With the Stadium Series game on Saturday night and a tripleheader on Sunday, Sam Flood says it’s “hockey heaven” for NBC Sports Group this weekend, with a little “Miracle on Ice” mixed in for good measure.
Flood, the executive producer for NBC and NBCSN, said the programmer will anchor its studio coverage this weekend from an outdoor set in Lake Placid, N.Y., site of the U.S.’s 1980 victory over the thought to be invincible Soviets in the “Miracle on Ice,” 35 years ago.
On Saturday night, NBCSN will air the Stadium Series matchup of the San Jose Shark and defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Sunday, NBC’s fifth "Hockey Day in America", will show three games: a pair of contests on NBC in the afternoon, Washington-Philadelphia and Boston-Chicago, followed by the Dallas Stars visiting the Minnesota Wild in the nightcap on NBCSN.
Meanwhile, the surviving members of Team USA are gathering at the Olympic Fieldhouse, now named Herb Broks Arena, for their late coach who led a group of collegians and amateurs to what is arguably the greatest upset in the sport’s history, a 4-3 win in the semifinals over the USSR on Feb. 22, 1980. Two days later, the Americans secured gold -- and immortality -- against Finland. .
“Our plan was always to set up in Lake Placid for the anniversary. Then you hear that there was going to be a celebration, but you hear that all the time about Olympic teams. We got lucky with this event,” said Flood, who spoke to Mark Johnson, who knotted matters in the third period and team captain Mike Eruzione, who scored the game winner against the Russians, earlier this week.
He noted that Team USA players will be surrounded by their families, which will make the event even more special. “They’ve long been a part of these reunions. They’ve gotten to know each other and become friends from these get-togethers, attend weddings and see their kids grow up."
Flood said NBC’s team will be conducting interviews and shooting footage from the gathering; content will be deployed fluidly across the weekend.
“It will be like a meritocracy like with the Super Bowl pregame,” said Flood. “We’ll use the best stuff where it makes the most sense—during the pregame, between periods, between the games.”
In addition to the reunion festivities, NBC has a number of 35th anniversary features in its jersey.
Jimmy Roberts will sit down with forward Mark Wells to discuss the 1980 squad; the adversity he faced in his life after hockey, including a debilitating back injury; the sale of his gold medal; and how he’s now getting back on his skates.
Pierre McGuire, NBC Sports Group’s inside the glass guru, will talk with Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, whose father passed away last September from a heart attack. The 1980 team member will have his number raised to the rafters in Lake Placid this weekend.
“This will be the first time the rest of the team has convened without one of their teammates and Coach Brooks,” said Flood.
NBC Sports Group’s Hockey Day In America”lineup also includes features on U.S. Sled Hockey’s Josh Sweeney, a U.S. Marine, who lost his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2009. Sweeney brings viewers inside the role sled hockey played in his recovery, which ultimately led him to Sochi, where he scored the game-winning goal in the 2014 Paralympic gold medal final.
“Defending The Blue Line” profiles the foundation, whose mission is to ensure children of military members are afforded every opportunity to play hockey. It also tells the story of SFC Wade Scott, who was wounded in Afghanistan, and his two young boys who participate in the program.
At Lake Placid, Liam McHugh will anchor the Hockey Day in America studio coverage, alongside analysts and former players Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick. Flood, who knows a bit about the area – he played in the Olympic Fieldhouse during February 1979 as a member of a high school all-star team from Boston – wasn’t hazarding a forecast about the cold that has gripped the northeast, but did make one prediction. “Millsbury will be dressed like a polar bear,” he said.
The weather figures to be far less frightful on Saturday night in Santa Clara. The pregame for the NHL Stadium Series matchup between the Sharks and Kings faces off at 9:30 p.m. (ET) Feb. 21 on NBCSN. Kathryn Tappen will host live studio coverage on-site at Levi’s Stadium, and will be joined by Dave Strader (play-by-play), Eddie Olczyk (analyst), Brian Engblom (inside-the-glass analyst) and Carolyn Manno (reporter).
The Capitals and Flyers begin Hockey Day In America tripleheader at 12:30 p.m. on the Peacock. Chris Cuthbert (play-by-play) and Anson Carter (analyst) will have the call from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the hometown of NBCU parent Comcast.
The Bruins visit the United Center to take on the Blackhawks at 3:30 p.m. Play-by-play caller extraordinaire ‘Doc’ Emrick will be joined by Olczyk and McGuire.
The puck then shifts to NBCSN with NHL Live at 7 p.m., followed by the tripleheader finale between the Stars and Wild from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., an hour later. Gord Miller will have the call, assisted by analyst Bret Hedican.