Genre Sports
Created by NBC Sports
Starring See list of commentators section
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 6
Running time 180 minutes
Original network USA Network
Original release 1979 (1979) – May 30, 1985 (1985-05-30)
Followed by NHL on NBC first two rounds of Stanley Cup
Related shows NHL on NBC
NHL on Versus
External links

NHL on USA is the de facto title of a television show that broadcasts National Hockey League games on the USA Network. The network last broadcast regular-season games in 1985, but as part of current parent company NBCUniversal's contract to cover the NHL, the network resumed broadcasting a handful of games in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs,[1][2] by serving as an overflow channel for NHL playoff games[3] that cannot air on sister networks NBC or NBCSN through 2021.


Before the USA Network came to be (1969-1980)

Manhattan Cable and HBO (1969–1977)

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.

UA-Columbia (1977–1980)

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 (as previously alluded to), 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.[4] At the time, the USA Network was called UA-Columbia.[5] As the immediate forerunner for the USA Network, UA-Columbia, served as the cable syndicated arm of not only MSG Network in New York, but also 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.[6] 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 later owned by Cablevision, but spun off in 2010).

Coverage overview (1979–1985)

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[7] with Dan Kelly[8] doing play-by-play alongside a variety of commentators including Pete Stemkowski, Lou Nanne and Brian McFarlane. Scott Wahle was the intermission host.

1980-81 season

For the 1980–81 season,[9] some Sunday night games were added. Dan Kelly once again, did most of the play-by-play alongside Mike Eruzione.[10][11] 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.

With USA's coverage of the 1981 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it marked the first time that there was "blanket" American television coverage of the NHL playoffs. In other words, more often than not that, whenever a game was played it was televised on a national outlet (whether it was broadcast or cable). USA however, didn't televise Game 1 of the playoff series between Philadelphia Flyers and Calgary Flames (April 16) because they were instead broadcasting a baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies. Meanwhile, they also skipped Games 2–6 (on April 17, 22 and 24) of the Philadelphia–Calgary series because of their coverage of the NBA playoffs. USA also didn't televise Games 2 and 5 of the playoff series between the Calgary Flames and Minnesota North Stars (April 30 and May 7 respectively) because of baseball games involving the Minnesota Twins vs. the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the Philadelphia Phillies respectively.

1981-82 season

In the 1981–82 season, Al Trautwig[12] took over as studio host. Dan Kelly did play-by-play with either Gary Green[13][14] or Rod Gilbert on color commentary. For the playoffs, Dick Carlson and Al Albert[15] 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 (at least $2 million more than what ESPN was offering).[16]

1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons

Things pretty much 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[17] games and hosted one game of the Stanley Cup Finals. USA didn't cover any playoff games on April 7, 1983 because they were broadcasting second round highlights of The Masters. This was followed by a West Coast NBA telecast.

In the 1983–84 season, USA covered over 40 games[18] 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.

Because USA was airing Masters highlights, Game 1 of the 1984 playoff series between the Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues (April 12) and Game 2 of the playoff series between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals (April 13) were aired on tape delay at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

1984-85 season

For USA's final full season of NHL coverage in 1984–85,[19][20] Dan Kelly[21] and Gary Green once again, did most games, while Al Albert and Green called the rest. In all, USA covered about 55 games, including 33 in the regular season.[22] Also, Hartford Whalers goaltender Mike Liut was added as an intermission analyst for the Stanley Cup Finals.[23][24]

Meanwhile, for increased publicity opportunities, the Stroh Brewing Company[25] 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.[26]

Seldom during the early rounds of the playoffs did USA carry an away game of one of the three New York-area teams (New York Rangers, New York Islanders, or New Jersey Devils) since WOR-TV New York, at the time available on most of the nation's cable television systems, often carried that away game of the New York-area team both locally in New York and on its "superstation" feed. One exception was a playoff game between two of the New York-area clubs, since WOR was usually barred from carrying it since the home team's cable-television contract superseded the visiting club's over-the-air television deal.

Between 1985 and 2015

USA Network lost the rights to the NHL to ESPN in 1985 and largely abandoned sports after the early 1990s as the channel shifted almost exclusively to scripted entertainment. Beginning in 2006, USA began carrying some coverage of top level hockey by cooperating with NBC's coverage of ice hockey at the Winter Olympics in 2006, 2010 and 2014; these games were mostly daytime contests that would not preempt the network's increasingly popular prime time programs.

Selected early-round playoff games, 2015-

As part of a 2011 contract renewal, Comcast's properties earned exclusive national rights for all Stanley Cup playoffs through 2021. Because NBC and NBC Sports Network could not carry all of the games on those two outlets alone, other Comcast properties would need to be used; USA was initially not used, due to the risk of preempting its popular prime time lineup, and the company instead used CNBC and NHL Network as the overflow channels for the first four years of the contract. In 2015, after NHL Network was transferred out of Comcast's control and to MLB Advanced Media's, Comcast announced that USA would carry some games in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, mainly on Tuesday and Wednesday nights,[1] returning the NHL to USA for the first time since 1985.[27]

List of commentators


Color commentary

Studio hosts

Studio analysts

Playoff commentating crews

Year Round Teams Games Play-by-play Color commentator(s)
1980 First round Buffalo-Vancouver Game 3 (CBC's feed) Jim Robson Howie Meeker
1981 First round Los Angeles-New York Rangers Game 2 Dick Carlson
Quarterfinals St. Louis-New York Rangers Game 3 Dick Carlson Mike Eruzione
Philadelphia-Calgary Game 7 Dan Kelly Mike Eruzione
Semifinals New York Islanders-New York Rangers Games 1, 3 Dan Kelly Mike Eruzione
Calgary-Minnesota Games 3–4, 6 Dan Kelly Mike Eruzione
1982 Divisional semifinals New York Islanders-Pittsburgh Games 3, 5[28] Dick Carlson (Game 3)
Dan Kelly
Gary Green
Minnesota-Chicago Game 1 Al Albert Gary Green
Divisional finals New York Islanders-New York Rangers Games 2, 6 Dick Carlson Gary Green
Boston-Quebec Games 5, 7 Dick Carlson (Game 5)
Dan Kelly (Game 7)
Gary Green
Boston-Chicago Game 4 Dick Carlson Gary Green
Vancouver-Los Angeles Game 3 Dick Carlson Gary Green
Conference finals New York Islanders-Quebec Games 2, 4 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Chicago-Vancouver Games 1, 5 Dan Kelly Gary Green
1983 Divisional semifinals Philadelphia-New York Rangers Game 3 Al Albert Gary Green
New York Islanders-Washington Games 1, 4 Al Albert Gary Green
Boston-Quebec Game 1 Al Albert Gary Green
Divisional finals New York Islanders-New York Rangers Games 2, 4, 6 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Boston-Buffalo Games 5, 7 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Chicago-Minnesota Game 3 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Edmonton-Calgary Game 1 (taped delayed) Dan Kelly Gary Green
Conference finals New York Islanders-Boston Games 1–3, 5–6 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Edmonton-Chicago Games 1, 3–4 Dan Kelly Gary Green
1984 Conference semifinals Buffalo-Quebec Game 2 Al Albert Gary Green
Conference semifinals New York Islanders-New York Rangers Games 1, 4–5 Al Albert (Games 1, 4)
Dan Kelly (Game 5)
Gary Green
Washington-Philadelphia Game 3 Al Albert Gary Green
Divisional finals Quebec-Montreal Games 4, 6[29] Al Albert Gary Green
New York Islanders-Washington Games 2 (taped delay), 3, 5 Al Albert Gary Green
Minnesota-St. Louis Games 1 (taped delay), 7 Al Albert Gary Green
Conference finals Montreal-New York Islanders Games 2[30]-3, 5-6 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Edmonton-Minnesota Games 1, 4 Dan Kelly Gary Green
1985 Divisional semifinals Washington-New York Islanders Games 3–5 Al Albert (Games 3–4)
Dan Kelly (Game 5)
Gary Green
St. Louis-Minnesota Game 1 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Divisional finals Philadelphia-New York Islanders Game 3 Al Albert Gary Green
Montreal-Quebec Games 2, 5–7 Al Albert (Games 2, 6)
Dan Kelly (Games 5, 7)
Gary Green
Chicago-Minnesota Games 1, 4–5 Dan Kelly (Game 1)
Al Albert (Games 4–5)
Gary Green
Oilers-Winnipeg Game 2 Dan Kelly Gary Green
Conference finals Quebec-Philadelphia Games 1–2, 5 Al Albert Gary Green
Edmonton-Chicago Games 1, 3–4, 6 Al Albert Gary Green


  1. 1 2 Fang, Ken (17 March 2015). "NHL Stanley Cup Playoff games to air on USA Network". Awful Announcing.
  2. Vlessing, Etan (1 April 2015). "USA Network to Air NHL Playoff Games". The Hollywood Reporter.
  3. Fang, Ken (14 April 2015). "The 7 things you need to know about NBC's Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage". Awful Announcing.
  4. Cable television regulation: hearings before the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, second session, Volume 2. 1990. p. 82.
  5. Anderson, Dave (December 30, 1979). "'I'll set women's tennis back 20 years'; Champs Come and Go; TV's Forever". New York Times. p. DX8.
  6. Parsons, Patrick. "Blue skies: a history of cable television".
  7. Baker, Kent (March 1, 1981). "2 Eastern-based firms corner growing sports cable TV market". Baltimore Sun.
  8. Taaffe, William (March 11, 1985). "Hockey's Lord Of The Rinks". Sports Illustrated.
  9. Edes, Gordon (October 9, 1980). "A Troubled NHL Begins Season". Los Angeles Times. p. OC_B2.
  10. Swift, E.M. (December 22, 1980). "After-dinner Speakers And Designated Mop-ups". Sports Illustrated.
  11. Green, Ted (February 22, 1981). "Reality Shattered the Golden Dream". Los Angeles Times. p. E1.
  12. 1984 USA promo NHL coverage on YouTube
  13. "Gary Green". NHL.com. Retrieved 2010-07-17.
  14. Rosa, Francis (May 9, 1982). "STARS CHASING BELLOWS; NANNE SEEKS BRUIN DEAL". Boston Globe. p. 1.
  15. "Al Albert". pacers.com.
  16. Taaffe, William (January 24, 1983). "Getting Down To Business". Sports Illustrated.
  17. Milbert, Neil (April 22, 1983). "Black Hawks have to heal fast". Chicago Tribune. p. D1.
  18. "USA NETWORK MAKING SOME MAJOR-LEAGUE CUTS". Miami Herald. February 10, 1984. p. 7F.
  19. Stewart, Larry (August 2, 1985). "Rams in the Dark as Channel 2 Drops Exhibition Games". Los Angeles Times. p. 3.
  20. Harasta, Cathy (May 24, 1985). "NETWORKS WOULD RACE TO TELEVISE INDY LIVE". Dallas Morning News.
  21. "Stockton, Walker Get a Break as Big Call Goes Their Way". Los Angeles Times. September 20, 1985. p. 3.
  22. Craig, Jack (June 24, 1984). "OLYMPIC JITTERS SET IN AT ABC". Boston Globe. p. 1.
  23. Shope, Dan (May 21, 1985). "KERR WILL PLAY AS FLYERS TAKE ON OILERS TONIGHT STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS". Allentown Morning Call. p. C01.
  24. Baker, Chris (May 25, 1985). "Bob Clarke (Left) and Bobby Clarke (Right): 2 Sides of Success With the Flyers, Who Are at Home in Stanley Cup Final". Los Angeles Times. p. 4.
  25. 1985 NHL All-Star Game on YouTube
  26. Simmons, Darrell (May 31, 1985). "Space appealing to Kathy Johnson". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. p. E2.
  27. Cohen, Rachel (17 April 2015). "Back on the USA Network: Sports Return With NHL Playoffs". ABC News.
  28. John Tonelli Recaps His Playoff OT Goal (Apr. 13, 1982) on YouTube
  29. NHL on USA Network Playoffs Opening 1984 on YouTube
  30. Al Trautwig Interviews Pat LaFontaine (Apr. 26, 1984) (Incomplete) on YouTube
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