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NHL Brings Back All-Star Draft, Product is ‘Good for TV’

“We’re really hopeful this is not only going to be a positive weekend for the NHL in-arena, but outside the arena and on television.”

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Courtesy: National Hockey League

The National Hockey League (NHL) will present its All-Star festivities this upcoming weekend in Toronto, Ontario from Scotiabank Arena, presenting a new facet of coverage through its Thursday broadcast. The first day of the event will include an All-Star player draft, reinstating the selection process and implementing celebrity captains as well.

Players who will serve as captains for the four teams include Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon and New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes. Following the All-Star draft on Thursday night, the league will hold a special ceremony honoring the 1967 Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs followed by a 3-on-3 showcase featuring the best of the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL).

Last year’s broadcast of All-Star weekend experienced gains across the board, averaging 1.3 million total viewers across its slate of events. For the All-Star Game itself, viewership peaked at 1.9 million viewers, averaging 1.5 million viewers with 549,000 in the persons 18-49 demographic. Moreover, viewership for games broadcast on ESPN/ABC and TNT as of numbers compiled by Sports Business Journal last week, averaging 487,000 viewers on the aforementioned networks. As the NHL prepares for another All-Star Weekend, broadcasting events across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN+ in the United States, it hopes to be able to build off that momentum.

“We’re really hopeful this is not only going to be a positive weekend for the NHL in-arena, but outside the arena and on television,” NHL Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer said. “We have great partners both in the United States and in Canada, and they lean into All-Star Weekend like no other event. They bring a lot of their on-camera talent; they build sets; they broadcast from the arena [and] they broadcast from Toronto. It’s a big deal, and we think we’ve given them some new formats that are exciting.”

The All-Star Draft in particular will serve as an opportunity for the league to highlight some of the personalities of its players. Combined with celebrity participation and various technological advances, the draft will help set the tone for the weekend. Outside of the on-ice events themselves, the weekend aims to be a celebration of the sport with a fanfest, community events and other key activations. Viewers consuming the game from afar will notice new technology and the utilization of the league’s EDGE puck and player tracking statistics, specifically during the skills competition.

Bringing back the All-Star draft was an idea that came through discussions within the league considering that the game was returning to Toronto. Current Maple Leafs team president Brendan Shanahan came up with the idea when it first began in the 2010-11 iteration, and it has produced many memorable moments over the years. Some of the storylines that came out of the event pertaining to who and where certain players went created compelling conversation for the broadcast.

The National Basketball Association is taking the opposite approach for its All-Star Game this year, returning to the traditional East vs. West format. After holding a draft featuring two team captains behind closed doors, the league started televising the action on TNT and eventually held it live at last year’s game. Conversely, the NHL will be returning to the concept and implementing it within its tournament-style layout of the All-Star Game on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s good TV,” Mayer said. “It’s a lot of fun, [and] it’s going to be fast. We’re going to do the whole draft in an hour, but that will determine Saturday’s matchups. The more we talk about it, the more we planned it [and] the more we’ve formatted it, I think it’s going to be really fun.”

The draft itself will be broadcast at 6 p.m. EST on ESPN2 and ESPN+ as part of the new All-Star Thursday festivities. On Friday night at 7 p.m. EST, the league’s skills competition will take place on ESPN and ESPN+ with a lineup to be announced. The weekend concludes on Saturday, Feb. 3 with the NHL All-Star Game at 3 p.m. EST on ABC and ESPN+.

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Jac Collinsworth Out as NBC Voice of Notre Dame Football

NBC will alternate between their new top team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge or Dan Hicks and Jason Garrett, depending on the game.

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Jac Collinsworth, Jason Garrett
Courtesy: NBC

According to Andrew Marchand of The Athletic, Jac Collinsworth will no longer serve as the play-by-play voice of Notre Dame football games for NBC. The younger Collinsworth, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2017, served as the lead voice for Fighting Irish football games on NBC for two years.

Marchand says that starting next season, NBC’s team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge will assume number one college football commentator duties. Internally, NBC execs enjoyed the duo’s calls of NFL and Big Ten football games and wanted to “reward” them with a larger stage. However, Marchand confirms that the pair will still call primetime Big Ten games but will be moved to the Notre Dame call if the network feels the Fighting Irish game of the week is a bigger draw.

Fans of Jason Garrett will be happy to know the former Cowboys coach will still be on the call for other Notre Dame games, now alongside longtime NBC voice Dan Hicks.

All is not lost for Collinsworth, though. Jac will still be part of the Football Night in America team and call college football games on Peacock. Collinsworth was also a voice for the network’s USFL coverage but that will no longer be an option following the league’s merger with the XFL.

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Craig Carton Doubles Down On Philadelphia Eagles Report After Adam Schefter Denial

“I texted someone in the organization yesterday, and the text I got back was, ‘None of that ‘S’ happened.’”

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Craig Carton and Adam Schefter
Caraig Carton Courtesy of FS1, Adam Schefter courtesy of ESPN

Craig Carton put out a mysterious report surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles that was shot down by prominent ESPN reporter Adam Schefter. Now, Carton, the current FS1 and former WFAN voice has doubled down on his story.

During the Feb. 20 episode of The Carton Show, Carton said that the Eagles’ collapse was due to, “a problem that would splinter any group of men. It is a real significant problem, and it can not be fixed,” but did not go into any sort of detail.

Schefter, ever the journalist, reached out to a source within the Eagles organization, who immediately denounced the story. During an appearance on 97.5 The Fanatic’s The John Kinkaid Show, Schefter said, “I texted someone in the organization yesterday, and the text I got back was, ‘None of that ‘S’ happened.’” Carton immediately started backpedaling via his X account.

Carton also spoke to The New York Post, telling the news outlet, “Considering I never said what the situation was, what exactly are the Eagles denying? I don’t know what the Eagles are denying. Just because the team is denying something and saying it didn’t happen, we should believe them?” The former WFAN host then accuses Schefter of contacting Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and again asks what was being denied because of Carton’s vague original report.

He then retweeted a post from JAKIB Sports reporter Derrick Gunn, saying that there was some internal strife within the Eagles last season. However, nothing Gunn reported seemingly matched the level of dysfunction that Carton speculated.

Today’s episode of The Carton Show also featured Eagles talk, echoing the same sentiments that Carton mentioned to The Post without offering much in the way of news.

Until Carton or another sports media member reveals exactly what went on behind the scenes, Eagles fans will just have to hope for a more positive season in 2024.

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ESPN Broadcast of Rangers-Islanders Stadium Series Game Is Its Most-Viewed NHL Regular Season Game Since 2021

The Stadium Series game between the Rangers and Islanders averaged 1.6 million viewers, the most for a regular season game since the league returned in 2021.

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The NHL on ESPN got a major win under its belt with news that the Sunday, Feb. 18 Stadium Series matchup between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders amassed about 1.6 million viewers, the most for a regular season game since the league returned to the Worldwide Leader in 2021. It was also the most-watched Stadium Series game overall since 2019. The Sunday night broadcast peaked at 2.38 million viewers, an increase of 31 percent vs. last year’s Stadium Series game.

Combined with the Saturday night tilt between the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers, both games averaged 1.37 million total viewers and 448,000 viewers in the 18-49 demographic – both figures up 21 percent from last year’s Stadium Series game. Flyers/Devils averaged 1.13 million total viewers and 401,000 viewers in the 18-49 demographic, which was flat and up 8 percent versus last year’s Stadium Series. The game’s audience peaked at 1.38 million viewers.

The NHL announced that 9.4 million people across the North American continent tuned into the 16 NHL games that took place across Saturday and Sunday.

Like most sports, NHL viewership has gone up this year — both locally and nationally. Local channel viewership figures are up three percent across the board, while NHL viewership on ESPN is up 40 percent compared to last year.

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