The NWHL revealed in November that it would squeeze its entire 2021 season into a two-week tournament at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, NY. Now the women’s hockey league is receiving major backing from an NHL TV broadcast partner for the first time.
NBCSN announced on Tuesday that it will cover the 2021 Isobel Cup Semifinals and Final – three games total — and will air them live on Thursday, February 4 (5:30 PM, 8 PM) and Friday, February 5 (7 PM).
According to an NBCSN release, “The agreement between NBC Sports and the NWHL is a historic chapter for women’s professional hockey in the United States, marking the first-ever women’s professional hockey games to be shown live on a major national cable network in the United States.”
Most notably, the games will be aired on primetime during weekend nights of the NHL’s 2020-21 regular season.
NBC Sports (@NBCSports) and the NWHL have announced that the 2021 Isobel Cup Semifinals and Final will air live exclusively on NBCSN on February 4-5 from historic Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y.
— NWHL (@NWHL) December 22, 2020
“Our partnership with NBC Sports is monumental for the visibility of the NWHL,” Commissioner Tyler Tumminia said in a release. “Never before has women’s professional hockey had the opportunity to reach so many people on American television in the United States. As we have seen with the WNBA and NWSL this year, when women’s major league sports leagues are given a strong showcase, viewership is increased and countless new fans connect with the teams and players. NBC Sports provides the NWHL’s biggest games in our upcoming season in Lake Placid with best-in-class production and award-winning announcers. The NWHL will deliver intense, memorable hockey for the viewers on NBCSN as an Isobel Cup champion is crowned.”
The NWHL 2021 Isobel Cup Tournament will be held in a bubble and begin with the league’s six teams — the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps, and Toronto Six (first-year expansion team) — facing off against each other once. Those results will determine seeding for the Isobel Cup Playoffs, which will be a single-elimination tournament.
Despite the shortened season, the players will still receive their full salaries. The NWHL is also allowing players to opt-out and still receive full compensation.
Over the past decade-plus, NBC Sports has blanketed hockey fans with old guard analysis from Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire, and (the recently fired) Jeremy Roenick, but slowly the channel is becoming more progressive and taking more chances. Last season, NBC had an all-female crew broadcast the Blues-Blackhawks game on International Women’s Day in March.
The women’s hockey game broadcasts could be a pivotal moment for the NWHL as it will serve as a barometer of how much interest there is in the league. NBC is currently going into the final year of its broadcast rights deal with the NHL.
More from NBC Sports:
NATIONAL WOMEN’S HOCKEY LEAGUE ISOBEL CUP SEMIFINALS AND FINAL TO AIR LIVE ON NBCSN FEB. 4-5
Telecasts on NBCSN Mark First-Ever Women’s Professional Hockey Games on Major National Network in U.S.
Exclusive Coverage Live on NBCSN and Streams on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App
STAMFORD, Conn. – Dec. 22, 2020 – NBC Sports and the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) have announced that the 2021 Isobel Cup Semifinals and Final will air live exclusively on NBCSN on February 4-5 from historic Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y.
The agreement between NBC Sports and the NWHL is a historic chapter for women’s professional hockey in the United States, marking the first-ever women’s professional hockey games to be shown live on a major national cable network in the United States.
“As the home of hockey in the U.S., NBC Sports is proud to showcase the NWHL to a national audience,” added Michael Perman, vice president, programming, NBC Sports. “These historic broadcasts on NBCSN further our commitment to showcasing the game at all levels.”
The single-elimination Isobel Cup Semifinals will be shown live on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. ET and 8 p.m. ET. The winners of the semifinals will advance to the Isobel Cup Final on Friday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. ET. In addition to coverage on NBCSN, live coverage will stream exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Prioritizing the health and safety of the players, staff and all involved, the NWHL is playing its sixth season and the 2021 Isobel Cup Playoffs in a centralized and protected environment at the iconic 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y., between Jan. 23 – Feb. 5, 2021. The competition will feature the NWHL’s six teams – Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale, Metropolitan Riveters, Minnesota Whitecaps, and first-year expansion club the Toronto Six.
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