Hockey Day In America and Heritage Classic combine for nine hours of coverage across NBC Sports and Versus

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With the combined forces of NBC Sports and Versus, this Sunday is shaping up to be one of the biggest hockey days in recent television memory. With NBC’s Hockey Day In America joining forces with Versus’ coverage of the 2011 Heritage Classic in Calgary the two networks are set to bring hockey to the people for up to nine hours worth of coverage.

Everything begins at noon Eastern on NBC starting at Millennium Park in Chicago where NBC’s Ed Olczyk will be there skating outdoors with the Stanley Cup. NBC Sports and Versus executive producer says, “Not a bad spectacle to start the day.”

Throughout the day stories depicting hockey life and the love its shown throughout America will be highlighted during NBC’s coverage. Features include showing the efforts of Neal Henderson of Fort Dupont Ice Hockey program designed to help inner city youth in Washington, D.C. that he began in 1978, to the annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships that happen in Minnesota, to celebrity hockey in Los Angeles. Young and old, common folks to superstars, everyone plays hockey.

NBC’s Doc Emrick puts it succinctly in describing Hockey Day In America and what the coverage of it means to do.

“It is a celebration of hockey…We try our best to make sure that people understand that we are passionate about the sport.”

The focus of the doubleheader coverage of the day will be regional coverage from one of three games starting at 12:35 p.m. ET with Washington at Buffalo where Jeff Jackson will handle play-by-play duties with Ray Ferraro doing analysis between the benches. Philadelphia at the New York Rangers starts at 12:40 p.m. with Ken Daniels and Joe Micheletti handling the call while Detroit at Minnesota begins at 12:45 p.m. ET with Pat Foley and Darren Pang doing the broadcast.

From there, coverage shifts to national action with the Penguins taking on the Blackhawks at 3:30 p.m. ET in Chicago from United Center. Doc Emrick, Ed Olczyk, and Pierre McGuire will take care of the broadcast with Mike Milbury and Liam McHugh back in the studio for analysis. The Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup champions while the Penguins won it two years ago.

Upon the conclusion of the game from Chicago, action then shifts from NBC to Versus for coverage of the 2011 Heritage Classic. Bill Patrick, Keith Jones, and Jeremy Roenick will be holding down the studio desk from McMahon Stadium in Calgary for the game. During the game, Dave Strader will take care of play-by-play while Andy Brickley and Brian Engblom will be doing analysis.

As for how it all works together spanning two networks and five different locations in all, Flood is excited for the fun it will provide.

“It all builds to the Pittsburgh-Chicago game which has the cool advantage of leading into the Calgary game. And for the first time, we can take advantage of the NBCU synergies with this new company and tell the audience that there is a big outdoor hockey game north of the border that takes place as soon as Pittsburgh-Chicago ends. So again, we’ve got this hockey crazed audience celebrating the game for the day and ending up in Calgary for the hockey under the lights in the open air. And nothing could be more fun than that.”

This kind of coverage is unprecedented in America making this year’s Hockey Day In America all that much more impressive. Pulling all of this great action together over one day is stunning and should make Sunday that much more fun for everyone.

Video: Johansen, Fisher join in Predators’ conference title celebration

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After reaching their first ever Western Conference Final, the Nashville Predators topped that in a big way, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

There were a lot of firsts and rarities along the way.

In ousting the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 victory in Game 6, GM David Poile’s team advanced to the championship round for the first time in his lengthy time as an executive.

Peter Laviolette also became the fourth coach in NHL history to bring three different team to a Stanley Cup Final. The Predators are also the first 16th seed to make it this far.

Yep, that’s a long list of milestones (and not a comprehensive one). And, to think, the Predators haven’t even been on the brink of elimination during the Stanley Cup Finals yet.

It’s special stuff, so don’t be surprised by the boisterous celebration you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

P.K. Subban: No city in the NHL ‘has anything on Nashville’

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If there’s one thing we can agree upon about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s that these months have really cemented just how hockey-mad Nashville has become for its Predators.

(Yes, you can call it “Smashville” if you’d like.)

The scene at Bridgestone Arena was as boisterous as ever in the Predators’ 6-3 Game 6 win against the Anaheim Ducks, with legions of fans packing and surrounding the building.

Sights like these have becoming resoundingly normal for a hockey market that was once questioned by media and other fan bases:

Yeah, wow.

As the Predators advanced to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, plenty of people were making jokes at the expense of the Montreal Canadiens for trading P.K. Subban. Of course, Subban wouldn’t take a shot at the Habs during such a great moment, but his praise for puck-nutty Predators fans says a lot in itself.

“I played in an A+ market my whole career,” Subban said, via Jeremy K. Gover of the Nashville Predators Radio Network. “There’s not a city in the league that has anything on Nashville.”

Whether their opponent is the Pittsburgh Penguins or Ottawa Senators, we already know that Nashville will begin the Stanley Cup Final on the road. That’s OK … Predators fans might need some time to get their voices back and recover from celebrating, so waiting until Games 3 and 4 might be a blessing in disguise.

Ducks’ Cogliano just doesn’t think Predators were the better team

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The Anaheim Ducks battled their way to Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, but Colton Sissons and the Nashville Predators ended their season on Monday.

The Ducks are processing that disappointment – being just two wins away from a trip to the championship round – and some of their reactions might spark a little controversy.

Specifically, it sounds a bit like Bruce Boudreau believing that his Minnesota Wild were superior to the St. Louis Blues despite falling in that series.

Andrew Cogliano, it must be noted, was spurned by Pekka Rinne on some early chances in Game 6. He likely feels as frustrated as any Ducks player right now.

Sisson’s hat-trick goal, making it 4-3 before two empty-netters cemented the 6-3 finish, was the dagger that finally put the hard-working Ducks down.

One can understand some of those feelings from Anaheim, especially considering the frustration of a) getting over Jonathan Bernier‘s early struggles to make a very real game of this and b) occasionally carrying the play in a dramatic way, including in Game 6.

Still, the Predators got the right combination of great stretches of play from Rinne and strong work from the expected and the unexpected, such as Sissons.

For an aging star like Ryan Getzlaf – a player who produced some of his best work late in the season and during the playoffs – you have to wonder how many chances remain.

Predators eliminate Ducks, reach first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history

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Colton Sissons made a serious argument that the Nashville Predators do, indeed, still have a No. 1 center.

At least, he certainly played that way on Monday, generating a hat trick as the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks via a 6-3 win, taking the series 4-2.

In doing so, the Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

That 6-3 score is very misleading. While Nashville managed 2-0 and 3-1 leads, there was plenty of drama in this one, as the Ducks did not go down easily. Cam Fowler tied it up 3-3 in the third period, briefly stunning a rowdy crowd in Nashville.

Sissons was up to the task, however, settling down a bouncing puck on an otherwise stupendous Calle Jarnkrok pass to score the game-winner, notching a hat trick in the process. Sissons continues to be an unlikely hero for a Predators team dealing with the absence of Ryan Johansen (not to mention Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, and others).

Two empty-netters inflated the score, and they also sapped drama from the closing moments, which must have been quite the relief considering how much resolve Anaheim showed.

Peter Laviolette distinguishes himself as one of the NHL’s most underrated bench bosses, becoming just the fourth coach in league history to take three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. He couldn’t win it all with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he does have a ring thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps he’ll take another one this spring?

It’s quite the moment for GM David Poile, too, after trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Seth Jones for Johansen, among other pivotal moves.

The Ducks might wonder what could have been if John Gibson played instead of Jonathan Bernier. Bernier struggled early, allowing two goals on the first three shots he faced and generally having a tough Game 6. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, maintained his mostly great run in the playoffs; he protected a Predators lead even when the Ducks dominated long stretches of play.

Now the Predators get a nice rest, as the Eastern Conference Final continues with a Game 6 on Tuesday (and possibly a Game 7 on Thursday).

They’ll limp a bit toward that final round, but the Predators seem to be embracing new territory. And sometimes new heroes.