CBS first broadcast National Hockey League games for four seasons from 1956–57–1959–60. CBS aired games on Saturday afternoons with Bud Palmer and Fred Cusick handling the announcing duties, initially. Palmer served as the play-by-play man while Cusick did color commentary as well as interviews for the first three seasons. In 1959–60, Cusick moved over to play-by-play while Brian McFarlane came in to do the color commentary and interviews. The pregame and intermission interviews were done on the ice, with the interviewer on skates. No playoff games were televised during this period and all broadcasts took place in one of the four American arenas at the time.
As previously mentioned, CBS covered the 1956–57 season on Saturday afternoons, starting January 5. For the next three years, they aired continued airing games a Saturday afternoons starting on November 2, 1957, October 18, 1958 and January 9, 1960.
According to the 1991 book Net Worth: Exploding the Myths of Pro Hockey, during the 1956-57 season, CBS broadcast 10 games that were popular with viewers. The four American franchises at the time (the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers) each received $100,000. However, the players themselves, received absolutely zero money from the TV deal. One CBS employee said, "We got a call from a girl in Cincinnati who wanted to start a women's hockey league. We referred her to NHL president Clarence Campbell, who told her hockey was too rough for gals."
Furthermore, according to Sports Illustrated, the NHL dropped CBS because the NHL owners didn't want the fledgling Players' Association to gain a financial cut of the TV deal. This was despite the fact that CBS was at least at one point, getting better ratings than NBC's NBA package from around the same period.
In 1963–64, CBS offered to broadcast a NHL on CBS Game of the Week on Saturdays during the NFL season. By the winter, CBS would move the Game of the Week to Sundays in the same time slot. Ultimately, the NHL rejected the idea, saying it would cause too many schedule and travel problems.
|10/18/58||Detroit @ Chicago|
|10/25/58||Chicago @ New York|
|11/1/58||Detroit @ Boston|
|11/8/58||Chicago @ Detroit|
|11/15/58||Montreal @ Chicago|
|11/22/58||Detroit @ Boston|
|11/29/58||Boston @ New York|
|12/6/58||Detroit @ Chicago|
|1/3/59||Boston @ Detroit|
|1/10/59||Detroit @ New York|
|1/17/59||New York @ Chicago|
|1/24/59||Chicago @ Detroit|
|1/31/59||Detroit @ Boston|
|2/7/59||Chicago @ New York|
|2/14/59||Montreal @ Boston|
|2/21/59||Chicago @ Detroit|
|2/28/59||Boston @ Chicago|
|3/7/59||New York @ Chicago|
|3/14/59||Detroit @ Boston|
|3/21/59||New York @ Detroit|
The Toronto Maple Leafs didn't appear on the schedule because they played at home every Saturday night during the season.
For six seasons, from 1966–67 through 1971–72, CBS aired a game each week between mid-January until early-mid May in each of those seasons, mainly on a Sunday afternoon, including playoffs. From 1968–69 through 1971–72, the intermission studio was called "CBS Control", just like with their NFL coverage.
During the 1967 playoffs, CBS was scheduled to broadcast the April 8 game between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens. However, an AFTRA strike forced cancellation of the telecast. The strike itself would ultimately end 2 days later.
CBS started their weekly 1967–68 coverage with the opening game (the Philadelphia Flyers vs. Los Angeles Kings) at the Forum in Inglewood, California on December 30. Then after two more Saturday afternoons, CBS switched to Sunday afternoons beginning on January 28 for the next 10 weeks. Due to an AFTRA strike (which resulted in the cancellation of a New York Rangers-Montreal broadcast), CBS started their playoff coverage with a CBC tape of the previous night's Boston-Montreal game. On April 13, CBS started their 3-week long weekend afternoon Stanley Cup coverage. The last game of the series was St. Louis-Montreal on May 11. For the playoffs, Jim Gordon worked play-by-play and Stu Nahan worked color commentary. During the regular season, Gordon and Nahan alternated roles each week. For instance, Gordon did the worked play-by-play on December 30 while Nahan worked play-by-play the next week.
The same pattern continued through the 1971–72 season. CBS did manage to televise the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals clincher on a Tuesday night and the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals clincher on a Thursday night. In 1971, CBS was not scheduled to broadcast Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, but showed the prime time contest (the first ever occurrence of a NHL game being nationally televised in prime time in the United States) between the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Black Hawks almost as a public service. Ironically, the game was not telecast by the Chicago CBS affiliate WBBM-TV due to Blackhawks' owner Arthur M. Wirtz policy of not telecasting home games. While Dan Kelly once again handled all of the play-by-play work, Jim Gordon replaced Bill Mazer in 1970–71. For the CBS' Stanley Cup Finals coverage during this period, a third voice was added to the booth (Phil Esposito in 1971 and Harry Howell in 1972).
During the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, CBS took a rather calculated risk in not televising Game 5 of the Final on Tuesday night (CBS aired Hawaii Five-O in that time period). This was despite the fact that Game 5 was a potential clincher with the Bruins up 3 games to 1 on the Rangers. CBS ultimately lucked out (since the Rangers won Game 5 3-2), and televised the clincher (Game 6) on Thursday night.
Stanley Cup playoffsEdit
|Round||Series||Games covered||Play-by-play||Color commentators|
|Quarterfinals||Boston vs. Montreal||Game 2 (joined-in-progress; CBC tape)||Danny Gallivan||Dick Irvin Jr.|
|New York Rangers vs Chicago||Game 4||Jim Gordon||Stu Nahan|
|Semifinals||Minnesota vs. St. Louis||Game 2||Jim Gordon||Stu Nahan|
|Chicago vs. Montreal||Game 5|
|Round||Series||Games covered||Play-by-play||Color commentators|
|Quarterfinals||St. Louis vs. Philadelphia||Game 4||Dan Kelly||Bill Mazer|
|Semifinals||Boston vs. Montreal||Games 2, 4||Dan Kelly||Bill Mazer|
In relation to the 1967 NHL expansionEdit
Although, the San Francisco Bay Area was not considered a particularly good hockey market, the terms of a new television agreement with CBS called for two of the expansion teams to be located in California. Hence, the California Seals and Los Angeles Kings joined the National Hockey League at the behest of CBS. (The Seals were renamed the Oakland Seals during their first season and then were rechristened the California Golden Seals when purchased by Charlie O. Finley in 1970–71.)
CBS was hoping that they would grow with the NHL by persuading them to go coast-to-coast (Montreal to Los Angeles) in a similar fashion for which they had grown with the National Football League (beginning in 1956).
Perhaps, the most memorable moment came on Mother's Day of 1969–70 (May 10), when Bobby Orr's winning goal in overtime of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals gave his Boston Bruins their first Stanley Cup Championship since 1941, as they swept the St. Louis Blues at the old Boston Garden. Immediately upon scoring, Orr caught his skate in the defenceman's stick and was sent flying onto the ice. The "flight" was captured by a news photographer and is one of the iconic images in the history of sports.
The most commonly seen video clip of Bobby Orr's "flight" is the American version broadcast on CBS as called by Dan Kelly. This archival clip can be considered a rarity, since about 98% of the time, any surviving kinescopes or videotapes of the actual telecasts of hockey games from this era usually emanate from CBC's coverage. According to Dick Irvin, Jr.'s book My 26 Stanley Cups (Irvin was in the CBC booth with Danny Gallivan during the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals), he was always curious why even the CBC prototypically uses the CBS replay of the Bobby Orr goal (with Dan Kelly's commentary) instead of Gallivan's call. The explanation that Irvin received was that the CBC's master tape of the game (along with others) was thrown away in order clear shelf space at the network.
On May 24, 1980, in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers, Bobby Nystrom scored the game winner at 7:11 of overtime on national television throughout the United States to secure the first Stanley Cup in Islanders' history. Nystrom was part of the first NHL team (1979-80 New York Islanders) to win a Stanley Cup with Europeans on its roster.
As part of The CBS Sports Spectacular (1979-1980)Edit
1979 Challenge CupEdit
1978–79's Challenge Cup replaced the All-Star Game. It was a best of three series between the NHL All-Stars against the Soviet Union national squad. In the United States, Game 2, which was on a Saturday afternoon, was shown on CBS as part of CBS Sports Spectacular. The network, the show, and their sponsors had a problem with the rink board advertising that the NHL sold at Madison Square Garden, and refused to allow them to be shown on TV. As a result, CBS viewers were unable to see the far boards above the yellow kickplate, and could only see players' skates when the play moved to that side of the ice. Games 1 and 3 were shown on the NHL Network, where the advertising was no problem.
1980 Stanley Cup FinalsEdit
CBS would only air one other NHL game following Game 2 of the 1979 Challenge Cup. That would take place on Saturday, May 24, 1980, with Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Islanders. The game was won in overtime by the host Islanders, who captured their first of their four consecutive Stanley Cups.
By that time, Dan Kelly was joined by former NHL on NBC commentator, Tim Ryan. Dan Kelly did play-by-play for the first and third periods as well as overtime. Meanwhile, Tim Ryan did play-by-play only for the second period and studio host. Minnesota North Stars GM Lou Nanne was the color commentator throughout the game.
As previously mentioned, Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals turned out to be the last NHL game (to this date) to be televised on CBS. It was also the last NHL game on American network television until NBC televised the 1990 All-Star Game.