 10 and the NHL needs/wants him to be a face of the league. Deal with it! It is unfortunate that Crosby was the hero at the Olympics, is crushing everyone this year with his scoring and Ovie has not been able to adapt to the defenses being used against him.

Posted by: AlligatorArms | January 3, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

I was at the game and got a great picture of the aftermath - the Caps all lined up ready for the ceremonial handshake, and the Pens with their backs turned, headed off the ice. So much for hockey's golden child, and fearless leader, Crysby, leading his troops away from the gentlemenly, traditional handshake. And you wonder why we hate these guys? Imagine the criticism Ovi would have gotten if the Caps lost and had done that????

Posted by: Thisistheyear | January 3, 2011 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Look, I love bashing Milbury as much as anyone, but what he called Ovechkin was "Peck's Bad Boy."

It's not really an insult. And, compared to Crosby and his dullness, who cannot refer to Ovi as "mischievious?"'s a SNOW DAY here in SoCal!!! My last snow day was March, 92 in Baltimore! You'll remember think it was 3/23/92 - NYR at Caps was postponed! And I never thought I'd get another! Ha!

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 3, 2011 10:02 AM | Report abuse

NBC sucks. OV's tone-setting hit gets no instant replay and then barely shows up in the 1st period highlights. Of course, when he wiped out on the crappy ice, NBC replayed that instantly TWICE, once in super slo-mo.

And we've all known this for a long time: Milbury is a tool. Get that jackass off the air.

Posted by: CAP-lanta | January 3, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Actually, for Crosby, this makes twice he has eschewed the traditional handshake (didn't shake with Wings when Pens won Cup). Ovi meanwhile has gone out of his way to endear himself by showing respect to older players. Ovi was doubtless taught this by his mother who has been involved in sports at a high level for 30 some years. Crosby meanwhile was taught by his parents that it was OK to ruin the dryer.

I'd hate for Crosby to be a Cap and then we'd have to root for him. It would be like when Jagr was here.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 3, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

@stwasm: "to the on-ice announcers wearing ski hats that matched the Penguins' uniforms"

Not quite. The hats that the on-ice people were wearing were the plain black/purple/blue Winter Classic hats that featured the WC logo. Those were the colors of the Classic. Yes, they were likely based on the Pens colors since they were the hosts. But they weren't Penguins hats or anything like that. If and when the Classic comes to DC, the the logo will likely have red/white/blue incorporated in it. Will you be upset if NBC wears red/white/blue WC hats?

Posted by: sabredc | January 3, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

No. If you schedule the game for 8 pm and have inclement weather for that time frame, you're forced into postponning the game to another day. By scheduling the game for 1 pm, you have the flexibility of moving back the start time to later in the day where if you try to move the start time forward, you create all kinds of problems.

Posted by: CapsNut | January 3, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

I am very sensitive to the anti-Ovechkin tripe that Milbury spews, but I thought he was much more unbiased during the broadcast. He had a few shots, but I dont think he came across like he usually does.

As for not shaking hands at games end...NBC didn't show the Caps at all after the game, they were focused on the Pens. Did the Caps really line up to shake hands? And if they did, how come no one is criticizing the Pens for being bad sports?

Boggles the mind

Posted by: jmurray019 | January 3, 2011 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I was lucky to find a rebroadcast of the CBC game feed Sunday morning on the NHL network. The play-by-play was more intelligent and they had many closer camera positions and a competent technical director. Try to find that feed and enjoy the game done right.

Posted by: jd20610 | January 3, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Wow, all these complaints about Milbury (which I agree with) but not a word about Pierre McGuire who is more in love with Crosby than all of Nova Scotia put together.

If he hasn't sickened you enough already, check out pierremcguire dot net.

Posted by: rw-c | January 3, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

"If the Winter Classic comes to DC it MUST be played at RFK! Not too large, fans nearly hanging over the ice and great camera locations."

Problem is, RFK is taken by that stupid bowl game that's held the week between Christmas and New Year's. We can all quibble with whether there are too many bowls (there are) and whether this bowl is needed (it isn't), but the fact is that they have a contract for use of the stadium, so that's that for now.

Posted by: 1995hoo | January 3, 2011 11:01 AM | Report abuse

The NHL Network on Sunday showed both the CBC and NBC broadcasts back to back. The differences were immediately obvious. Outrisde of CBC missing Brooks Laich being pushed into Mark-Andre Fleury, every aspect of their broadcast was far superior to that on NBC. The camera angles, the play by play and the commentary. Glen Healy was terrific between the benches and Jim Hughson is the best play-by-play man in hockey (ok maybe tied with Bob Cole). CBC showed the broadcast did not have to approach be unwatchable which NBC was.

Posted by: rbluesw | January 3, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Another Milbury note from the broadcast. He noted how the Caps must adopt a more defensive system and cease the undisciplined offensive approach. Has he paid any attention to the Caps this month? That is exactly what BB has been working on and implemented. They are clearly playing better defensively in the past two weeks.

As for RFK and the bowl, they could easily move the game (Military Bowl) back one week to accommodate the Winter Classic.

Posted by: hateisnotafamilyvalue | January 3, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I think that if the WC were to come to DC and RFK was the proposed site, the Military Bowl people could be 'persuaded' to move their game back a week or maybe just move it to FedEx for one year.

Posted by: AlligatorArms | January 3, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Another note about the broadcasts. I also saw the CBC broadcast yesterday morning and the broadcast team was severely critical of the goalie interference goal on Ovechkin. They felt goalie interference is only appropriate when contact is in the protected arc and that the trapezoid area was fair game.

Posted by: hateisnotafamilyvalue | January 3, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I like Milbury. And who cares if the Pens and Crysby were oversold. They lost.

Posted by: doughless | January 3, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Prime time hockey is the way to go...normally. But if you consider that sites are picked specifically for their hockey-friendly climate, scheduling a prime time game (assuming it's not in Vancouver or Denver) subjects players and fans to potential BITTER cold. In addition, the ice is best when it's in the 30's and it could very well be in the teens or lower at night. That creates a whole set of ice-related problems of its own. Keep it at a 1pm start.

Posted by: Rainier1 | January 3, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

NOBODY in the NHL cares what kinda camera angles NBC provides as long as they're willing to pay the big bucks, all they care about right now is their next TV deal which is up at the end of this season.

Posted by: joek443 | January 3, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Since this game exists more for the casual sports fan rather than rank-and-file hockey fans -- as long as ESPN has the BCS bowl game rights through 2014, play the Winter Classic during prime time. Less competition for viewers (one bowl game at night vs. four in the afternoon) and a well-hyped, entertaining, primetime event to reach those who choose not to pay a king's ransom for a cable package that includes the four-letter network. (Yes, such people exist.) But to NBC or whatever network signs up to produce the Winter Classic: please hire a "Hockey Night in Canada" production crew for this broadcast. NBC did a poor job from camera angles to shot selection to commentary that had little to do with the game itself.

Posted by: kpjtreubert | January 3, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: duckyjimpond | January 3, 2011 3:37 PM | Report abuse





Posted by: duckyjimpond | January 3, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: duckyjimpond | January 3, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

The 2011 Winter Classic was a wonderful event! (At least as experienced by me via TV and blogs and twitter.)

To answer the editors' question, IMHO, scheduling the Winter Classic in prime time is a good idea.

I hear what several on here have said about the fallback/same-day rescheduling possible with an afternoon start. But I'd suggest that's outweighed by 1) less TV competition from bowls, and 2) better, more consistent lighting. Did anyone see how bad the glare was during Fri? (And on a related note, is *eyeblack* really the best solution we can come up with in 2010/11 to mitigate glare?)

In answer to @JIMALLCAPS2 and a Canadian outdoor game, the Heritage Classic is being revived, with Montreal and Calgary @ CGY next season:

That being said, I'd love to see/attend a Washington Capitals v. Ottawa Senators "Battle of the Capitals," played outdoors in Quebec City! (I know the fans in Ottawa probably wouldn't go for this, but Quebec is such a cool city!) Or how about here in DC...we make our own outdoor tradition, and rotate annually between Ottawa and Washington?

Regarding the generally negative comments about the NBC coverage: Yep, I really missed CSN. And yes, the zooming-in shots from the blimp were not appropriate during play. And yes, Milbury's a tool, and I wish JR had put us out of our collective misery during the Olympics. And certainly yes, Regis "Pierre" McGuire is unbearably awful, and we should all sign the petition to ban him from hockey. ;-)

Posted by: aphid69 | January 3, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

But to NBC or whatever network signs up to produce the Winter Classic: please hire a "Hockey Night in Canada" production crew for this broadcast. NBC did a poor job from camera angles to shot selection to commentary that had little to do with the game itself

LOL this is really funny... go listen to Puck Daddy radio and listen to what Rob who was watching the game from CANADA has to say.

He says he heard the same complaints about all the weird/unusual camera angles watching the CBC broadcast.

just goes to show that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence!!!

Posted by: joek443 | January 3, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

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