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NBC looks to net higher NHL ratings with centennial-themed, All-Star festivities


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NBC looks to net higher NHL ratings with centennial-themed, All-Star festivities

The NHL is dropping the puck on All-Star Weekend, as part of its 100th anniversary celebration.

Not surprisingly, since the All-Star Game and many of the other festivities will unfold at Staples Center in Los Angeles, there will be a fair number of celebrities on hand to pump up the volume on the centennial.

NBCUniversal Media LLC's NBC Sports Group, in keeping with the theme, has deployed "Hockey Goes Hollywood," a multi-platform, marketing campaign integrating the NHL's top players into such Tinseltown creative constructs as trailers, auditions and posters. Meanwhile, pucks, sticks and other equipment have been incorporated into scenes depicting such landmarks as the Walk of Fame, Hollywood sign, Capital Records building and Santa Monica Pier.

The glitz and glamour treatment around the Jan. 27-29 All-Star Weekend action should serve to charge the ratings for NBC (US) and NBCSN (US). Through 47 game telecasts, the networks have averaged 450,000 viewers, down 6% from last season, according to data from Nielsen Holdings. Together, the networks have reached over 24 million viewers, according to NBC Sports Group officials.

Last year, the NHL All-Star Game, benefiting from interest in a new 3-on-3 tournament format pitting the circuit's four divisions against each other, netted a 0.90 household mark average and 1.59 million viewers on NBCSN, making it the highest-rated and most-watched All-Star Game in the network's history.

Given the occasion and that this year's contest, featuring the same format, is airing on NBC, there figures to be a larger audience. Facing off at 3:30 p.m. ET time, the contest will mark the first time the NHL All-Star Game will air on broadcast in 13 years.

NBCSN will televise the "Coors Light All-Star Skills Competition" at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28. Each of the 44 all-star players will compete in at least one of the six rounds of the skill-based and sponsored contests: Gatorade NHL Skills Challenge Relay, Honda NHL Four Line Challenge, DraftKings NHL Accuracy Shooting, Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater, Oscar Mayer NHL Hardest Shot and the Discover NHL Shootout.

Rapper Snoop Dogg will start up the competition at Staples, working behind the turntables as DJ Snoopadelic when introducing the players during the six events. The Snoopadelic set, as well as pop star Nick Jonas' second-intermission performance during the All-Star Game, will be bathed in a synchronized, light show, activated by in-arena fans downloading an app to their smartphones that will cue the colors via high-frequency sound waves.

The weekend's middle day also will feature hockey hall of famers Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux serving as head coaches of a friendly featuring "100 Greatest NHL Players" honorees, as well as a dozen hockey-playing celebrities, including actors Tim Robbins, David Boreanaz, Taylor Kitsch and musician Ross Lynch. The "NHL All-Star Celebrity Shootout" will also feature Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Robin Thicke, actresses Alyssa Milano and Retta and hockey hall of famer Pat LaFontaine as assistant coaches. Carter Thicke, the son of the late Alan Thicke and half-brother of Robin Thicke, also will play in the charity game, in honor of his father, who was a lifelong hockey fan, with both teams sporting jerseys adorned with a patch dedicated to the actor.

The contest will not be televised but will be streamed by and the NHL app.

Perhaps most interesting are the Friday night festivities from the Microsoft Theater. There, Jon Hamm of Don Draper fame who is an avid St. Louis Blues fan will serve as the master of ceremonies, with an assist from Robin Thicke, Grammy winner John Legend and John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting, in hosting "The NHL 100 presented by GEICO," in which all of the league's top 100 players will be unveiled.

The first 33, who played played predominantly during the league's first half century from 1917-1966, were named on Jan. 1 at the Centennial Classic in Toronto, including such ice immortals as Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard. The balance will be honored on Jan. 27 at 9:30 p.m. ET at Staples and on NBCSN.