NBC PULLED the plug on coverage of the overtime period between the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, denying viewers in most of the United States the end of the deciding game of the NHL Eastern Conference final.
A day later, a source close to the NHL called the decision to prematurely end the telecast “disappointing,” but said the network’s contract with the league allowed it to pull out after three hours.
NBC dropped the overtime period because it didn’t want the telecast running into its scheduled 90-minute coverage of the Preakness Stakes, starting at 2 p.m.
Many are calling NBC’s move an embarrassment to the NHL. Networks, as a rule, do not leave a live sports telecast until it’s over. In 1968, NBC was widely criticized for dropping a game between the Raiders and Jets in its final minutes to air “Heidi.”
Even more disappointing: The winning goal was scored 9 minutes 32 seconds into OT, about 2:20 p.m. NBC could have stayed with the game and then immediately switched to the Preakness coverage leading up to the race, which didn’t run until after 3 p.m.
“NBC was obligated (contractually) to provide its traditional coverage of the Preakness,” NBC Universal Sports director of communications Brian Walker told the Toronto Star.
In terms of audiences, there’s a huge gulf between viewership for an NHL playoff game — even one as important as Saturday’s — and a major event such as the Preakness.