This afternoon's Bruins/Red Wings game starts what NBC hopes to be another annual tradition - the "NHL Thanksgiving Showdown" and as the Bruins have traditionally (since 1990) played a matinee game at the Garden on the day after Thanksgiving, it makes perfect sense that they are the first team to host this event.
NBC has placed a renewed emphasis on the NHL, working to promote the sport and its coverage, both on the broadcast network NBC as well as the cable network VERSUS, which will be renamed the NBC Sports Network on January 2nd.
In promotion for the game, sponsor Discover and the NHL also introduced a co-branded float titled "Frozen Fall Fun" that made its first-ever appearance in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. The float, featuring a live performance of Grammy Award-winning artist Cee-Lo Green, was 36 feet long by 20 feet wide and designed to reflect a fall hockey theme. The float also featured Bruins great Cam Neely and Red Wings legend Larry Murphy, a synthetic ice rink, a 12-foot tall turkey, plus an assortment of colorful fall décor.
This afternoon's game marks the earliest NHL regular-season broadcast on network television in more than 20 years. It is also the only matchup between these two original six franchise this season. The Bruins have not had success against the Red Wings in recent years, the last time they defeated Detroit was almost three years ago, when Phil Kessel scored the game-winning goal for the Bruins on November 29th, 2008. Much has changed for this franchise since then.
"The NHL and NBC have a great partnership and we are always looking for new events to help showcase this sport," said Sam Flood, Executive Producer for NBC Sports and VERSUS. "As a Boston native, I’m excited to take what has turned into a great local tradition – a Bruins game on the Friday after Thanksgiving – and introduce it to national audience by airing it on NBC, and simultaneously starting our broadcast coverage earlier than ever."
Pierre McGuire, who became well-known to Boston fans during last year's postseason with his work on NBC as well as his frequent appearances on 98.5 FM's Felger and Massarotti show, will again serve as the ‘Inside the Glass’ analyst. Of today's game, McGuire says "This game pits two original six teams who have lifted the Cup recently. Both teams have to show urgency for points and because of that need, this has the makings of an early season playoff game."
In the booth, the team of Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick (play-by-play), Eddie Olczyk (analyst) will call the game, and NBC will surround its game coverage with pre-game, intermission and post-game reports live from the arena with studio host Liam McHugh and analyst Mike Milbury - well known in these parts for his time with the Bruins and his work on NESN.
Emrick says of today's game "It’s a combination of a terrific present and a glorious past. The Bruins are the defending Stanley Cup champions, and they just ran the table in a five-game home stand for the first time in 25 years. Detroit started the season winning the first five, and put together another streak of four straight wins. The styles contrast. These are the two oldest U.S.-based NHL franchises and two of the most prominent U.S. franchises in winning Stanley Cups. They have been playing each other for 85 years."
In addition to all of the above coverage, the inaugural NHL Thanksgiving Showdown will feature a microphone on one of the referees (Kelly Sutherland) to capture on-ice audio for the first time in a regular-season game on NBC. Should things get a little animated, as they were in the game against Buffalo earlier this week, that microphone could come in handy for the network (or need to be shut off altogether.)
A new sports tradition begins today, and fittingly, Boston is right in the middle of it once again.