Last night was the end. No more NHL on NBC as the league moves to ESPN, Turner, and probably more and more streaming platforms as the years go by. That was probably the right move for the NHL, but NBC was a good partner for the league at a time when they desperately needed one. I think when the NHL came back from a lockout and announced that their major broadcast partner wasn't going to be the world wide leader in sports or Fox, but it was going with something called the Outdoor Life Network hockey fans were very nervous. OLN quickly became versus which rebranded again into NBC Sports and they ushered the NHL through what I would consider hockey's golden era.
There has never been a better time to be a hockey fan than the last 15 years. I think in 30 years the NHL will look back on this period as their equivalent of the Magic-Bird-Jordan years. Think of all the things that came rushing in to save the sport after the lost season of 2004-05. We had MEGA super stars that were hyped to the moon with Crosby and Ovechkin. How often do "the next ones" actually deliver on the hype and promise? Crosby is a top 5 player ever and Ovechkin is the greatest pure goal-scorer the NHL has ever had. High Definition TV was not a thing before. HD impacted the at home viewing experience for hockey more than any other sport. You had MAJOR markets be revitalized and win. The Blackhawks were the most compelling and best team to watch for 6 years. In that same 6 years we saw Los Angeles and Boston end long Cup droughts. Washington got their first. The Rangers played in a Final. The salary cap has made the league incredibly balanced. Parity is the king. Every single team has at least a guy or two worth watching. The league is so healthy and the talent is so deep that an expansion team was able to become one of the best in the league. The Winter Classic was a huge success. The Olympics produced TWO lifelong memories with the Crosby goal vs USA to win the Gold Medal and TJ Oshie in the shootout vs Russia.
Now the league is transitioning from Crosby, Ovi, Kane, Toews, Quick, and Malkin to a new era led by ESPN, Turner, McDavid, MacKinnon, and Matthews. I am excited for the future, but for the vast majority of my favorite hockey memories I will think of NBC with Doc and Edzo. Truly a Hall of Fame broadcast booth worthy of the NHL's golden era. A broadcast booth and a network that I think added to the quality of this era. NBC wasn't perfect. I think they had some financial short term goals that might've hurt them(like needing ratings so allowing terrible Buffalo teams to get on national TV a ton because their fans would tune in as opposed to showcasing the league's best talent). There is no question that NBC helped grow this game and innovated the hockey broadcast forever. I will miss Doc and Liam McHugh in studio. I feel lucky that we still have Edzo in Chicago(at least for now).