Blackhawks sign with WGN-TV

The Chicago Blackhawks announced on Tuesday that the team’s entire 82-game schedule will be shown on television.

And this is not – I repeat, not – an April Fool’s joke.

The Blackhawks signed a deal with WGN-TV on Tuesday, making 20 or so games available to the Tribune-owned station, marking the first time since 1980 games have been made available to local broadcasters.

WGN plans to carry the games in HD, but there are no WGN Superstation broadcasts planned.

However, it is not known if some of the games will end up on WCIU-TV, which WGN produces games for on occasion. WGN plans to produce the 20 games.

The Blackhawks were courting WGN as well as WPWR-TV for a local broadcast outlet.

The deals reverses a long-standing policy regarding telecasts of home games, which were forbidden because of fear of affecting attendance. In recent years, only a handful of home telecasts were allowed, including all playoff games.

WGN carried Hawks road games in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, including the Stanley Cup clincher in 1961. The Hawks also made stops at WFLD-TV and WSNS-TV before migrating to subscription TV service ON-TV in 1980 and later, SportsVision and SportsChannel Chicago. Blackhawks games currently air on Comcast SportsNet.

The move also marks a reversal of sorts as many NHL teams have left local broadcasters behind for exclusive cable deals. Among teams with exclusive cable TV rights include the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, and five of the six Canadian teams. (CHRO-TV in Pembroke, Ontario is the only local station in all of Canada that has a local broadcast deal with an NHL team – the Ottawa Senators.) Canadian teams though, are featured prominently on CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada.

Teams that have a hybrid cable/broadcast deal include the Dallas Stars (KDFI and FSN Southwest), Minnesota Wild (KSTC and FSN North) and the St. Louis Blues (KPLR and FSN Midwest.) The cable nets usually produces the games for the local broadcaster.