NBC Was Right to Not Air US vs. Canada
The fact of the matter is that hockey television viewership in this country is paltry at best. To air a live match in prime time on the night with the largest viewership of any night would have been business suicide.
That is, unless NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol knew in advance that the upstart American team would win and in dramatic fashion. And as good as Ebersol may think he is, he's not that omniscient.
NBC would have certainly carried the game Sunday afternoon had it been scheduled there, but with a roughly 7:45 p.m. Eastern faceoff – no doubt to accommodate the hockey mad host country – they elected to place the game on MSNBC.
NBC elected to air the MSNBC feed of the game late in the pressure-packed third period, and hastily threw Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on the air to debrief Bob Costas on what happened.
Tellingly, the network elected to bump bobsled coverage, rather than ice dancing, which brings in the female viewers that gives Olympic viewership a boost over most sports telecasts.
Where NBC deserves a puck in the head is for not airing the U.S.-Canada game on USA, which is widely distributed on satellite and cable systems in high definition, as opposed to MSNBC, which is not.
The irony of it all is that neither the Sunday game and the 1980 semifinal match against the Soviets -- arguably the two biggest games in U.S. hockey -- made to live over-the-air American television.