Networks aren’t wild about Ducks

Times Staff Writer

Network television is ducking the Ducks.

When Versus and NBC this week sent out their telecast schedules for the first round of the NHL playoffs, the Ducks and Minnesota Wild were nowhere to be seen.

However, Versus has since thrown the Ducks a crumb. The network announced Thursday it will pick up the local feed of their game against the Wild tonight, joining it in progress following the 6 p.m. Dallas-Vancouver game.

The Versus telecast of the Ducks and Wild must be blacked out within a 50-mile radius to protect the local telecaster -- which in this case is Channel 56 -- so maybe it’s no big deal. But to almost completely bypass the Ducks is still a snub of the team, which tied for the third-best record in the NHL with 110 points.


NBC, which offers Pittsburgh-Ottawa as a regional telecast Saturday at noon, picked the Calgary Flames and Detroit Red Wings over the Ducks and Wild as its national telecast Sunday at 10 a.m.

Even NBC’s tentative schedule for the following weekend leaves off the Ducks, who aren’t getting much respect from local television, either. Because of a crowded sports landscape this time of year, Game 2 tonight at the Honda Center and Game 4 Tuesday at St. Paul, Minn., are being farmed out to Channel 56 because there’s no room for those games on FSN Prime Ticket or FSN West. Game 3 Sunday will be on Prime Ticket.

A bigger problem looms if the Ducks advance. Versus gets up to two games exclusively in the next round, the conference semifinals, and all games exclusively in the conference finals. When Versus gets a game exclusively, that means no local telecast. With Versus reaching only 59% of the cable households in the L.A. market, a good number of Ducks fans won’t be able to watch their team.

That became a major issue last year, when the Ducks advanced to the conference finals against Edmonton and Versus, then called OLN, reached only 49% of L.A.’s cable households.

NBC studio analyst Brett Hull and Canadian television’s Don Cherry, who will make guest appearances on NBC during the Stanley Cup finals, had conflicting views of the series between the Ducks and Wild during a conference call before the Ducks’ 2-1 victory in Game 1.

Hull called this series the Ducks’ “biggest test” and added, “It could go against Anaheim if they’re not careful.”


Said Cherry: “I’m picking Anaheim. I love the way they play. They’re my favorite team. I love Dallas too, but I don’t know if they have a chance against Vancouver.”

Ducks fans may not be too thrilled about the television schedule, and neither is the Canadian Broadcasting Co. The CBC was hoping to show Ottawa-Pittsburgh Saturday night, but that game was moved to the afternoon and given to NBC, even though the CBC pays a rights fee to the NHL and NBC does not.

The CBC instead gets Tampa Bay-New Jersey, which figures to be a ratings loser in Canada.

Nick Nickson, the Kings’ radio play-by-play announcer, ended up missing the team’s final nine games because of back problems and fatigue. When he missed a game at Anaheim on March 18, it was the first he had missed since Feb. 17, 1986, when his son was born. A team spokesman said Nickson has a history of back problems.

A major move

Under normal circumstances, arranging to televise a three-game baseball series on the road is no easy feat. And when the Angels’ series against the Cleveland Indians this week got moved to Milwaukee at the last minute, the FSN West crew had to scramble.

“To do what they did with less than 24 hours’ notice was simply amazing,” said executive producer Tom Feuer.

A special day

ESPN will commemorate Jackie Robinson Day on Sunday, culminating its 16-day “After Jackie” initiative celebrating the 60th anniversary of Robinson’s breaking baseball’s color barrier.

Throughout the day, which includes a one-hour pregame show at 4 p.m. and ESPN’s telecast of the game between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium, Robinson’s milestone will be discussed and feted.

A grand event

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday at 1 p.m. will be televised by NBC. The announcing crew includes Bill Weber and Wally Dallenbach, who are better known in NASCAR circles.

An ultimate compliment

The pay-per-view boxing telecast featuring Manny Pacquiao against Jorge Solis Saturday at 6 p.m. is being produced by promoter Bob Arum, who is planning a different approach. He said he is going to copy Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) telecasts, which have become very popular.

“Their product is nowhere near as good as ours,” Arum said, “but the telecasts are very entertaining with a lot of music and activity and little talking.”

Of announcers Al Bernstein and Wally Matthews, Arum said, “You’ll see them talking very briefly between fights. And with less talking, we’re able to get four fights into the telecast rather than just two or three.”