Outdoor NHL turns up the heat in TV viewing habits

Outdoor NHL turns up the heat in TV viewing habits

Though not a guy who routinely lands on a National Hockey League telecast when channel-surfing, there have been exceptions. Take, for example, this past weekend’s “NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe” special that proved to be both gripping and downright entertaining.

Past versions of such NHL outdoor classics were more than enough to tickle my interest yet again. In most cases, amazing, historic venues have been the norm, not to mention a variety of obstacles for the skaters to overcome. Such things as blizzards, tundra-like temperatures or unplayable ice conditions always seem to creep into the production.

To the league’s credit, organizers have resisted any temptation to turn these match-ups into exhibitions. They actually count in the regular-season standings, which pretty much guarantees tooth-jarring efforts by those who brave the elements and lace up their blades.

Fans appreciate that type of commitment, even when they are not allowed to attend in person because of the ongoing threat of a pandemic. This season the NHL is playing a condensed, 56-game schedule.

Saturday’s match-up between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche did not disappoint. The weather was so nice — too nice — that the temporary rink erected on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort simply couldn’t keep pace with the sun and heat.

Action was put into “delay mode” after the first period to allow for cooler temperatures and thus, more suitable ice. The opener didn’t resume until midnight Eastern Time with Colorado ultimately wrapping up a 3-2 victory at 1:50 a.m. ET Sunday.

The two-game Tahoe series (the Boston Bruins faced the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday) was scheduled as a replacement for both the 2021 Winter Classic and Stadium Series games, which were canceled due to COVID-19 worries. No spectators were permitted at the most recent outings.

Originally, both Tahoe games were scheduled for live broadcast on NBC. Saturday’s setback, however, forced the network to shift late-night coverage to its NBCSN platform. The drop of the puck Sunday was moved back to 4:30 p.m. ET, also on NBCSN. The Bruins breezed to a 7-3 triumph, outshooting the Flyers 35-19. Dave Pastrnak registered a hat trick for the victors, scoring in each period to run his season total to nine goals.

Enough for the stats, etcetera. One of the effective production tools used in the showcases was the behind-the-scenes work done by NBC’s Rutledge Wood. Normally, the network’s clever contributor during NASCAR races, Wood provided his typical fun-loving approach and intrepid reporting genius to unearth the kind of stories that kept viewers in tow for the Zamboni laps.

Whether it’s ice or asphalt, the man is a winner. Here’s hoping we see a lot more of “Rut” even after NBC pulls the plug on its NBCSN operation. The offspring pay-only forum for offshoot sports will cease to exist by the end of the year, according to an announcement made by the mother network late last month.

More wide-screen wanderings

1. FOX’s coverage of the PBA Tour continues to turn heads, demonstrating bowling remains a viable option for viewers who are choking on too much sports talk TV and college basketball this time of year.

Sunday’s telecast of the PBA Players Championship kept kegling devotees on the edges of their seats. Afterall, the five men who qualified for the finals were gunning for an infrequent first-place payday of $250,000. To spice things up even more, the PBA offered a startling million-dollar bonus for a 300 game in the championship match.

Once again, the show proved to the average house bowler that not even those who have rolled thousands of games in their careers can always know what to expect when the ball hits the headpin.

In the opening match of the afternoon at Bowlero Jupiter in Florida, fourth-seeded Tom Smallwood and fifth-seeded Anthony Simonsen racked up nothing but strikes into the late-going, with Smallwood taking his string of X’s into the 10th frame.

Later, in the title showdown between top-seeded Kyle Troup and third-seeded Dick Allen, surprise, drama and disbelief reared their ugly heads. Allen, who averaged over 270 in winning his regional stepladder finals the previous Sunday, was battling Troup pin-for-pin when disaster struck.

On what appeared to be a perfect 1-3 pocket hit in the ninth frame, Allen left a nearly nonconvertible 7-10 split, easing the burden on his rival. Troup struck in his half of the ninth, then clinched the title with a strike in the 10th frame.

Also called “bedposts,” the 7-10 probably cost Allen the crown and resulted in a sleepless night. In scoring his first title in a major championship, the fuzzy-haired son of tour legend Guppy Troup earned the $250,000 jackpot. Allen, who also was gunning for his first major, was consoled with a runner-up check for $130,000.

The title round of this week’s PBA Tournament of Champions airs on FOX at 1 p.m. Sunday, also from Bowlero Jupiter.

2. Who doesn’t love sportscaster Chris Berman? But enough is enough. We’re being inundated with CarShield advertisements hosted by Boomer. Between “The Swami” and TV star Ice-T, the deluge of repetitive ads has become maddening, irritating, aggravating, exasperating and an unpleasant twinge in the hindquarters.

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