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NHL on USA is the de facto title of a former television show that broadcast National Hockey League games on the USA Network.[1]




Manhattan Cable and HBO

Manhattan Cable (subsequently referred to as the MSG Network) debuted in the spring of 1969 and did all home events from the Madison Square Garden: New York Knicks basketball, New York Rangers hockey, college basketball, horse shows, Golden Gloves boxing, tennis, the Westminster Dog Show, ice capades, professional wrestling, etc. The first reference to the channel as “MSG Network” was sometime around 1971–72, although the name did not become official until 1977.

The first televised events were NHL and NBA playoffs in the spring of 1969; in those playoffs Marty Glickman did play-by-play for the Knicks broadcasts while Win Elliott did play-by-play for the Rangers.

Meanwhile, HBO began simulcasting some MSG games in 1972 beginning with the Rangers/Vancouver Canucks game on November 8, 1972 (the first ever program televised on HBO, to a few subscribers in Wilkes-Barre, PA). 1974–75 marked the only year in which HBO used MSG announcers for their feed. Because HBO is a premium cable service, this created a burden on announcers to fill in dead airtime on HBO while commercials aired on MSG Network. HBO did not broadcast Knicks or Rangers games after the 1976–77 season.


When the MSG/HBO marriage ended in 1977, Madison Square Garden proceeded to seek a new partner to launch a national network to show off its events. So for several years, beginning with the 1977–78 season, all MSG home events (such as those involving the Knicks, Rangers, etc.) were then televised on a fledgling network that would eventually become known as the USA Network. This channel, which debuted on September 22, 1977, was basically a continuation of the existing MSG Network. The key difference however, was that it was now nationally syndicated via satellite rather than terrestrially. It was also the first cable channel to be supported by advertising revenues. By this time, the channel was officially called the “Madison Square Garden Network” or MSG Network.

In 1979–80, the National Hockey League replaced their syndicated coverage package The NHL Network with a package on USA. At the time, the USA Network was called UA-Columbia. As the immediate forerunner for the USA Network, UA-Columbia, served as the cable syndicated arm of the Madison Square Garden Network in New York, PRISM channel in Philadelphia, and whatever pay/cable outlets were around in 1979.

The formation of the USA Network

On April 9, 1980, the Madison Square Garden Network changed its name to the USA Network. This occurred when the ownership structure was reorganized under a joint operating agreement by the UA-Columbia Cablevision cable system (now known as Cablevision Systems Corporation) and MCA (then the parent of Universal Studios, now owned by NBC Universal). Things took a step further one year later when, Time Inc. (which eventually merged with Warner Communications to form Time Warner) and Paramount Pictures Corp. (then a division of Gulf+Western, now owned by Viacom) took minority ownership stakes in USA. G+W also owned the New York Rangers and the MSG regional sports television network (both now owned by Cablevision).

Coverage overview

As previously mentioned USA's (or UA-Columbia as it was known at the time) coverage begin in the 1979–80 season as a Monday night series with Dan Kelly[2][3] doing play-by-play alongside a variety of commentators including Pete Stemkowski, Lou Nanne and Brian McFarlane. Meanwhile, Scott Wahle was the intermission host on most games.

For the 1980–81 season, some Sunday night games were added. Dan Kelly once again, did most of the play-by-play alongside Mike Eruzione[4]. Dick Carlson and Jiggs McDonald also did play-by-play work on occasion. In addition, Don Cherry was a commentator for at least one game. Meanwhile, Jim West was the host for most games.

In the 1981–82 season, Al Trautwig took over as studio host. Dan Kelly did play-by-play with either Gary Green[5] or Rod Gilbert on color commentary. For the playoffs, Dick Carlson and Al Albert[6] were added as play-by-play voices of some games. Meanwhile, Jim Van Horne hosted Stanley Cup Finals games played in Vancouver.

In April 1982, USA outbid ESPN for the NHL's American national television cable package with $8 million[7] (at least $2 million more than what ESPN was offering).

Things pretty much the remained the same for USA during the 1982–83 season. Dan Kelly and Gary Green called most games, while Al Albert did play-by-play on several playoff games and hosted one game of the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the 1983–84 season, USA covered over 40 games including the playoffs. While Gary Green did all the games, Dan Kelly and Al Albert did roughly 20 games each. Meanwhile, Jiggs McDonald helped broadcast one game.

For USA's final season of NHL coverage in 1984–85, Dan Kelly and Gary Green once again, did most games, while Al Albert and Green called the rest. Also, Mike Liut was added as an intermission analyst for the Stanley Cup Finals.

Meanwhile, for increased publicity opportunities, the Stroh Brewing Company turned to such sports as hockey—which had been overlooked by Anheuser and Miller—and sponsored broadcasts of National Hockey League games on the USA cable network.

List of commentators


  • Al Albert (1981–82 through 1984–85)
  • Dick Carlson (1980–81 through 1981–82)
  • Dan Kelly (1979–80 through 1984–85)
  • Jiggs McDonald (1980–81 through 1983–84)

Color commentary

Studio hosts

Studio analysts

See also


  1. ^ The MSG/HBO marriage ended in 1977 when Madison Square Garden management sought a new partner to launch a national network to show off its events. For several years all MSG home events (Knicks, Rangers, dog shows, etc.) were then televised on a fledgling network that would eventually become USA Network, beginning with the 1977-78 season. This channel premiered on 9/22/77 as basically a continuation of the existing MSG Network, but was now syndicated nationally via satellite rather than terrestrially. It was the first cable channel supported by advertising revenues. It was now officially called the “Madison Square Garden Network”, a/k/a MSG Network. The network did not adopt the “USA Network” name until 4/9/80, which coincided with the ownership being reorganized as a joint venture between UA-Columbia (now Cablevision) and MCA (now part of NBC). This channel also began televising other NHL games beginning in January 1980, not just the Rangers home games, beginning with a 12-game Thursday night package. MSG Network/USA Network continued to air NHL games through 1984-85. It also signed up the NBA (televised 1979-80 through 1983-84) and Major League Baseball (1979 to 1983). MLB debuted on 4/23/79 and typically aired on Thursday nights but was blacked out in areas within 50 miles of an MLB ballpark. NBA games were also typically broadcast on Thursday nights.
  2. ^ The talented Kelly also became the voice of hockey across North America, drawing plum play-by-play assignments as network television in the United States during the 1970s, Hockey Night in Canada, USA Network and CTV.
  3. ^ By season's end Kelly will have worked some 145 games for five broadcast outlets: KMOX Radio (on which he has been the voice of the St. Louis Blues for 16 years); KDNL-Channel 30 and the Sports Time pay-cable system (the Blues' principal TV carriers); the national cable USA Network (five years); and CTV, the recently launched private Canadian network. He should probably hire a personal valet to tell him which blazer to wear when.
  4. ^ Instead he is jetting to Los Angeles, Colorado Springs and New York, dividing his time between being technical adviser in the making of the Miracle On Ice film and serving as a color commentator for the USA cable television network.
  5. ^ Green's career in broadcasting began in 1981 as an analyst with Hockey Night in Canada, and he spent four years working on the NHL's Game of the Week television coverage in the USA.
  6. ^ The prime play-by-play announcer for USA Network, besides his NBA duties, Albert was the blow-by-blow boxing announcer for the popular “Tuesday Night Fights”, as well as hockey play-by-play man for the NHL “Game of the Week”.
  7. ^ Last April, USA got the NHL for $8 million after ESPN tendered $6.5 million.

External links


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